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UNICEF website gives users a good reason to ignore their phone

tapprojectThe US branch of worldwide children’s charity UNICEF has created an innovative new website that results in donations to the charity when users leave their phones alone. The UNICEF Tap Project is supported by Giorgio Armani and a days worth of clean water is donated for every ten minutes that the user doesn’t touch their phone. During that time various facts about water wastage and the work of UNICEF pop-up on screen.

It’s a great way of using people’s competitive instincts and general feeling that we all spend too much time fiddling with our smartphones. It’s a great way of telling people more about the work of UNICEF and making a more exciting use of a CSR partnership.

I can spot a couple of potential pitfalls though. Kellogg’s got in trouble in 2013 for offering to donate free breakfasts to vulnerable children in exchange for Twitter users’ retweets of the corporations messages. While I’d assume the arrangement with UNICEF’s sponsors for a lump sum donation regardless of the number of minutes users leave their phones alone, there is potential for this to backfire with users angry that they’re being asked to do something in exchange for a corporate making a charitable donation.

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There’s no indication of the point at which the count times out and donations stop but the app says the average a user manages is around 48 minutes. What’s to stop people setting the app up before they go to sleep and leaving it for hours on end?

It’s a smart project and a way of playing on Western day to day concerns to raise money and awareness for developing countries.

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Will Hoyles is an independent public relations consultant specialising in issues led campaigns for the education and not-for-profit sectors. His previous employers include the Social Market Foundation, National Union of Students and NACUE. Will's website is www.whocommunications.co.uk and you can find on Twitter at www.twitter.com/willhoyles