Unicef, for the fifth year in a row now, is coordinating with Giorgio Armani to run a month long fundraiser titled the Tap Project, hoping to raise millions to provide potable water to children in need. The app, available on your phone here, tracks the number of minutes that you go without using your phone, and for each successful minute Armani will donate enough money to provide one child with a day’s worth of water. The idea is that water is essential to life, something we cannot possibly live without. These days it seems that more and more people seem to be unable to live without their mobile phones, and forget that iphones are a luxury that we who have all of our life-preserving needs (food, water, shelter) taken care of become so deeply attached to.
The way the app works is that it monitors your phone’s movement. Once your phone is in motion, aka in use, it stops recording minutes. However, I tried to hack the app and succeeded in two ways. First, none of us use our phones while we sleep, so beginning the recording as you go to bed allows you to rack up lots of phone-free minutes without actually having to abandon your phone for a day. Secondly, the website doesn’t know the difference between a mobile device and a computer, so you could potentially open the webpage and start the app while your computer is running and just let it count minutes all day. This makes me wonder if there is a limit to the amount of money that will be donated to this process, because if everyone starts “hacking the app” we could easily provide hundreds of thousands of days worth of water to children. But the reality is that most people don’t even know this app (which isn’t really even an app, but rather a website) even exists, and many people who do know about it are not interested in playing.
This Unicef project demonstrates the ways in which ICTs can be used in coordination with NGOs and development projects to bring aid to the developing world. I find this case to be very indicative of the vastness of the digital and developmental divides, because this high-tec web generated project is being used to provide arguably the simplest, most basic necessity of life to children who may not have ever seen a smart phone. Overall I think this project is very interesting, and I agree, that these days we are much too connected to our phones and cyber-based worlds than the physical world itself. This project allows us to take a moment to think about the issue of water scarcity, and its severity and scope, and do something about it that will have real, physical results.
The project is only running for a month, so start tapping the app, and not-tapping your phone.