Microsoft turns to gamification to tackle water crisis

Tech giant Microsoft has taken its corporate social responsibility to the world of smartphones, with the launch of a new mobile app designed to raise awareness of global water issues.

The One Drop of Life app, launched in partnership with the not-for-profit One Drop Foundation, gamifies water-saving activities and educates users on the positive impacts that reduced water consumption can have across the world. (Scroll down for video). 

Just a few months after launching, the app has already had more than 100,000 downloads and has rating of a 4.5 out of 5 in the Windows Phone Store.

“We want to empower everyone on the planet through technology and, ultimately, improve all aspects of people’s lives,” explained Microsoft’s chief marketing officer for Western Europe Christian Frei.

“The most pressing issues facing humanity – including water resource management – require innovative solutions, which is why we are pleased to support One Drop in its goal of providing sustainable access to safe water for communities worldwide.

“One Drop continuously finds creative and impactful solutions to help address this critical issue, including raising awareness of the problem through creative means such as the new ONE DROP of Life app.”The game works by having to navigate a water droplet through a maze of twigs, leafs and toxic waste to reach a collection of drops. Using the tilt sensors on their phone or tablet, users guide the drops through cracks in the earth. Should the water droplet make contact with any of the garbage, it will become contaminated and the round is over.

At the end of each round, a factoid bubble will appear, detailing a fact about water issues worldwide.

Empowering change

One Drop chief executive Catherine B. Bachand said: “We feel privileged to have the technological support of Microsoft on these initiatives. We are very much aligned in our shared belief that empowering individuals and communities is the key to re-thinking new kinds of sustainable solutions to pressing global challenges.

“Microsoft has empowered us through its technology so that we, in turn, can empower the communities where we work through the provision of safe water and sanitation.”

Gamification initiatives like this one have been launched by a number of other big businesses and brands over the past few years in a bid to drive CSR campaigns and spark behaviour change among consumers. Another example is that of US restaurant chain Chipotle, which launched an innovative app-based game focused on seeking out sustainable food, partnered by a Youtube film which has been watched more than 21 million times.  

This initiative comes on the heels of Microsoft’s collaboration with One Drop through the sponsorship of One Night for One Drop – an annual fundraising event produced in partnership with Cirque du Soleil to raise funds and awareness for global water issues.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is among the world’s greatest philanthropists, having donated more than $28bn to good causes including a number of initiatives to save water and improve sanitation and hygiene. Earlier this year, Gates famously drunk a glass of water made from human faeces to showcase technology he believes could provide clean water in the developing world.

Luke Nicholls

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