Chilean competition creating apps for social change

The Washington Post joins a chorus of international recognition for Chile’s new generation of socially-oriented entrepreneurs, scientists and designers.  

A wave of Chilean start-ups oriented toward information and communication technology is fast establishing the country’s reputation as the Silicon Valley of Latin America.

But instead of just churning out new funky new gadgetry, many of these new Chilean companies are oriented toward benefiting society and tackling some of its biggest challenges.

At we told you about the online start-up that’s looking to change the way community development is funded.

Now the Washington Post is getting involved, with Innovations columnist Vivek Wadhwa writing an article this week in praise of a new generation of socially-oriented entrepreneurs, scientists and designers in Chile, and the programs and organizations that are supporting them.

Wadhwa is particularly impressed by a prize that awards US$10,000 to the creators of the best three apps aimed at meeting the needs of the millions of people around the world who live in poverty – many of whom don’t have access to the kind of technology to build a Facebook profile or have a Twitter account.

The prize is a collaboration between telecoms company Movistar along with the Centro de Innovación and TechoLab at NGO Un Techo Para Mi País, which sends thousands of youth volunteers on projects to help alleviate extreme poverty across Latin America.

So far the project has generated ideas including: a Groupon for simple staples, a mobile application to help people organize short-term carpooling, and an easy, high-quality ranking system for patients to grade doctors in the public health hospitals.

Wadhwa was also full of praise for the more traditional, hands-on-development projects of Un Techo Para Mi País, like the 78,000 transitional houses they have built across Latin America.

The journalist gave specific mention to a Chilean project to produce a simple and economic water purification system that could bring potable water to millions of people living in poverty around the world.