Social Impact Pitch

On April 5, Fruition Technology Labs held the Social Impact Pitch at the Urban Co-Lab in Austin. The Social Impact Pitch is an event for organizations to pitch project and business ideas that are focused on a SOCIAL, CIVIC or life-changing benefit.

Panelists and investors like Bob Bridge from Southwest Angel Network, Charlie Jackson from Diversity Fund, Wesley Okeke from Fruition Tech Labs, and Belinda Matingou from Texas Association of Business, Luemara Wagner of the Texas Family Justice Institute, and Preston James, and Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the University of Texas at Austin, helped judge and organize the event.

Among the contestants was former Tech For Justice Hackathon+ Austin winner, Michael Curran, who left the event with the winning title.

Michael is a lawyer with experience in the field of legal technology, and he is currently focused on solving the growing problem of financial exploitation. Michael is also an officer with the State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section.

Michael’s pitch was based on his Guide Change business that started one year ago at the Tech for Justice hackathon sponsored by the Internet Bar Organization and others. Michael created the Guide Change platform to help institutions and administrators who seek to protect the financial estates of seniors and others who may be the targets of financial exploitation and abuse.


EquiPay splits bills equitably, not equally

EquiPay is a soon-to-launch app that takes income inequalities into account when splitting bills among large parties.

“For centuries, women and people of color have worked day in and day out only to be burdened by unequal pay for equal work,” Malbroux said.

The idea behind EquiPay is to split the check equitably, not equally. EquiPay “developed a complex algorithm that takes into account history,” Malbroux said. It takes income data from the U.S. Department of Labor and splits the bill based on racial and gender income differences.

For instance, if a black woman were out for dinner with a white man and a white woman, the white man would pay the most, and the black woman would pay the least.

To give it a twist, the app allows individuals to protest against the split with a series of excuses like, “I’m unconventionally unattractive,” “I’ve spent $400 on improv classes,” and “I’m aware of my privilege.” When selecting “this isn’t an issue anymore,” the app will proceed to display stats on the wage gap.

This seems to be a great idea for the underprivileged, but creators of EquiPay have found a way to attract the attention of privileged white collars as well.

“We at EquiPay know people love social recognition for being socially conscious, so we’ve created a share feature,” Malbroux said.

Malbroux’s goal is not to make money— she is more excited to see what will come from this socially conscious creation.

Article via TechCrunch, 20 February 2016
Photo: Eat Money by Lynne Hand [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Bitcoins could buy energy for less

Researchers discovered the technology behind Bitcoin that could help cut energy bills.

Technologists of Accenture have created a blockchain-based smart plug that can track power consumption and search for cheaper energy sources minute-by-minute. The current blockchain serves as the automated ledger that oversees Bitcoin and keeps tracks of where coins are spent.

The plug modifies the basic Bitcoin blockchain technology to make it actively look for cheaper power suppliers, which could help people living on low earnings who use prepayment meters that operate on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Accenture has also adapted the blockchain to allow customers to actively negotiate deals, rather than simply signing contracts and confirming transaction records.

“It’s about how we put more business behaviour or logic into the blockchain,” said Emmanual Viale, head of the Accenture team at the firm’s French research lab.

The prototype works with other appliances in the house so when demand for energy is high, it searches for different suppliers and uses the modified blockchain to switch to the cheaper source. According to Accenture research, the modified blockchain would be able to save individuals using prepayment meters in the UK up to £660 million annually.

Although the Accenture system is still just a concept, it has huge potential to make energy use more affordable.

Article via BBC, 19 February 2016
Photo: Bitcoin by Chris Pirillo


Fight for your right to fix

The Repair Association is fighting the manufacturing industry for your “right to repair everything.”

Today, with big corporations dominating the manufacturing industry, it is typically difficult for consumers to find specific parts to fix any kind of technology. The Repair Association is an organization hoping to help make the parts accessible to everyone.

With groups like iFixit, Fixer’s Collective, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the association is asking manufacturers to sell tech parts along with instructions on how to fix the product without professional help needed.

“A free, independent market for repair and reuse is more efficient, more competitive, and better for consumers,” the association writes on its website. “Repair helps create local jobs, and repair and reuse benefits the environment by reducing end-of-life electron products.”

Apart from the demands for the manufacturing industry, the association also aims to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to address the growth of a self-taught consumer base.

Not only does iFixit sells repair parts, but the company also provides online guides for individuals seeking to fix their appliances independently. But due to Section 1201 of the DMCA’s “anti-circumvention” provision, people are not allowed to tamper with technology that has copyrighted software.

“Under U.S. copyright law, you’re not allowed to modify protected software or look at it—even for the purpose of repair,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit says. “Manufacturers are using other parts of copyright law to restrict outside access to service manuals, schematics, and repair instructions. They are developing an unfair monopoly over the aftermarket of their goods.”

As unjust as it is, the monopoly is defended by lawyers and lobbyists, says Wiens. The Repair Association is needed to represent repairmen, women, local business, to fight for their right to repair.

“We aren’t just fighting for your right to repair smartphones and computers—we are fighting for your right to repair everything,” Wiens says.

Article via Good, 4 February 2016
Photo: Mobile Butchery by Meena Kadri [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Syrian refugees need $9 billion in aid

Aid to Syria’s refugees of the ongoing war has gradually declined over the years, but Syria reached out to the world for a request of nearly $9 billion this year.

As Syrians migrate, host countries with limited resources have struggled to support vast population increases. The situation is made even more difficult as donor countries continue to cut back on contributions.

World leaders, international officials, and aid agencies attended the donor conference in London early this month to discuss the total aid requirement. The requirement amounts to almost $9 billion, which includes a U.N.-coordinated appeal for $7.73 billion and a $1.23 billion request by host governments. The remaining portion is needed in the next few years by countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to support the 4.6 million refugees they are hosting.

Although the underfunding of last year’s $7 billion appeal led to cuts in food aid, optimism remains for this year’s appeal. Apart from the necessities, donors are also requested to provide long-term plans such as jobs and education.

“We think we need to make a step change now from simply the tradition model of passing the hat around for the international donor community,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The majority of Syrian refugees cannot work legally, giving them no choice but to work informal jobs. The influx of Syrians has also caused wages in Jordan and Lebanon to fall.

Donors are encouraged to invest in infrastructure projects such as schools and roads, which will create short-term jobs for refugees. Meanwhile, The World Bank is helping host countries with cheap loans. Although Jordan has refused to borrow money, they are open to zero-interest financing to provide for development programs that had been on hold for years.

One of the biggest goals of the conference is to provide all refugee children an education by the end of 2017. Currently, more than half of refugee children are out of school.

Despite the new plans, donors and hosts have faced the truth that most refugees live in poverty; Families have had to remove their children from school due to the lack funds, since they are banned from legal jobs. Host countries like Jordan have become more strict with Syrian entries, leaving 20,000 in the deserts.

“What we are witnessing now is a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims,” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

Article via Syria needs nearly $9 billion in humanitarian aid, 3 February 2016
Photo: Bread distribution inside Syria by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation’s photo stream  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Petition against pro-rape meetings

Several thousands have signed a petition in an attempt to reach out to the Scottish government hoping they will take action against the rape advocate.

Last Monday, Cat Boyd started the petition calling for the Holyrood government to stop Daryush Valizadeh, the rape-promoting “neo-masculinist” .

“RooshV (Valizadeh), a militant pro-rape pick-up artist is holding gatherings for his followers in Glasgow and Edinburgh. This makes our cities unsafe for at least half the population. Promoting rape is hate speech, and should be treated as such,” the petition says.

Valizadeh writes that rape should be allowed and claims it would actually be good, as it will help push women to become more alert in situations such as this. He also thinks that by legalizing rape, women will stop showing mixed signals about consent, but in Valizadeh’s previous journal, his movement seems to be in favor of women’s well-being, his next articles show his true intentions.

“Modern women are too broken, unreliable and narcissistic to give men anything reliable besides fornification,” said Valizadeh.

Not only are Glasgow citizens petitioning against his movement, but people several other communities are also taking part in stopping his world-wide meet-ups.

“Pro-rape women-haters are not welcome in Glasgow, as they will find out when they gather in George Square… and have the pish ripped right out of them by decent Glaswegians.

“These men deserve derision and pity. Violence and intimidation is their game and we will not join in,” protestors said.

Valizadeh’s plans failed to execute as they occurred during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. His announcement for his plans only encouraged people around the world to promote against sexual abuse.

“The focus is going to be on the fact that all forms of sexual abuse and sexual violence are unacceptable and survivors should not have to tolerate it. There should also be adequate services to support those who have experienced it and clear guidelines for reporting it,” a spokesperson for the week’s organizer said.

Article via The Guardian, 2 February 2016
Photo: End rape_ Sexual Abuse by Your DOST [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]