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Donating your data to battle cancer

We are used to charities asking for our money, pulling on our heartstrings and using highly emotive advertising to garner a response. But what if there was a way to get something from us that was completely functional and rational?

Vodafone Australia has launched DreamLab, which allows users to ‘donate’ their smartphone’s processing power while the owner is sleeping. When a phone is plugged in and fully charged, it is sent a tiny genetic sequencing task by Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research to solve. When it is complete, the data is sent back to the Garvan Institute, which then uses it purely for research.

Unlike traditional charity value exchanges, which require some sort of monetary worth, this involves zero effort from the user/consumer meaning there is less friction and reluctance. Users can also select what project they want to contribute to, whether this is breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer or one of many others. This allows the consumer to actively choose a cause that means something to them.

Similarly to monetised traditional donations, this leaves the contributor feeling as though they have done something good to help the cause – a warm fuzzy feeling. This, arguably, is one of the most influential factors when deciding to give to a charity. Scientifically, the explanation for charitable giving falls into three broad categories – from the purely altruistic – I donate because I value the social good done by the charity; the “impurely” altruistic – I donate because I extract value from knowing I contribute to the social good for the charity; and the not-at-all altruistic – I donate because I want to present my wealth.

Vodafone and data go hand in hand so it makes sense for a telecommunications company to encourage users to give up some processing power at those times when we are not using our phones. This will help strengthening brand association and will be extremely effective for its CSR.