For most of us, when we think of ‘the internet’ our brain automatically redirects us towards computers, facebook, google, and internet-capable phones – in other words, devices that use the internet or websites.
But the limitless potential of the internet doesn’t lie in its inherent technical capability (i.e. the near light-speed transfer of data through electrical signals) – its potential and its power lies in what that can facilitate.
It seems that it is only in the last few years that non-profit organisations and NGOs have really started harnessing the power of the internet in their own right for social change.
Freerice.com is a good example of this – this is a website run by a non-profit organisation which donates 10 grains of rice to the UN Development Programme every time you are able to answer a vocabulary question correctly. It feeds millions around the word, educates people for free by increasing their vocabulary, and it brings about social change through raising awareness about hunger which affects millions of people worldwide
It is entirely funded by the advertisements displayed on the website. The reason we haven’t seen business operate such websites is because this isn’t a financially viable model for a profit-making – this is a great example of the power of the internet being harnessed for the social good.
Postsecret.com is another good example. The premise is quite simple – people send in anonymous postcards with their secrets or a confession they wish to make. These are then uploaded onto the website every Sunday for the world to see. While this must have psychological benefits for the people who submit the postcards, I imagine the real benefit is derived by the readers. It lets the readers know that they aren’t the only ones with burdens, things they are ashamed of or feel guilty about. They must be doing something right – you don’t get 474 million visitors to a website for nothing.
Emotional Bag Check is another example. It operates similarly and serves a similar function to PostSecret – people anonymously ‘check-in’ their emotional baggage, and enter their email address which remains anonymous. Others ‘carry’ the baggage of others by reading the ‘baggage’ of others, and respond to it with a message and a song that they think might help them. This is emailed to the person who checked in their emotional baggage.
Are there any other good examples of the internet being use for social good? How else can the power of the internet be harnessed for social change?