While personal computing used to be an elite technology for the upper middle class, that day is long, and fortunately, gone. More and more, I see examples of how technology is actually making a difference in the lives of people who 10 years ago possibly had never touched a computer, let alone an iPad.
When I first saw the iPad I knew it was a game changer. Even those who didn't see it as revolutionary, still realized it was unlike any product they had seen before. When I actually used an iPad for the first time, I realized that there was an opportunity for businesses to use this revolutionary tool to help their bottom lines. For businesses with a social impact focus, I also knew the iPad would be an invaluable tool, and was excited to see this develop.
In little over two years since the iPad's initial release on April 3, 2010, the explosion of uses for this device has amazed anyone who has paid attention. The nonprofit and social impact sectors have benefitted handsomely. Nonprofit and charity organizations are taking advantage of the ability to optimize their websites for the iPad platform, as well as to create native iPad apps to further support their causes. Ammado, a donation engine, is a great example of this. They have created HTML/CSS iPad-optimized widgets that are very slick and easy to integrate into an existing website or blog. Ammado's technology allows nonprofits to access a quick and easy solution to have a giving platform set up and running on a host site within minutes.
Aside from obvious fundraising uses like this, native apps have been developed for real functional use. Apps for petitions, field reports, trainings, rally signing and more have turned the iPad into a powerhouse tool to mobilize groups like never before. I also hope that iPads will find their way more and more into classrooms around the world, and inspire creativity and change. The App 'NonProfit' acts as a great directory, and keeps you up to date with the nonprofit world.
Well-established programs like One Laptop Per Child have been very successful in bringing technology into classrooms and getting computers in the hands of children who otherwise would have no access. While I certainly praise these programs, and think they have laid the groundwork for future ones, it seems likely that programs would benefit by getting iPads -- not laptops -- into classrooms. The iPad's rich, full experience offers the same benefits as laptops in many ways, but the iPad allows teachers and students to collaborate and create in ways they simply cannot on a basic laptop. The ability to create and download app's also presents itself as a significant benefit. The cost of the iPad would have to come down in order for this to be feasible -- or program budgets would have to go up, which is not likely. But in time, the iPad price will not be an issue. Apple also is famous for its technology grants, and educational discounts, so this seems even more likely for that reason as well.
Aside from its ability to support good causes, you can easily search the web and find stories about how the iPad or iPhone have changed or even saved lives. Filmmaker Dan Woolley, caught in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, actually used his iPhone to stay alive for 65 hours while he waited for rescue. He used his phone to take and send photos of his surroundings and a First Aid app he had installed to explain how to fashion a bandage and tourniquet for his own leg. (Read story)
I love stories about how technology is making an actual positive impact on people's lives, and I look forward to seeing these "miracle devices" continue to change the world in the months and years ahead. I'm ashamed to say that as of today, I don't own an iPad and have instead been monopolizing my family and friends' devices. Maybe it's finally time to break down and buy one. As a tip, you can get great deals on previous generation iPads from Apple's refurbished store.