A new app has been created to help people find what they need and share what they have.
Vietnam generates a high amount of solid waste as a developing country with little in the way of recycling systems. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are responsible for 45.24 per cent of the country’s total waste, at around 8,000 tonnes a day or 2.92 million tonnes a year. By 2020 the ministry estimates total waste in the country will amount to 68 million tonnes and 91 million tonnes by 2025.
Much of this waste, though, can be recycled and reused, and it’s become a habit for people to throw out something that is still perfectly useful just because they’ve bought a newer, better replacement. For example, a family in the city may replace a thin mattress with a thicker, more comfortable mattress, or buy a new stove with more functions to replace their old cooker. Meanwhile, the country’s poor, in both urban and rural areas, could do with a mattress or a stove but simply can’t afford it. So, imagine these still usable items were not classified as “rubbish” and thrown away, but were thought of as “something to sell or pass on”. Not only would it be good for society and the economy but the environment would also benefit.
Start of something
In early 2014, during a volunteering trip to central Quang Binh province, Mr. Phan Ba Manh noticed a shortage of domestic appliances in the houses of local people. When he returned to city life an idea began to germinate in his mind: developing an app that would help people exchange goods. The idea eventually resulted in him founding the Dobody project.
In June 2015 Mr. Manh and his team got the project underway. Three months later, in September, Dobody began a trial. It works by connecting people with demand and supply, not unlike other popular third party apps such as Uber and Airbnb. Its system matches people that have a particular item with those who wish to purchase such an item. It also helps people to reach out to the poor and pass on goods they no longer need, for no exchange of cash. The app has both web and mobile platforms (iOS and Android) and four basic functions: selling goods, searching for goods, exchanging goods, and passing on unwanted goods. It will initially be free for users and undergo continual improvements.
“Science is evolving but people are becoming less connected,” said Mr. Manh. “People have friends on other continents and know the shape of the moon, but they have no idea about the lives of others in their neighborhood.”
He said he would like to focus on the apps social value first rather than its business value. “When the solution starts running it can save costs for society,” he said. “It will cut the amount of waste and save the environment, while also being a tool that will help the economy.”
Any app, of course, needs a commercial purpose in order to survive, so Mr. Manh said that Dobody would act as an environment for e-commerce in the future and for now he is planning and working on its features, with some functions already completed. “We can use Dobody to determine supply and demand of goods in a particular area, and from there we can determine customers’ habits, which will contribute immensely to e-commerce solutions in the future,” he explained.
The app will also act as a helping hand for volunteer organizations as well as people who want to do charity work. There is a “volunteer” action tab where people can click and seek information on charitable activities from different organizations and get in touch with them. This is an important feature of the app, he believes, which will help people do better deeds for those in need.
Mr. Vu Minh Ly, Director of the Vietnam Volunteer Information Resource Center (VVIRC), said he admired the Dobody project because the team is creating a product with high social value. “VVIRC has waited for a long time for something like this to come along, which can connect people and philanthropists in society,” he said. With the app, for example, when an organization calls for 1 million books for poor children in mountainous areas it can be done more easily and faster, rather than via numerous posts and pages on social media like Facebook and Zalo and other older methods.
He also expected that, in the future, many young people will use the app when they are keen to become involved in volunteering activities to better the living conditions of others around Vietnam. “They need something to connect them, to support them in helping and getting help from each other,” he said.