Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

iFindit – The Offical Android App!

iFindit’s new Android app is available through Android market place!

All it needs is a water mark to be any more official.

We have been working fervently to create an app to meet the growing needs of Chicago’s community.    You will be able to search from over 2,500 food pantries, farmers’ markets, medical clinics and shelters.   We’re working to connect people quickly to the resources they need and build it using City of Chicago data as well as information from Feeding America and Greater Chicago Food Depository.   Our application will be featured on the Apps for Metro Chicago contest website.  Here is a peek at the application:pdf of ifinditapp

We Need Your Opinion!

We’re looking for testers and for more feedback so we can make this the most usable and practical tool for people in need.    Please take a couple of minutes to download it, test it and share your feedback with elizabeth@ifinditchicago.com.

"Yeah, I'm looking at you! But seriously, are you cool with trying the app? It's like really easy and fast."

September 23, 2011

Chicago Runs on Brain Power

What does Chicago need that hasn’t been thought of already?  How about a chance to utilize the brain power of its citizens to help the government build a stronger place for people to live, work and visit.  Dozens of Chicago-area developers and teams will be submitting apps for the first, Apps for Metro Chicago contest.  This initiative started with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Pat Quinn and Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle.   It was created to support and encourage innovation in civic government with the help of its residents to help other residents through new apps.

Cities like San Fransisco, New York and D.C. have already downloaded the trend.  They opened up their city government data and have several apps that made the transition from proof of concept to wide acceptance.  For example, some of the apps created through this contest help address the perennial challenge of transportation including apps that help citizens find their cars and to identify efficient routes to navigate cities more efficiently. The winner this year is a new start-up called Spothero which is an app that allows users to reserve a parking spot in advance.  Consider how hard it it to find a spot for a White Sox or Cubs game!   With the community app category, now there is a chance for Joe and Jane Public to produce solutions to the problems that cause concern and that we care about.

The contest that has created engagement and a sense of community among Chicago developers, organizations and advocates for change runs from June 24 – December 16.  This includes the time of application submission to the announcement of the winners.

Ok, ok, so you might not have the idea to create and design an app, but you can still vote for one!  Check out the rules of participation at http://www.appsformetrochicago.com/rules#submitting.

Be a part of Chicago’s brain power!

(image provided by John Medina)


September 20, 2011

More Than Just a Phone

Mobile apps are no longer limited to serving as distractions while waiting for the train, the bus or the end of a painfully dry webinar.  GEICO’s recent commercial asked, “Do people use smart phones to do dumb things?”  The answer is most likely, yes.  The tide, however, is shifting to the other end of the spectrum where people are using their smartphones to not only do smart things, but the right thing.

Smartphones are more than just a phone, they are becoming a lifeline that could keep a family from going hungry and mobile apps are becoming a more relevant way to connect people to the resources that they need.You may be asking yourself, If someone needs help finding a meal how is an app found on a smartphone going to help? Aren’t smartphones expensive?  The answer comes in a few different ways.

#1) The use of smartphones is growing in lower-income communities.

Smartphones, while popularly associated with younger populations are being utilized by a variety of generations as well as communities.  As Amy Gahran mentions in this CNN Tech article, “Feature phones are especially popular in low-income communities and among seniors.”  The Wall Street Journal covered a story about how smartphone are bridging the digital divide.  While many people have several devices to connect them to the internet (PC, iPad, smartphone, etc.), people in low-income communities do not have a multitude of technology choices.  According to Lucy Hood, the mobile devices used in low-income communities serve as a person’s primary way to access the internet.  So without the luxury of a PC at home, smartphones are becoming more critical to accessing information online.

#2) The look of poverty in America is changing.  Poverty is not limited to the gritty images once associated with the term.

People in poverty may be your next door neighbor who is struggling. According to this recent Chicago Tribune article, of the 32,000 people who sought assistance from People’s Resource Center, over a third of them sought assistance for the first time.   The Tribune article also highlights how young single adults do not make enough money to live in their own, “‘In the spring of 2011, 14.2 percent of the 25- to 34-year-olds in the U.S, were living in their parents’ homes… That is 5.9 million young adults. If we didn’t count parents’ income, 45.3 percent would qualify as being poor.'”  If they did not have the help of their parents, they too might be looking for assistance from places like People’s Resource Center.

The last thing a person wants to do in a time of need is struggle to find the resources that could be right around the corner.  Not providing that resource on someone’s smartphone would be a “dumb thing”.

Images provided by: freedigitalphotos.net and http://www.bhamcropwalk.org/3FACES.htm

September 9, 2011

Food Insecurity

The term “food insecure” is used frequently when addressing the issue of hunger.  And unless you work in that particular field, you may find yourself feeling knowledge-insecure about what it actually means.  Well, simply put, food insecure means that a person is not confident about where they will find their next meal.

It may seem hard to believe that in the great metropolis of Chicago, teeming with revered restaurants and a sought-after food scene, that 1 out of 4 children are considered food insecure.

Who is helping:

Food pantries have been a long-time staple that holds together resources and security.  According to the Food and Agriculture Operations of the United Nations (FAO), “Food assistance helps build the basis for long-term food security, and is particularly important in countries in protracted crisis.”  And while the FAO is dealing with hunger on a global scale, food insecurity presents itself in our own backyards.

One of FAO’s recommended actions to enhance food security is to “promote local institutions that support livelihoods.”*  This is what we hope to achieve with iFindit – to help Chicagoans by highlighting service organizations in different parts of the city.

A Challenge:

How many food pantries are in your community?  First, try to find them.  Second, tell us what you discover.  The answer may surprise you.

*Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (2010, October).  The State of Food Insecurity in the World; Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crisis.  Presented at Economic and Social Development Department 
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
 Rome.