This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rosalind Campion portrait

Rosalind Campion

Counsellor for Global Issues

Part of UK in USA

29th June 2012 Washington DC, USA

Might as well face it, I’m addicted to Apps

Sometimes you don’t know you have an addiction until the thing you’re addicted to is suddenly snatched from you. This is what happened to me on moving to the US seven months ago, and finding myself embroiled in a lengthy procedure to get an American smartphone contract. My realisation happened insidiously. Getting ridiculously lost somewhere in Capitol Hill because I couldn’t consult my smartphone map. Going to a disappointing restaurant because I hadn’t been able to check the reviews. Having to queue at an actual shop to buy my weekly groceries. Physically hunting in vain for an ATM. Getting wet because I didn’t know to bring an umbrella. Going out for a run and not being rewarded with electronic encouragement for my new exercise achievements. Being unable to locate the nearest bikeshare stand (or to find out in advance how many bike spaces were currently available). And so, as I pulled up to yet another bike stand that had no spaces for my bike, I had to admit the truth: my name is Rosalind and I’m addicted to Apps.

Apps, for the uninitiated, are little programs you can download to your smartphone to make your life easier, or more fun, or more interesting, or more effective (or in the case of popular game apps, perhaps less effective) by efficiently performing all sorts of little tasks for you, and giving you information in fun, convenient, customized ways. My smartphone apps would have given me all the information I was missing at the tap of a finger. Of course I could have found out most of that information in other ways, but apps just make it easier.

Thus it was with my newly confessed enthusiasm for apps (not to mention my love of the Newseum, DC’s fabulous museum dedicated to the news), that I was delighted to attend the Connect4Climate awards ceremony at the Newseum last night, celebrating the winners of a competition designed to inspire development of innovative apps that use World Bank climate data to empower ordinary people to combat climate change. It was reassuring to hear that I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for apps – there were 52 entries from 28 countries, including 19 developing countries, all seeking to democratize the data and make it useful for all, rather than confining the accessibility of important, high quality information about climate change to negotiators and statisticians. And it was great to hear that two Brits were amongst the finalists, for Data Story, and Globe Town. Both of these apps enable you to easily compare countries on all sorts of questions ranging from total foreign investment to which countries produce the most greenhouse gases, and, importantly, by giving people and communities around the world the information in a comprehensible way, empower them to act. Powerful stuff.

And so, when an imminent colleague asked me for tips for settling in to Washington life this week, I told them to sort out their smartphone contract. Bizarrely, access to these apps are perhaps what’s made me feel most settled here. And as I whiz past people clutching their bikes at a bikeshare rack with no spaces, I am smug in the knowledge that I know exactly where to park mine. Whether it’s a bike parking space for a DC diplomat or the latest drought information for a farmer in Chad, data is power, and apps can be an addictively helpful way to translate data to empower people.

1 comment on “Might as well face it, I’m addicted to Apps

  1. I absolutely resonate, found myself smug and smiling at the same time reading the piece…and there’s the BBC app…

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About Rosalind Campion

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science,…

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science, innovation and transport.

Originally a corporate lawyer working in London on intellectual property issues, Roz was most recently with the Ministry of Justice, where she set up and ran the Sentencing Council, the national organisation responsible for ensuring a consistent approach to criminal sentencing by the UK’s judiciary.

She has previous experience working on foreign policy issues, including during her time at the Ministry of Justice, as well as through her work with the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and as a lawyer working on international law cases for a top human rights litigation firm.

During her time in academia, Roz was responsible for the public international law programme at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where she specialised in international trade and environment law.

She lives in Georgetown with her partner, Dr Layla McCay.

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