At Capterra, we believe software makes the world a better place. Whether for personal or professional use, the right tech can turn a large, complex world into a smaller, more satisfying one.
I like to think of software as the Iron Man suit we can don to help advance our causes…while it won’t cure the world’s ills on its own, it gives humanity the chance to do the right thing in a way we could never have imagined when I was growing up.
In 2017, software—and the businesses that develop it—once again demonstrated their power for good. Capterra has pulled together the year’s highlights in an infographic, but there are three I wanted to draw special attention to:
Recovering from Hurricane Harvey
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s rampage through Texas, New York City-based developer Greg Sadetsky had an idea. He was watching calls for help ping around the internet and decided that, instead of another forum, what responders needed was a custom map.
Drawing on his extensive background and working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, Sadetsky created a map for first responders that included the locations of rescue calls, helicopter and rescue activity, no-fly zones, and safe landing areas.
Rescue efforts (via Hurricane Hacker Hero)
For one full week he was on constant call, adding new features and making tweaks based on feedback from those working on the front lines.
Commander James Spitler praised the effort, writing, “Within hours, [Greg’s] work gave my pilots a product that was an absolute ‘game changer.’”
I love how Sadetsky reached out across the country to help manage hundreds of aid calls at a time when his skills were needed most.
Google X’s Hurricane Maria response
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on September 20th. Twenty-four hours later, as the sun rose on widespread devastation, the FCC reported that 95% of the island’s cell towers were down. Months later, electricity is still hit or miss, and 30% of the cell towers are still out.
From the outset, reestablishing strong cellular communications on the island was a challenge. A bunch of talented software and balloon engineers at Google X, however, made addressing that challenge a lot more feasible.
Outer shell for the balloons (via Business Insider)
Google X’s mission is to invent and launch breakthrough technologies that will make the world a radically better place by solving a big problem.
In late October, the company launched Project Loon balloons over the skies of Puerto Rico. The project uses high altitude weather balloons equipped with cell tower tech to give emergency LTE coverage to damaged areas.
Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then transports each into a wind stream blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can form one large communications network. Each balloon can cover 5,000 square kilometers and stay aloft for more than 100 days. The solar panel-powered systems are functional during daylight hours.
Project Loon’s LTE balloons (via engadget)
IDATA working to open astronomy to the blind
This year, the NSF (National Science Foundation) awarded $2.5 million to a group including the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago, Associated Universities, Inc., and Skynet to help develop “new software that will make astronomy more accessible to the blind and visually impaired.”
The project, Afterglow Access, will work with students and teachers to develop and test specialized software geared toward giving blind students more tools to interact with astronomy and decreasing general reliance on sight to enjoy the subject.
A press release from IDATA (Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy) notes: “While BVI [blind and visually impaired] individuals are severely underrepresented across all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the lack of vision-neutral tools in astronomy further increase the barrier-to-entry for BVI individuals.”
A core belief at Capterra is that everyone has something valuable to contribute, and this project is just one more example of how human ingenuity, expressed through software, can make the world more open and amazing to everyone.
Bring on 2018
With everything we’ve seen in 2017, we can’t wait to see what the world comes up with in 2018. In the meantime, if you think of a place where your skills could help your community grow, heal, or change for the better, get out there and get going! We’re rooting for you.
To learn more about software’s best moments in 2017, check out our 17 Ways Software Made The World A Better Place in 2017 infographic.