The Betavine Social Exchange: A Marketplace for Mobile Apps for Social Change Needs Your Input

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 04, 2009

Imagine you are an NGO (a non-governmental organization) in a developing country, working on a critical development issue -- say, developing an educational infrastructure for women and girls. You know that mobile technology can help you in this regard and you have a project in mind that you want to try out, involving the use of SMS content and mobile information services for rural teachers.  You think that there are tools and content out there for your particular needs - but you may have no idea how to access relevant expertise, mobile tools, or content. 

Enter Vodafone, one of the largest mobile telecommunications network companies in the world, operating in 25 countries with partner networks in another 42 countries.

Vodafone operates Betavine, a mobile development community aimed at increasing mobile application development. Betavine allows developers to upload and profile their alpha- and beta-stage applications and provides a discussion and feedback platform for these apps.

Most of these apps, however, are not aimed at civil society organizations and their needs for mobile innovations. 

The Betavine Social Exchange, BSX, now in its initial conceptual phase, seeks to address the gap between what NGOs need and mobile apps available. 

Problem Owners -- The NGOs on the Ground

The idea is simple:  And NGO or civil society organization - the owners - post a challenge or problem in need of a mobile solution. These problem "owners", according to Steve Wolak, Betavine's director, "understand the situations on the ground and are able to describe it clearly to others."  BSX will allow them to post their problem that they seek a solution for. 

Contributors -- Expertise That Can Help

Contributors are those that can help NGOs address their problem. According to Wolak, these "are the mobile developers or other mobile enthusiasts who have the knowledge or interest in “contributing” towards mobile solutions for the defined problems." Contributions can come in many forms: They can "be helpful pointers, software, time to lead a co-creation project online, user interface designs, or business advice." They can be local entrepreneurs, Vodafone staffers, other NGOs that have a problem already figured out, or individuals with a particular expertise.

Then there are other players, such as activators who might be able to help deploy an application in the field.

Right now, Betavine's Social Exchange is purely conceptual, building on the commercial Betavine model and others, such as Innocentive which operates a social marketplace, originally funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and purely commercial players like Idea Connection and the Innovation Exchange, and many others like these. Enterprises have for some time now looked at 'open innovation' to generate ideas and solve problems internal to the firm, and marketplaces matching problem solvers with seekers have sprouted equally as rapidly. 

What would make a Mobile Social Marketplace Successful? 

That is the question that Steve Wolak posed to the MobileActive community.  If you are an NGO coming to the site, what would you need?  If you are a developer, entrepreneur, or mobile enthusiast, what do you need in order to offer your services?

We here at MobileActive have some thoughts on what would be useful and what a failure in a 'mobile social marketplace' might be but we'd love to hear from you!  Reply in the comments below and tell us what you'd need - as a developer, as an NGO, as a member of the community. And thanks! 







Openworld interest - and feature suggestions

Glad to see this initiative!

Openworld would like to see the following in Betavine or a similar site --

1.  Tight integration with Twitter  ( offers a precedent on this)

2.  Support for online competitions, with options to choose winners via feedback from a) public and/or b) panel of judges

3.  Support for karma point-style awards (e.g. Twollars) as well as Paypal or other online currencies of the contest sponsor's choosing.

Openworld is offering "Seeds of Change" microstipends for entrepreneurial schools in poor communities to use mobile phone cameras to create and share eLearning resources, in concert with Cell Alert and the Internet Bar Organization.  We'd love to do a pilot contest with Betavine as soon as you're ready.

Background is at and Look forward to next communications.


Mark Frazier
Openworld, Inc.
"Awakening assets for good"
@openworld (twitter)

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