Samasource Brings Socially Responsible Outsourcing to Facebook Application Development

For San Francisco based nonprofit organization Samasource, applications are “social” in both the sharing and the social responsibility senses of the term.

In the organization’s own words, “Samasource is a 501c3 non-profit that partners with small, talented, tech companies in poor and rural communities to find them clients. Samasource partners must meet stringent social impact criteria, and they specialize in services ranging from data entry to advanced software and website development.”

In addition, in an announcement earlier this week, Samasource was selected as one of the first 25 finalists to advance in this year’s fbFund competition. The company is matching Facebook application developers with Q/A testers in the developing world.

Combining Social Responsibility and Social App Development

In Kenya, rural India, and Nepal, unemployment rates among the college-educated youth are high: around 60 percent of college graduates in Nairobi are unemployed. In Kenya, where families have valued education and tried hard to send their oldest kids to college, the job market hasn’t caught up to the supply of talent that these 20-something individuals bring. Without skilled jobs, these college graduates resort to returning to their farms to figure out how to repay their college loans in some other way.

For almost a year now, Samasource has addressed this problem by identifying small local technology companies in the developing world to join their exclusive network of providers, supporting them with training and project management tools. Samasource then matches its providers with US-based organizations (its clients) that are considering socially responsible outsourcing. Among the list of services offered is application testing.

Starting at $1 dollar per app per week, Samasource providers can test Facebook applications (e.g., sign-up process, cross platform functionality, and links and other actions) for developers who may find it valuable to outsource back-end development. The idea is that matching the business needs of US clients with the services that providers offer will generate job creation in Samasource’s areas of operation – giving work, not aid to the educated unemployed population. To date, Samasource has produced $150,000 dollars worth of contracts, allowing it to be financially self-sustaining for now.

As the worlds of social networking and social responsibility converge, it will be fascinating to watch how players at the intersection of the two spaces complement and amplify each other’s work. If developers are indeed working social responsibility practices into their agendas, and organizations like Samasource can deliver the results required in the fast-paced market of application development, then Samasource might be onto something.