Army of apps for good including asylum seeker myth-busting app launched at Sydney hackathon – StartupSmart

Over 80 developers, designers, marketers and entrepreneurs gathered in Sydney for a 48-hour hackathon last weekend to launch apps for charities and care organisations.


The competition included over $40,000 worth of prizes and a range of high-profile not-for-profit organisations including St Vincent’s de Paul, the Refugee Council of Australia and the Cancer Council, who briefed the hackers about the key issues they were facing in their work.


The event was coordinated by developer group Alive Mobile. Mat Ashley, general manager at Alive, told StartupSmart the hackathon was designed to bring the power of mobile to life-changing groups.


“We like to prove what can be achieved in such a short time with great and passionate minds working together. It only takes a weekend to change lives, and from a commercial point of view we want to change the world, and this is about making the world work better,” Ashley says.


Ashley adds many charities have neither the skilled personnel nor the budget to outsource app development, so the event was designed to connect their needs with young talent.


An app created for the Benevolent Society took out top prize, which includes further development of the app. The app enabled foster children to track their journey from home to home.


“Their issue was the problems of kids being moved around a lot between foster homes. They wanted to create an app for the kids to connect with other kids on the same journey and feel more connected and control,” Ashley says.


Ashley says one of the toughest briefs given to the hackers was by the Refugee Council of Australia.


“They’re a very small team and their major issue is approaching the misconceptions Australia has about refugees and asylum seekers. So they were really keen to communicate the stats and facts of what’s actually going on and where these people are coming from,” Ashley says.


Ashley says the major challenge for the developers was finding an interactive and engaging way to present facts and draw in users who weren’t already on board with pro-refugee campaigns.


“Delivering stats and facts in an interesting way is incredibly difficult, as a successful app offers engagement and interaction, so turning the facts from something quite dry into something interesting was tough,” Ashley says.


Lucy Morgan from the Refugee Council of Australia told StartupSmart they were delighted with the app.


“It’s about myth-busting and getting the facts out there. We wanted something our supporters could whip out at the pub when they hear a comment about ‘illegals’ or ‘queue jumpers’ and bring the facts up quickly, and it was great in that way,” Morgan says. “We knew people with set opinions and ideas about asylum seekers probably wouldn’t download it, so we wanted to give our supporters a tool to break down the arguments and address them.”


Morgan adds many advocacy groups would love to make better use of mobile technology and apps but couldn’t due to the high cost of mobile development.


“We don’t have the budget for this kind of work even though we’d like to engage with it,” Morgan says. “So we’re not able to invest in it ourselves, but several members of the group have expressed interest in developing it further.”

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