Building Apps for the Social Good
For the first time in India, the government of the state of Maharashtra is working with Microsoft to develop apps for the social good. The apps are meant to help civic authorities interact with Indian citizens. Yesterday, the IT giant kicked off its Windows AppFest in Pune, Maharashtra. The initiative is to encourage app developers to create solutions that address social issues.
According to The Pune Mirror, last month the government of Maharashtra saw an opportunity to reach out to its citizens using mobile apps. The government called out to Apple, Google and Microsoft to brainstorm for possibilities. Yesterday, Microsoft, which is trying to penetrate the market with its Windows 8, was the first to grab the opportunity with a ‘Windows AppFest’, inviting developers to build apps to interact with citizens on civic issues.
Windows AppFest was first organised in 2001 and since then it has been a hit among developers. A recent AppFest in Bangalore witnessed participation of over 2,000 people. KG Kulkami, the event coordinator, reportedly stated in The Indian Express that this is a unique opportunity for developers and start-ups to contribute to local communities while exploring new business opportunities. The coordinator went on to explain that Pune is an IT hub and over 1,200 people are expected to turn up for the event. It was also noted that many students registered to build apps. According to The Hindu Business Line, over 75 organisations are now participating in the Windows AppFest that started yesterday in Pune. Participants worked through the night to build their apps. Of all the apps built during the event, the top three will be showcased at the Asian Development Bank Summit in Delhi in May.
Some of the sectors that apps will be built for include healthcare, education, government and public safety. Examples of socially useful apps that participants can make are mentioned on the event website. Such apps include an app that can help government deliver certain services within a specific timeframe, an app for publishing schedules, conditions, results and processes of public exams and apps that can assist those with physical or cognitive disabilities.
Reported in The India Telegraph, Sanket Akerkar, Managing Director of Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd, stated that “As the world gravitates towards a plethora of new devices and form factors, two things are going to be the key – apps and the cloud to power those apps.” Akerkar also explained that collective capability of Indian developers is going to play a key role in this movement across the world.
According to The Pune Mirror, although the government of Maharashtra is keen to see the initiative move beyond being a marketing gimmick, Microsoft has pinned the responsibility of taking the apps forward on the government. A local Microsoft spokesperson reportedly said that it will be the government’s call on who they make the apps accessible to. Microsoft will test the apps in the lab and give it to civic authorities.
With so much enthusiasm and effort dedicated to the event by developers, I hope that the Maharashtra government does take responsibility to ensure that we see these apps being used in the near future. I think we will see a lot of creativity and many of the apps developed will highlight the concerns of the Indian public. More than likely, based on recent events highlighted in the media, I think we will see apps aimed towards increasing public safety.
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