Go ahead. Check your Twitter or Facebook feed. I can guarantee that you’ll be bombarded by news about a tragedy that’s happening in real-time. Relax, this isn’t a rant on ethics, or social injustice, but I want to focus on examples of how we can be empowered by our phones to both amplify awareness for important issues and be the tool to effect positive change.
Recently, a man standing outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was murdered at the hands of two police, causing nationwide outrage. Sources say the the police dashboard camera and the body cameras that they were wearing were dislodged and that the footage didn’t offer clarity into what happened. However, two bystanders were able to film the event on their phones and share their videos which went viral on social media. They offered truth into what transpired, and legions of people were able to stand up together and voice their anger.
Photo credit: stopthekillinginc.org - Stop the Killing's hope is to prevent violent crimes through public outreach efforts.
What is notable is that the second video was captured by a member of an anti-violence activist group called Stop the Killing that searches for violent crimes using police scanners. By capturing these injustices, the group is preventing more violent crimes from happening by sharing their videos and performing outreach to the community in Louisiana.
Similarly, rights activists are taking a stand in Saudi Arabia, where numerous women have been physically abused. Videos captured of men in the act have been shared by the group who, in turn, have publicly shamed and lambasted the individuals involved. The evidence against them has helped to bring the issue to the spotlight, drive debate, and change mindsets in the region.
Photo credit: PBS
Preventing abuse is powerful, but there are other ways smartphones can be used to make lives better. Not long ago, a project by MIT researchers used smartphones to detect cataracts and other problems in the eyes of patients. Especially, in developing countries, many people can’t afford for, or have access to medical exams. But because of this innovation and the work of other companies, doctors in sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia are using the technology to quickly check the eyes of patients and make detailed retinal scans. The scans are then uploaded via an app for diagnosis. Awareness of these problems have been grown exponentially, and it is estimated that several millions of people could be helped.
Photo credit: BBC - A man gets an eye exam using a smartphone.
Our phones are powerful tools, enabling us to create awareness for issues that matter and help our communities. Think for a second: What other situations exist where can we take advantage of our technology and use our phones as a tool for good? Or, can smartphone technology (not just video) be leveraged in other ways? Sound off below!