How long do you typically go without looking at your phone? Even without feeling a vibration in your pocket or hearing a ding or a ring, we tend to reach for our phones frequently out of habit. We live in a society where people are growing increasingly attached to their phones; in fact, a recent study shows Americans check their phones an average of 110 times per day. The constant tapping of smartphones inspired UNICEF to create a project that provided something that people actually cannot live – water – simply by not touching their smartphones. With the UNICEF Tap Project, for every 10 minutes people went without touching their smartphones, UNICEF donated one day’s worth of clean water to children in need during World Water Month.
The participation in March was astounding; people around the world went over 200 million minutes without their tapping their smartphones, raising money to help hundreds of thousands of children. While folks can still participate by visiting www.uniceftapproject.com on their smart phones, UNICEF is no longer making time donations, but participants are given the option to donate when they finish the challenge. A $5 donation provides clean water to a child for 200 days.
This project leveraged the borderline addiction to mobile devices in an incredible way. Participants are incentivized not to touch their smartphones through social good, yet still are inclined to look at their phones. UNICEF takes advantage of this opportunity by providing useful and thought-provoking facts about the lack of clean water in many countries, supplemented with statistics about how many photos have been uploaded to social networks during the time you’ve been without your phone, real-time participants, and also facts about UNICEF. Their strategy kept me intrigued throughout the process by providing valuable information, and also made me want to keep ‘playing the game’.
New information pops up on the screen about every fifteen seconds. Here’s some information about social media posts that stood out to me, customized based on how long you have not tapped your phone:
~2:45: – While people on Instagram have posted 1,800 #selfie photos, you’ve helped provide water instead
~5:15: 1,276,065 photos have been posted to Facebook while you’ve been without your phone
~6:45: While people on Instagram have uploaded 390 #cat photos, you’ve helped provide water instead
~10:46: 32.8 million Likes have been posted to Facebook while you’ve been without your phone
~13:30: 9,398,422 million emails have been sent in the time you have been without your phone
Here are more facts about the global water crisis that pop up during the challenge:
Today, more people have access to mobile phones than toilets
In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking to collect water
400 million kids worldwide, more than 5 times the number of American children, have their education disrupted due to unclean drinking water
Through the Tap Project, UNICEF encourages people who would otherwise be using their phones for mindless tapping to contribute to a movement and educate themselves instead. By challenging people to put down their smartphones, the project puts into perspective just how addicting smartphones may be while simultaneously providing valuable information which aids to the greater good. This is a fantastic and groundbreaking example of encouraging people to utilize their mobile devices to participate in something bigger than themselves, and it will be interesting to see how increasing mobile connectedness impacts more global issues.