Transformational Tech: Apps that are changing the world


From improved sanitation in the developing world, to self-driving cars and quantum computers, the potential for tech to change the world is mind-boggling. On a micro scale too, there are many gadgets and apps that can help you make a difference, writes Oliver Haenlein.

The food sharing revolution is here “No less than a third of all the world’s food is wasted, while households in the UK alone bin over £12bn of edible food every year. Households throw away 20 per cent of their weekly shop on average, at a cost of £700 per year” explain OLIO co-founders Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One. OLIO is a food-sharing app that looks to do something about these stark statistics.

While the sharing economy has seen peer-to-peer based sharing become all the rage – the success of Air BnB is testament to this – the same can currently not be said for food.

“Our response,” says Tessa, “is a free app connecting neighbours with each other and with local independent shops to share their edible surplus food. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in stores, spare produce from the allotment, goodies from an amateur baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. Users simply snap a picture of their items and post them on OLIO for their neighbour to collect.”

Such initiatives are important for businesses as well as individuals, since food waste is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter after the UK and China.

“Good food goes uneaten, while half a million people in the UK used a food bank last year,” adds Saasha. She tells Salt that they realised they were not alone on finding these figures uncomfortable reading: “Before embarking on the mission, we needed to check that others agreed. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. An OLIO/YouGov poll of 1,610 people revealed that 86 per cent of respondents were ‘bothered’ by throwing away their edible food, while two-thirds felt that households are primarily responsible for addressing the problem of food waste. Maybe we were on to something.

“Next up it was important to validate the idea that people would share and collect food as we’d hoped, so we created a WhatsApp trial among 12 early adopters. Come the end of that successful two-week experiment, we were convinced, and set about building the product. In July this year, OLIO launched in the App Store and on Google Play in a pocket of North London.

“Before long, a grass roots mix of local individuals and merchants were sharing their surplus food via our platform and a ‘word-of-mouth’ phenomenon quickly took hold.”

OLIO then climbed to the top of the UK app store, and was named Tech City News’ download of the week. Their little startup was gaining popularity fast, and proving that UK consumers are not content to sit by and watch the current rates of food waste continue.

“Of course it is early days and we have a long way to go to realise our vision of bringing OLIO to communities across London, the wider UK and cities around the world,” says Tessa. However the signs are good for OLIO, an exciting example of how innovation within technology and the shared economy can help us to work towards a sustainable society more in tune with our planet.

5 apps helping to change the world



Balu is a browser plug-in, and soon to be an app, which helps you make ethical choices when you shop online. It’s attempting to spotlight the companies doing business in the best possible ways, as the plug-in allows the ethical choices to jump to the top of your results when you search for products on Google, Amazon or ASOS.


A typical European car is parked for 92 per cent of the time, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, while each carries just 1.5 people per trip. Initiatives like BlaBlaCar are therefore much needed, as they connect passengers who need a lift with drivers who have spare seats. The BlaBlaCar community is now in 19 countries and has 20 million members.


Hastag climate allows ‘influencers’, people with significant online followings, to mobilise their fanbases to bring about real environmental change. Influential users subscribe to certain environmental issues in which they have an interest, and are then sent relevant causes and notifications with calls to action, which they can share with their followers, sending vital environmental messages to hundreds of thousands of people.


With Buycott, you can vote with your wallet, allowing you to avoid spending money on organisations you disagree with. Just scan the product you’re considering buying to find out more about the company’s positioning and relationships.You can also join campaigns, like ‘Support Fair Trade’ or Demand GMO Labelling’ which help you stop buying from companies who conflict with your social and environmental values.


mWater seeks to stop the spread of water-related diseases like diarrhoea. Its flagship app Surveyor monitors data at water points, schools, health clinics and households, and a number of organisations like and WaterAid have utilised the technology. Its global database has over 350,000 sites and visits mapped across 59 countries