Twilio, a cloud communications platform company, is taking its API and using it to do some social good. At its third-annual developer conference, it unveiled the creation of its non-profit foundation that it hopes will deliver “a billion messages for good.” It’s providing organizations and charities $500 in kickstart credits and a 25 percent discount to use its voice and messaging services.
To help kick-off this new venture, Twilio aims to partner with other organizations and is starting out with Code for America. With this relationship, projects that use Twilio’s voice and messaging service to help spur innovation in local governments will be eligible for funding.
Notable technologist, founder of O’Reilly Media, and supporter of free software and open source Tim O’Reilly said in a statement:
We use Twilio to enable all citizens to engage and participate in their communities. Not everyone has a smartphone, and with Twilio, we can easily add messaging and voice to reach people who don’t use web or mobile apps. When you change the interfaces to government to make them easier to use, we all benefit.
Company CEO Jeff Lawson says that Twilio.org was established to extend its efforts and make it easier for non-profits to add communication features to their apps. Today’s announcement comes as he emphasized the theme about “Do’ers”, those that are building products to help make communications easier and better. Lawson cites events like Hurricane Sandy where developers gathered together to help built IT support and tools for businesses that were affected while traditional channels were disabled.
While individuals have used Twilio to do some social good, it’s certainly not the company’s first foray into the non-profit space — in March, it teamed with the Polaris Project and Thorn to launch “BeFree”, a text shortcode to help combat child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Jennifer Kimball from the Polaris Project says that its group has taken 90,000 calls to date to help people trying to escape their current conditions. Since Twilio’s involvement, they said that there have been 4,000 messages received.
Lawson says that for a while, social good initiatives have been handled in a ad hoc manner, meaning that non-profits would contact various departments — it was a highly decentralized manner and it “bugged” him.
Twilio.org is open to any non-profit worldwide. However, there are restrictions on who is ineligible for participation: 501(c)4, 501(c)6, or non-501(c)3 organizations, hospitals and healthcare organizations offering direct patient care, public sector and state organizations, higher educational institutions, K-12 educational institutions.
It’s interested in reaching out to those groups that have a focus on civic engagement, the arts, developing regions, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
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