This post was authored by Vanessa Rhinesmith and originally appeared on the NetSquared blog.

A couple of weeks ago NPR ran a segment entitled, A New Generation of App Developers, discussing the emergence of creative and youthful app developers. This story chronicled a middle school student who built an app to help him stay organized in the coming year and the revelation that more and more young people are developing their own creative solutions to problems.

Not only did the piece showcase the uniqueness of this particular student, but also the opportunity to cultivate creativity through technical awareness and skills development in children, teens, and young adults.

Organizations are helping to facilitate these conversations and learnings globally. Two such organizations are Apps for Good and Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab, which are teaching youth to learn, create, and improve their communities through the development of apps.

Apps for Good "is an award-winning course where young people learn to create imaginative mobile apps that change their world." Powered by CDI, Apps for Good is working with youth in the UK to teach them how to utilize technology to develop solutions to social challenges. These skills are taught through a practical hands-on course that guides participants through identifying a problem and developing a technological solution.

Youth-Created Apps

Some of the apps created by youth who have completed the program include:

  • Buzzer Buddiez is a unique alarm app that uses voice-recording and a buddy system to help you get up in the morning
  • CyberMentors is an anti-bullying app, which focuses on building self-esteem, confidence and helping to make people feel safe

Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab is an organization based out of Oakland, California. As a 2010 winner of the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning global competition Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab is encouraging community improvement through app development. Youth Radio's mission is to connect Oakland-based young people with pro developers and entrepreneurs to propose, develop, and market apps that serve community needs. Apps created by youth involved in Mobile Action Lab include:

  • Forage City is an app that centers on food equity-enabling re-distribution of free fruit in cities around the country that is working with Asiya Wadud's Forage Oakland project
  • All Day Play is an Android app that streams Youth Radio's one-of-a-kind online radio station, All Day Play.

As Stanford Professor Ge Wang notes in the NPR piece, "more kids are learning to build apps now because, well, they can." Today many youth have access to the tools to play, create, and build. Before, app development used to be the sole purview of hard-core programmers and hackers. Today, these items are accessible to a larger array of youth either in their own home.

Organizations such as Apps for Good and Mobile Action Lab help to provide even greater access for youth and foster empowerment through skills development and creativity. Not only are participants enhancing their own self confidence, but also shaping their communities for the better in the process.

Are you involved in a youth app development program? How are you enabling youth to develop socially oriented apps. Do you know of an organization in your area? Please share it here or in the comments on the original post.

Learn More About Apps for Good:

Learn More About Mobile Action Lab:

by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Senior Content Manager, TechSoup