•iNON, a team of Filipino creatives and IT professionals, won the Galactic Impact Award at the NASA Space Apps Challenge 2018 for their community app project, ISDApp.
•ISDApp is an app that communicates vital weather information and updates to fishermen using analog phones.
•Technology startup incubator Animo Labs is currently helping the team develop ISDApp.

(Updated on March 5, 2020) These days, there’s a smartphone app for everything. From monitoring your heart rate to making sure your home systems are running properly, these apps transform your smartphone into a digital toolbox, with everything you need to make your life easier.

But what about people who live in areas with limited Internet access or don’t use smartphones? How can they take advantage of modern-day tools to improve their lives?

According to Julius Czar Torreda, Filipino fishermen are among the 3.4 billion people in the world without Internet access. “In the Philippines, [fishermen endure] bad weather and inadequate access to information and sustainable livelihood,” shares Torreda, who works as a manager for a local telecom company. “In rural regions, analog phones are more common than smartphones.”

That’s what sparked the idea in Torreda and four other young creatives and IT professionals (Revbrain Martin, Marie Jeddah Legaspi, Matthew Concubierta, and Leandro Miguel de Guzman) to develop an app that provides fishermen with the kind of access to information that smartphone users enjoy, without the need to actually own any smartphones.

And so, ISDApp — described as “the first community app that aims to effectively communicate useful information to underprivileged fishermen without smartphones and internet” — was born.

“May the fish be with you”

As team iNON, the quintet participated in the NASA Space Apps Challenge 2018, an annual 48-hour hackathon that takes place in various cities across the world.

The team developed ISDApp under the hackathon’s “Looking GLOBE-ally” category. In this challenge, participants must use data from NASA’s GLOBE Observer app to “communicate interesting findings or improve public understanding of our home planet.”

“ISDApp is a simple solution that effectively communicates useful information (cloud coverage, sunrise, sunset, wind speed etc.) to underprivileged fishermen without smartphones and access to the internet,” explains Torreda.

For ISDApp to work, a designated town official must install the app on their smartphone. Afterwards, the official registers the numbers of all the fishermen in the community. These fishermen can receive important updates from ISDApp as text messages on their analog phones. ISDApp will send the updates to the fishermen before their usual fishing schedules, allowing them to effectively plan their day to maximize their catch and ensure their safety.

Aside from weather alerts, ISDApp also enables a fisherman to trigger an SOS signal with a text message. This will notify the official and the registered emergency contact person, who can send assistance to the fisherman’s location.

isdapp, app, smartphone, nasa
Concept art of ISDApp. (Image: Team iNON)

Prize catch

Impressively, out of a pool of 17,924 participants and 1,395 projects, ISDApp won the Galactic Impact Award. As part of their prize, the team was invited to visit a NASA Center.

“As a team, we’re so thankful that we’re able to represent the Phillipines,” gushes Torreda.

However, for team iNON, the real work hadn’t even started yet at that point. “Winning is just the beginning–proof that we have a valuable concept.”

Prior to developing ISDApp into a fully operational app, Torreda and his team agreed to engage in a community immersion. This enabled them to do a pilot trial and get feedback for improving the app. “The immersion will let us know the actual situation in the fishing communities in the country,” explains Torreda. “That way, we can optimize ISDApp to be more useful and increase its adaptability.”

At present, technology business incubator Animo Labs is supporting ISDApp’s development.

For young innovators who want to develop concrete solutions for local communities, Torreda has this piece of advice. “Other than focusing on identifying what type of technology they want to create, they also need to consider its value to the community. Look at the [community’s] pain points and see what you can do about them.

“An idea doesn’t need to be grand; something as simple as ISDApp can greatly impact the sustainability of fishermen’s livehood.”

Cover photo: Team iNON;



Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.