Danielle Thé, MSc ’12, is building technology solutions that improve the lives of people in developing countries.
Danielle Thé, MSc ’12, wants to build something more than the next Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga.
In the spring of 2015, she founded Developers Without Borders. The non-profit invites hardware developers, software developers and other technologists to create free technology solutions that support healthcare, agriculture, and education in emerging markets.
Developers Without Borders gives the resulting open source technologies to governments and non-government organizations to implement where they’re needed most.
Thé discovered the need to help disadvantaged people worldwide as a political science student at Western University. “But creating change through policy is slow,” she says—a realization that prompted her to take Ivey’s MSc in International Management.
“I learned how business can drive change globally,” says Thé. “In the MSc program at Ivey, 50 per cent of my classmates were from a country other than Canada. I realized how much I have in common with students—and business people—in other parts of the world.”
In addition to its 16 volunteers, the organization got technical consultation from Liakada Capital, a venture capital and private equity firm in Toronto. Liakada co-founder Victor Xu, MSc ’12, completed Ivey’s International Management program alongside Thé.
One of Developers Without Borders’ first projects was a web application called Saath. Saath, which means “together” in Hindi, gives Indian women resources for dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence. Saath users can access accurate information about sexual assault and connect anonymously with other women in an online forum monitored by social workers.
A way the organization builds technologies for emerging markets is through multi-day “hackathons.” Their first hackathon, last November, attracted more than 150 participants —30 per cent of them women. “We partnered with international charity Free the Children and a Kenyan tech hub to ensure developers tackled meaningful projects,” says Thé.
The winning app from the three-day hackathon was Agricate. In 2016, Free the Children will roll out the text-based app, which aggregates and distributes agricultural data and best practices to help Kenyan farmers increase crop yields.
“Two thirds of the world is without internet,” says Thé, “but there’s a lot we can do with text messaging applications.”
Thé, who currently works at Google, looks forward to the day she can run her non-profit full-time. “It’s my passion,” she says with a grin. “When I get home at night, I open my laptop to work on Developers Without Borders.”
Photo: Nation Wong
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis