Thursday, June 14, 2012

Barcode Scanner App Indicates Settlement Products

Many customers are asking for more transparency about the products they buy in shops: About their origin, about nutritional values, about other customer's comments and experiences, about genetic manipulated content, about allergic substances, and so on. In Palestine, customers pay special attention on product origin from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Smartphones, which enjoy great popularity in Palestine, provide the hardware platform needed to provide the above mentioned consumer transparency. There is a number of Apps available worldwide which have proven the feasibility of consumer transparency through barcode scanning.

Settlement Products -- The Debate About Boycott and Sanctions

Settlements in the Westbank are illegal according to international law. They are an indicator of annexation rather than occupation. They create facts on the ground that render a two state solution impossible. The high number of 0.5M settlers make the process irreversible, because dismantling them would ignite a civil war. This perpetuates Israel as the government of entire historic Palestine for indefinite future. With the Israeli government unwilling to give citizenship to Palestinians, the outlook for Palestinians is to live somewhere along the lines of statelessness, apartheid, reservation camp or as a refugee.

BDS is one of the main players promoting economic sanctions against those Israeli policies that lead to this dire outlook of the Palestinian population.



In Europe, there are strong signs for an increasing willingness to impose sanctions against Israeli settlements.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8538251.stm
http://www.inminds.com/article.php?id=10485
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2012/0515/1224316131471.html

Also in Israel, there is significant support to boycott settlements -- this movement is so strong that it caused settlement lobbyists to urge Knesset to push through an anti-democratic law to silence those voices.

However, customers decisions will always remain free. Knesset can never require people to buy settlement products. And they can not prevent you from giving consumers transparency about the origin of products. Non-governmental organizations like SADAKA, which reside outside Israeli jurisdiction, are continuing to publish lists of settlement products. Also the European Union is demanding transparency about imports from Israel vs. imports from settlements.

A smartphone app would empower users to choose based on many criteria that may be relevant for them, including the product origin. You could also include further criteria, for example creating awareness on companies involved in the profitable settlement real estate business.

The Technical Platform

Looking at these statistics, it is probably enough to target the two main platforms: Android and iOS.


You don't need to start from scratch, as there are well-developed libraries and software development kits (SDK) available that provide the functionality of barcode scanning with mobile phones. These are examples of open source solutions:
http://zbar.sourceforge.net/
http://code.google.com/p/zxing/

Furthermore, you will need to host a database that links the barcodes with the consumer information. The cloud should be able to provide you with a very cheap and very scalable solution for this.

You might want to connect with other existing barcode databases. This is the official one, and there are some open projects like http://www.upcdatabase.com/ or http://openean.kaufkauf.net/

Also check existing Apps for Android and iOS, like Barcode Scanner, Barcode Reader, Barcoo, ScanLife, etc.

Do a quick prototype, announce it somewhere among early adopters (like Peeks group on facebook), and add further features and improvements based on user feedback.

The Business Model

Don't expect people to pay for usage, or pay for downloading the app. Instead, you should rely on donations of users that want to support your cause. So after gaining some popularity of the App, you may include donation requests integrated into the software.

Also you may be able to sell the app to the Ministry of National Economy, Consumer Protection Department, which is in charge of, among other tasks, preventing settlement products to be sold in Palestinian supermarkets.

Also, consider developing a Hebrew language version, since there is a significant portion of the Israeli population that opposes settlements (mainly those that are striving for a two-state solution, which is impeded by any settlement).

The European market may also have some interest, but you would need to provide a comprehensive set of consumer information rather than just the product origin. Here my suggestion would be to partner with European barcode reading companies, and have them connect with your database.

You could try to create additional revenues by letting companies provide information and letting them advertise their products on your platform.

Some commercial apps make money with shopping recommendations on where to buy that product cheaper.

Update: It's there!

There is one app called "Buy No Evil", which currently doesn't seem to function on android. But another one is getting very popular, called "Buycott" for iPhone and Android. You can join the "Stop Israeli Apartheid" campaign, to be advised on those companies that are benefiting from the Israeli occupation. BDS seems to be developing their own app, see this article.

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