The Other Web2.0: Not Business As Usual

Aside from a few companies such as Amazon, Google or Facebook, the value of Web2.0 for the business world is still unclear, and return on investment still seems murky at best. However for the non-profit world, the value of Web2.0 is clear – the more the users are empowered and congregate around interest that they share, the better the opportunities for action.

In Korea, where I work, there is a lot of businesses coming online based on Web2.0 models, and a lot of talk around using Web2.0 to enhance service offerings and user experience, but little talk about the social impact that Web2.0, which to me is missing the whole point of Web2.0.

Tim O’Reilly said back in 2005, Web is a platform. A platform to do what? We should at least consider the potential of it becoming an agent for change and the betterment of society as a whole.

What is encouraging is that there are already many services by the big players in the Korean online space that make online donation easy and fun. Korea’s leading social networking site, Cyworld has its online volunteer matching and giving site called Cytogether where you can donate your time or “acorns” to a cause. Naver, the Korean search engine / online portal behemoth has a service called Happy Bean where you collect “beans” worth about 10 cents for every email you sent through their email service. You can donate these you causes and donations are matched by corporate sponsors. CJ Foundation (CJ is part of the Samsung conglomerate) has its own version of the US site DonorsChoose.org called DonorsCamp.

A culture of donation doesn’t spring up overnight, but if you look at the numbers, citizens who are online (or “netizens” as they are called here) are beginning to donate generously.

But these services are only limited in their scope and potential and only scratch at the surface of serious change. In one of the most wired places on earth, shouldn’t we expect more innovative services that enable and empower people to think differently.

When I was recently asked to give a 1 hour presentation at OpenTide China, in Beijing, on a subject of my choice, I chose to put together a presentation highlighting some of the work that I was involved in while I was working at Forum One Communications (my previous place of employment), that involved innovative use of Web2.0 for social action. I ended up giving the same presentation again to staff at VINYL, Seoul, where I currently work. The presentation outline Web2.0 principles and then introduces 4 “stories” or projects I was directly or indirectly involved in. The projects are CARMA, Changemakers, Ask Your Lawmaker and DonorsChoose (I didn’t have direct involvement but know the project well because I good friend worked on the Korean counterpart DonorsCamp).

Here’s the presentation I gave: