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The Future Of App Development Will Be Diverse And Focused On Social Good

At the end of 2014, there were 1.4 million apps in the Google Play store and 1.2 million apps in Apple's App Store, according to a report by app-analytics firm App Annie. According to a 2013 report by GigaOm, a whopping 94 percent of app developers are male, and 54 percent are from North America.

The future will look very different.

As the CEO of Technovation, which offers a global technology entrepreneurship competition for girls, I've consistently seen that the types of apps girls develop are distinct compared to those developed by white male engineers. The apps range from one created by a team in Egypt to raise awareness of early marriage, to an app developed in Brazil to educate users on deforestation and climate change -- and even enable them to adopt a tree that will be planted in the Amazon rainforest!

These young women identify local, pressing problems and bring their unique perspective to create very innovative solutions. They've become local heroes and role models and have sparked movements in their countries.

One notable example is a Nigerian team that developed an app to help city police track traffic violators more safely. The team was recognized by the First Lady of Nigeria and the Secretary General of the UN's International Telecommunication Union. Another team, in the United Kingdom, developed an app to help their local police department (the Nottingham Police) manage emergency calls more efficiently. It was so effective that the Nottingham Police funded it and committed to market it after it was launched. A team from East Palo Alto created an app called Tag it! to clean their neighborhood of graffiti by allowing users to register tagged walls and organize clean-up events. Most recently, a middle school team from India built an app to manage waste, and subsequently had the incredible opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and talk to him about their project.

At Technovation, we believe there are three key factors that enable young women to take on the identity of a mobile app developer:

  • Access: By providing girls with free access to educational materials, we can level the playing field globally.

  • Mentors: By connecting girls with dedicated mentors and coaches who guide them through the app development process, the students are able to create world-class apps. One dramatic example occurred in 2014, when a team of high school students developed an app to test for concussions with a lot of support from their coach and mentor. Subsequently they pitched their app in a startup competition, Boston TechJam, and pulled ahead of 49 adult teams to win second place.
  • Space: When students have free and open conditions in which they can experiment, they have a safe place to learn and fail. For new learners (such as girls who have never programmed before), it is critical to have a supportive and accessible experience where it's easy to start.
  • We recently finished a preliminary analysis of the Technovation apps developed in 2013 and 2014 and found that around 40 percent of the apps focused on student productivity, health and community issues. Five notable applications from Africa were Health Awareness Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe), c-Casualty (Zimbabwe), Save Mom and Baby (Kenya), QuitMosquito (Kenya) and Ijou (Cameroon), an app to help new mothers track the nutrition of their children to prevent malnutrition.

    The remaining 60 percent of apps tackled counseling, life hacks/everyday tools, safety, education, volunteerism, environment, women's issues, career planning, helping people with disabilities, travel, homelessness (an app from Brazil called Kids Rescue focused on the plight of street children), transparency in civic issues and, finally, sanitation. Some apps use games as a means to promote learning in the areas of education and environmental awareness

    Technovation started in 2010, when mobile app development was just taking off. We can't wait to see what these amazing young mobile app developers will create and how they will continue to increase the diversity of app development, generate economic activity, and inspire other young girls to pursue their dreams.

    Qualcomm believes that we must challenge what we see today, so we can invent the technologies that will shape our tomorrow. To learn more about our Why Wait campaign, click here.

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