The objective

The objective of this initiative is to analyze, discuss and encourage the development of transformative mobile applications. It will do this on two levels, the applications themselves and initiatives that support the development and uptake of applications.

The deliverables

  • Quarterly reviews of top-10 transformative applications.
  • Quarterly reviews of five initiatives that support the development of transformative applications.
  • Short papers about the role of mobile applications.


The potential role of mobile applications when it comes to help create a better planet can hardly be overestimated. So many of our current challenges can be turned into opportunities with new approaches where mobile devices and connectivity play a key role.

However, today these transformative applications are difficult to find. A study done during the preparation for this webpage indicated that 98.5% of the apps covered by media, and promoted by key stakeholders, were “fun/music/gaming”, “general information”, or “administrative” apps that did nothing in particular to make the world a better place.

We want to stress that there is nothing wrong with these kinds of apps, but their dominance makes it difficult to identify those that can help solve the major challenges of today.

In order to make it easier to find these kinds of applications and to encourage more developers to find solutions to major challenges this page rewards those that are doing fantastic things and do so before a supporting framework exists to develop such applications. Many organizations and companies have resources that could be used in better ways if they were to tap into the potential of mobile applications.

Mobile apps are windows that allow people to connect, get access to data, understand complex situations through visualization, get direct feedback, etc. The mobile revolution represents a historic opportunity, and many major global challenges that humanity faces can benefit from this opportunity, from poverty reductions to better food habits, from reduced oil dependency to better health.

Supporting initiatives

Still, mobile applications are not developed in a vacuum; they depend on an underlying infrastructure and tools. Therefore we decided to also include “supporting initiatives” to highlight projects that app developers can use, be inspired by, or that help accelerated uptake of transformative applications.

In this category we will also include initiatives by relevant stakeholders to support apps that are helping to make the world a better place. It could be the first “appstore/marketplace/etc” that features these kinds of apps in a separate category making it easier to find them, and also major developers that have targets/categories to ensure that transformative apps are developed, media outlets that highlight these kind of apps, etc.

Many stakeholders are important:

  • The developers of operating systems such as Apple, Google, RIM, HP and Microsoft are key as they control app markets.
  • Operators such as Verizon, AT&T, China Mobile, Vodafone, Telenor, etc are key as they influence the use of smart phones.
  • ICT companies, especially manufactures of mobile devices such as Nokia, HTC, Samsung, SonyEricsson, Apple, Motorola, HP, etc are important as they can encourage and even have transformative apps pre-installed as they provide hardware and software.
  • Governments are important as they decide how to engage with citizens and what they require of the stakeholders on the market.

Today the above stakeholders are not doing much to support transformative applications, but we hope to list initiatives from stakeholders with strategies to promote transformative solutions on this page. If nothing happens within six months we will challenge strategic stakeholders to encourage them to focus more on transformative applications.

The context

Over the next two decades a number of converging “pressure trends” will result in a need for innovation and solutions that go beyond incremental changes. Even in isolation, each of these pressure trends has the potential to challenge society as we know it. As these trends converge, they will interact with each other in ways that will amplify their impact. The consequence of this convergence is a phase and scale of change of a magnitude that, according to many experts, will generate the most significant and rapid shifts in human history.

Totally new opportunities and challenges will arise due to an unprecedented connectivity. The world will be transparent in a way never before experienced. A new infrastructure is emerging, a connectivity and information collection never seen before allow for a transformative transparency and development of applications that can help society deal with the major challenges of today.

Transformative applications
Transformative applications help to deliver solutions to the main challenges of the 21st Century, e.g. climate change, poverty, natural resource depletion, demographic shifts, geopolitical tensions.

Transformative applications transform business models and support countries to leapfrog past unsustainable solutions.

A transformative application must provide more than incremental improvements within existing systems

Transformative solutions include for example contributions to:
net energy producing buildings, new consumption patterns, dematerialization, integrated transport/communication solutions, ensuring poverty reduction and sustainable solutions for aging populations.

A new kind of transparency will be realized by a paradigm-shift in access to information and by possibilities for collaborative development of solutions—in part captured by ideas represented by wiki approaches and so-called crowdsourcing.

Observing the “connected devices” around us shows a web of connected devices that are rapidly growing in numbers and connectivity. The sale of smart phones is expected to jump from approximately 190 million in 2009, to over 490 million units by 2012 and reach a billion units by 2015.

There are many different kinds of connected devices; so no categorization is obvious. What is required for a device to be categorized as “connected” depends on what aspect of the connectivity you are interested in. If there are multiple parts in a device, should they be counted as separate devices with separate qualities or as a single bundle? This depends on what you want to study. In addition to these questions about the definition of a connected device, there are also difficulties in obtaining accurate market data on the number of devices sold and in use. Estimates for the number of connected devices today and the potential for 2020 range from a few million to a trillion. What we know is that connectivity will grow exponentially over the coming years.

Companies are developing low-cost self-powered sensors that can be embedded in large numbers in many different types of infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, bridges and even agricultural fields, to enable ongoing control of operations for improved energy efficiency and performance.

The devices need to be connected to people, or there will be no transformative transparency. The new generation of smartphones that allows for analysing sound and images, as well as geographical position, provides the interface that allows the first phase of transformative transparency.

As acceleration picks up, the feedback mechanisms will be important. Small pushes over a few days in the right direction during the next two years will have greater impact than multi-million dollar initiatives running for years once a structure is in place.

The start

The inspiration for initiative emerged during discussions as the 21st Century Office app and later the Transformative-solutions app were developed. The initial findings are discussed in the two reports “Saving the planet with web 2.0” and “Transformative transparency”.

I have been frustrated to see how little attention important issues, such as poverty, climate change, geopolitical change, demographic changes, etc get in “innovation” and “app development fora”. The picture below is from a conference when “world leading entrepreneurs” presented their new ideas. I started my presentation by highlighting the fact that the previous day new numbers were published by FAO showing that more than a billion people are starving; still not one person mentioned this, nor had any innovation that would make life better for those starving. It was as if those people who have a very difficult time engaging in development of new innovative solutions, did not exist for most people at the conference.

The people

This is a collaborative project and the most important people are those contributing with transformative applications, or initiatives supporting such applications, as well as those helping in identifying such applications and ranking them. In order to help develop a structure that allows for collective innovation and a “crowdsourcing” approach that can identify transformative solutions, an advisory panel has been created with leading experts from different fields around the world. Also, and a feedback page is included together with the possibility to submit apps and initiatives. As transformative solutions are often complex we wanted to avoid a traditional rating system as these tend to reward the lowest common denominator, but we might introduce something that allows for more direct input later.

Founder and coordinator:

>Dennis Pamlin

Dennis Pamlin has been working with transformative ICT for more than a decade and is one of the early pioneers in developing concrete action plans for business and governments, as well implementing concrete ICT solutions. Dennis has been instrumental in putting ICT on the global sustainability agenda and is engaged in a number of initiatives around the world.

Some of the initiatives include:
> Saving the Planet at the Speed of Light
> Saving the Climate at the Speed of Light
> From Workplace to Any Place
> ICT Delivering the First Billion Tonnes of CO2 Reductions
> Low Carbon Telecommunication Solutions in China
> A Five-Step-Plan for a Low-Carbon Urban Development
> The 21st Century Office
> The Guadalajara ICT Declaration for Transformative Low-carbon Solutions

For more information please have a look at www.pamlin.net

Advisory board (Alphabetical order)

> Anders Wijkman

Anders is a world leading thinker and has been engaged in sustainability issues for most of his life. Until 2009 he was the chair of the e-Parliament Council. Anders has been a member of the Swedish parliament and president of the International Red Cross Disaster Relief Commission.

Anders is Vice President of the Club of Rome and the Tällberg Foundation. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is also a councillor for the World Future Council.

> Charles X. Yang

Charles is the founder and CEO of Nature Information Science and Technology Ltd (Shanghai). He obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1982 and his master’s degree in 1985, both in engineering and both from Xi’an Jiaotong University. He obtained an MS in 1987 and PhD in 1990 from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He joined TCL Corporation as Vice President in January 2009. In April 2009 he joined TCL Mobile Communication Co., Ltd as CEO. Before joining TCL, he established Dopod Communication Corporation in 2001, serving as CEO and President between 2001 and 2006 and as Honorary Chairman between 2006 and 2008.

During the course of his career in China, Dr Yang has been awarded the following important awards: Man of the Year in IT in China; Most Successful Entrepreneur in IT; Top 10 in Science and Technology in China; 100 Most Influential Executives in IT in China; Man of the Year in Telecommunication; Man of the Year with the Most Potential; Top 10 New IT Executives in China; and Top 10 Man of the Year in IT Industry.

> Gilles Berhault

Gilles founded ACIDD, Association Communication and Information for Sustainable Development in 2001, which organized the Summer School of Communication for Sustainable Development in partnership with the Committee 21 for seven years. In 2005 he arranged the forum TIC21: Internet, new technologies and sustainable development.

Today, he divides his time between ACIDD Cluster Green and Connected Cities and being a consultant, writing articles and holding lectures.

Gilles is a member of the Sustainable Development Institute Science Telecom, Vice President of European Partners for the Environment, Director of FING (New Generation Internet Foundation), the Clean Tuesday and the World Digital Solidarity Agency .

He is the author of Sustainability 2.0 and from 2010 he will lead Committee 21.

> Lara Srivastava

Lara has a diverse and multi-disciplinary background: a Canadian lawyer, she holds graduate degrees in literature, communications law, science/technology policy and telecommunications innovation. For the last many years, she has been monitoring and analyzing trends in ICT policy and market structure, with a particular focus on emerging technologies. She is currently Professor of Media Studies at Webster University Geneva and Policy Consultant with the World Bank.

Prior to joining academia, Dr. Srivastava was Senior Policy Advisor at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), where she managed their first Technology Foresight programme. She has also worked for government regulators, telecommunications consultants and internet start-ups.

She is co-editor of the 2011 World Bank/ITU Telecommunications Regulation Handbook (10th Anniversary Edition) and her book entitled Wireless independent Living for a Greying Population was released in 2009 (River Publishers). Lara is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and is part of the Editorial Board of the journal INFO (The journal of policy, regulation and strategy for telecommunications).

> Pierre Delforge

Pierre Delforge is a Senior Engineer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a global environmental advocacy organization headquartered in the US.

Pierre’s focus at NRDC is to reduce the energy consumed by information technology and consumer electronics globally in spite of their rapid growth.

While information technology has a tremendous potential to transform the way we live and work and help the world transition towards a low-carbon economy, the global explosion in the number of electronics devices continues to make energy efficiency of computers and the internet a critical priority.

Prior to joining NRDC, Pierre spent 20 years in the IT industry where he most recently led HP’s energy efficiency and climate strategy. Pierre holds a Masters in Engineering from Ecole Centrale de Paris, and a Diploma in Computer Science from Cambridge University.

> Seema Arora

Seema catalysed the establishment of the CII Environment Management Division in 1992 and the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development in 2006. She has pioneered CII’s initiative on Environmental Management Systems (EMS) ISO 14001 and designed EMS for diverse industrial sectors including engineering, chemicals and paints, automobiles, automotive components, ceramics, cement, electronics, textiles, thermal power stations, service industries, etc. Seema assisted the first Indian Company to get EMS certification in November 1995.

Seema’s primary areas of expertise are Management Systems, (including Environment, Occupational Health & Safety, etc), Environmental Auditing, Environmental Training, Sustainable Development, Capacity Building and Institutional Strengthening. She has successfully accomplished a number of training programmes on training on Initial Environment Review, Environmental Legislation, Environmental Awareness, Train-the-Trainer on Environmental / EMS Awareness.

Ms. Arora has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Delhi University. She has sixteen years experience in the field of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development.

> Simon Mingay

Simon is a research vice president in Gartner Research. Simon is currently researching environmental sustainability and climate change, their impact on organizations, and their impact on IT and the IT industry. He has researched and written extensively on issues related to the management of IT, such as the evolving IS organization, business-IT alignment, governance, service management, ITIL, process improvement, disaster recovery and business continuity management.

Prior to joining Gartner, Simon worked in the semiconductor industry in various roles within the IT organization, from IT service management to strategic planning within the group function.

> Suzanne Pahlman

Suzanne is the Chief Executive Officer of Connecore, a consultancy firm she started to embrace disruptive elements in a changing world to capture opportunities for sustainability connected to core business. She specializes in strategic innovation projects, delivering measurable transformative change, and re-thinking current structures. Her area of expertise is supporting new leadership in the 21st century, how to approach and deliver transformative change as well as positioning sectors/stakeholders as winners in a low-carbon economy. This includes working with the ICT/IT sector and companies such as HP, Microsoft and Ericsson.

She has written two books, contributed to several reports and online materials as well as interactive tools, movies and applications. Her previous work has also included preparatory work on possibilities for renewable energy funding, policy support on sustainable city planning, and outlining renewable energy pilot projects.

The next steps

The initiative will run for two years (until April 2013). We will then evaluate the development, sum up the findings in an appropriate format and decide upon the next steps.

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