Most of us are spending an inordinate amount of time on our smartphones, those glowing devices that are always by our side, so why not use some of that time to help others and promote worthy causes? Here are four ideas you might want to consider—and you can always get back to your News Feed or high score challenge afterwards.

Protein folding

Proteins are the building blocks of our bones, skin and blood, and they can fold themselves into billions of different shapes—it’s when that folding process goes wrong that diseases such as Alzheimer’s start, and scientists don’t fully understand how or why these aberrations happen.

You can help by running the Folding@Home app from Sony (various others are available), so researchers at Stanford can use your smartphone’s computing power while you sleep. The app doesn’t use any personal data and sticks to Wi-Fi, but it does run some intensive calculations, so make sure your phone is plugged in and charging.

Helping the blind

If you’re blessed with normal eyesight then you can volunteer to help the blind and visually impaired through the innovative Be My Eyes service. Once you sign up as a volunteer you’re ‘on call’, but there’s no problem if you can’t pick up—if you don’t respond the app simply moves on to the next volunteer.

If you do answer when called upon (which won’t be all that often based on our experience), you’ll be connected with a blind Be My Eyes user who needs help navigating a crowded space, or reading a label on a can, or doing something else that requires sight. The app keeps track of your volunteering record as you go.

Fixing your neighborhood

SeeClickFix is a quick and convenient way to report issues around your area and get them fixed by the local authorities—those issues might include graffiti, or potholes, or a broken streetlight. Other residents can chime in on reports you’ve made to highlight particularly urgent problems.

The effectiveness of the app obviously varies from place to place but a lot of users are reporting that it really does work, and a few small changes in your neighborhood can eventually add up to make a big difference to the people who live there. The developers say 75 percent of reported issues get resolved.

Donating your photos

We all spend plenty of time snapping photos on our mobile devices, so you might want to consider doing something worthwhile with those images: Donate A Photo is a great idea from Johnson & Johnson—the company agrees to pledge $1 for every picture you share on social media across your various networks.

The photo gets labelled with your chosen cause, as well as logos for Donate A Photo and Johnson & Johnson, and you can donate up to one picture a day for your chosen cause. If you’re not so hot at the mobile photography game, there’s the option to pick a picture from a pre-approved gallery of snaps.



Those are just a few ideas, but there are plenty more if you find you have some spare time and a smartphone to hand: You can improve the world’s knowledge by sharing your expertise on Wikipedia or promote your favorite charity campaign over social media, for example.

[Header image via gst/]