“Will you put down your phone to save a child’s life?”

Tap Project

The UNICEF Tap Project is a campaign aimed at providing children world wide with clean drinking water. During World Water Month, they launched a revolutionary aspect to their campaign. Smartphone users could log onto their website for the tap project and participate in their “challenge”: how long can you go without your phone? To participate, you simply pull up the website on your phone and set your phone down. That is it. The longer you don’t touch your phone for, the more water UNICEF would donate to children in need. Once you pick up your phone, the website stops counting and resets itself after telling you how much water will be donated as a result of your efforts.

When I found out about this project, it blew me away. I started participating whenever I could, and I sent the link out to my swimming and diving team so that other people could know about it as well. In my mind, this challenge fought two issues in the world. The first, children not having access to clean drinking water. It also fought a second issue, which is our society’s overdependence on technology. Don’t get me wrong—I am just as guilty of over using my cell phone as anyone else. I have seen groups of people eating meals together when every person is on their cell phone and not paying attention to their friends. What if everyone could set them down, supporting a good cause, and just talk to each other?

I thought that this project really tapped into an idea with great potential. Not using your phone for just 10 minutes was enough to provide a child with clean drinking water for a day. Imagine the impact this project would have had if every single American with a smart phone set their phone down for 10 minutes. What about 20 minutes? An hour? What if every person in the world with a smart phone set down their phone while on this website for a simple 10 minutes a day? The results would be astounding. Now that World Water Month is over, UNICEF is no longer offering this challenge, but they are accepting donations to donate water to children in need. I think this donation model has the ability to make a huge impact in the world, and I hope other charities take notice of it. The biggest challenge in implementing this strategy to fight another problem in our world is finding a charity or organization to back the strategy. People may agree to set down their phone and not use it, but this would be useless if no one has agreed to do anything as a result of their efforts. Another challenge would be marketing the strategy so that people know to participate.

I’m not sure if UNICEF was the first organization to employ this strategy, but I certainly hope they are not the last.  If this donation strategy catches on with other organizations, I am excited to see the impact it could have on our world. Not only would it be helping people in need, but it would also give people an incentive to set down their smartphones and actually have some real conversations. Revolutionary.



7 thoughts on ““Will you put down your phone to save a child’s life?”

  1. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this project! It just immediately sparks so many possibilities in my mind. There are easy ways to do it, like while you’re sleeping and wouldn’t use your phone anyway. Maybe professors could encourage participation during class. That’s a great way to ensure students don’t use their phone during class (which relates to John’s post about student interest). And what about studying? That would be a great way to keep me away from my phone while I’m trying to get homework done. I also really like what you said about meals. This past summer, we had weekly intern dinners where we had a no phone policy at the table. I think this project brings together two really important causes, with such a simple fix.

  2. Who gives THEM the money? UNICEF does not, to my knowledge, generate its own revenue directly.

    I do like the way it taps into a simple behavior and uses it to let people make a difference. And water is a huge issue.

    • I spoke about it with some of the girls that I sent it out to. And yes, when you finally move your phone, the app will tell you how long you left it unattended for and what the donation that you earned was. For example, if you left your phone alone for 40 minutes, it would tell you this and that 4 children earned clean water for a day because of you. I just thought that was so cool!

      • It is cool and a great example of how interactive technology can create positive feedback loops. Research has shown that people are more likely to “do the right thing” when they know their deed will have an impact.

  3. I really liked your post. I wish that I would have known about this before now. I actually have the opposite problem than what most people have, and I am really bad about not looking at my phone. I do think phone usage is becoming a problem with today’s youth. When I was younger I was always outside doing something active, and it seems like kids these days would rather be on there phones texting friends or communicating through social media.

  4. Tara,
    Great post! It’s really too bad though that the app is not longer available! After the first paragraph I went to check out the website and start the challenge; however, I read later in you blog that it was only active for one month…bummer! UNICEF is truly a great charity and I have previously participated in their various fundraising events. This one could seem to be the coolest though! Keep up the good work

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