07 June 2013

Advocating with mobile apps

Apps are highly popular with users of mobile phones and tablets, especially when they are free, entertaining and informative. Many companies and non-profit institutions attempt to tap into this. Few capture the popular imagination by developing something that is both fun and meaningful.

Environmental advocacy group WWF has struck on a clever formula of charging a small sum for a game that has clear entertainment value, while informing users and raising funds for the cause that it is talking about.

As a measure of success, 500,000 people have already downloaded Rhino Raid. The game puts players in the shoes of an angry black rhinoceros in southern Africa, chasing poachers and avoiding traps. Proceeds from the $1.99 game support WWF rhino projects and the game also educates players about illegal poaching and the myths surrounding the use of rhino horn.

The app is available on Apple and Android.

Taking a very different approach to a very different issue, UN Women, UNICEF and UN-Habitat have launched a website that also works as a smartphone app. This is designed to provide information on support services for women and girls who are survivors of violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

The needs, benefits and inspiration behind the service are described on the UN Women website.

Creating a website in a mobile-friendly format helps to make the information as widely available as possible with minimal complications. The women and girls using the site are highly likely to be stressed and impatient. They could be using one of hundreds of different models of phones or accessing the site from a computer or other device. There is no need to visit an app store to download anything, which makes it faster and less of a burden on users who might have limited data allowances or minimal storage space available on their device. It also helps the developers by overcoming the guessing game of which mobile devices or operating systems to cater to: Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows or even Firefox.

These recent examples provide a good indication of the diverse options for making information available on mobile devices.