Software for the Socially Minded?
April 20, 2011 1:37 PM   Subscribe

What open source/free software projects exist that have a humanitarian or social justice mission?

I'm looking to improve my coding skills by working on an open source/free software project in my free time. I'd love it if said project's mission was to improve people's lives in a concrete sort of way. I'm flexible on what exactly that means: whether it's software custom-made for a liberal organization, a web app designed for an endangered/oppressed group, or just something that helps people (a la Sahana).

What's out there?

(I'm also interested in programs like Code for America that might appeal to bleeding-heart programmers such as myself.)
posted by shaun uh to Technology (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
on MetaFilter with links to SMSFrontline and mobileactive which has an extensive listing
posted by infini at 1:42 PM on April 20, 2011

Tor is built to protect anonymity online, and one of the main intents of it is to enable persecuted groups to communicate and avoid oppressive regimes.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:58 PM on April 20, 2011

Riseup Labs
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:59 PM on April 20, 2011

They had a Codeathon for Sahana at Grace Hopper Conference 2010.
posted by ntartifex at 2:25 PM on April 20, 2011

Also, check out The Humanitarian FOSS Project site. Thanks for posting this, because it's helping to motivate my lazy butt post graduation.
posted by ntartifex at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2011

(oops, I didn't realize you'd already had Sahana up on your links.)

Oh, yet another thought! Wait until the creators of Sukey release the code (and work on Sukey 2).
posted by ntartifex at 2:31 PM on April 20, 2011

The Tor Project. (But it looks like it's already mature.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:34 PM on April 20, 2011

MediaWiki runs Wikipedia; an improvement in MediaWiki, especially around localization and internationalization, helps get us closer to "a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."

OpenStreetMap is a way people can map their own neighborhoods and cities; some people are using it for social good.
posted by brainwane at 2:58 PM on April 20, 2011

The Tor Project has a lot of features to add and is actively seeking volunteers.
posted by brainwane at 3:02 PM on April 20, 2011

I'm not sure if it counts as "humanitarian", but why not do a project with open data? In my area, folks have recently put up sites listing restaurants with sanitation infractions, government contracts and political donations by postal code.

If you feel like your skills are rusty, I think it's a good way to go. All you need is a source of data, whether provided by government or scraped from the web. Add in some not-terribly-complex HTML, JavaScript and database work, and you get something useful to you and to society. Plus, it'll be something you've made all by yourself, which helps confidence and looks nice on a resume.
posted by vasi at 6:01 PM on April 20, 2011

OpenMRS might suit you.
posted by flabdablet at 8:35 PM on April 20, 2011

Ushahidi was the first app that came to mind, but I'm also the director of the organization that leads the development of ThinkUp, and we're very concerned with getting better representation for ordinary citizens in policymaking and lawmaking decisions. We'd love to have you join the community!

(I'm also a judge for the CfA fellowships, and can't say enough good things about both CfA and CivicCommons.)
posted by anildash at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2011

Oh! And last year we had a blast with Apps 4 Africa; lots of those projects are still going strong.
posted by anildash at 7:02 AM on April 21, 2011

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