NetSquared N2Y4, organized by TechSoup, brings together developers, activists, social entrepreneurs and technologists in a two-day conference whose backbone is a series of projects and challenges designed to develop technologies for social change. This year’s conference will be held May 26-27 in San Jose, CA. NetSquared’s goal is to “help hundreds of thousands of non-profit organizations (NPOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) successfully utilize the community empowering capabilities of the Internet to increase their impact and achieve social change,” according to the conference site. While the challenges are the conference’s raison d’être, the conference is also known for its interactive sessions that invite audience participation and


“The conference provides participants an opportunity to attend interactive sessions facilitated by leaders working at the cross-roads of technology and social change; create new collaborations, and participate in a uniquely democratic approach to funding innovation through the Project voting process,” according to N2Y4's site.

NetSquared’s main event is the NetSquared Challenge, which was won last year by the Ushahidi Project, which combined mobile phones and citizen journalism to report on incidents of post-election violence in Kenya.

This year, the Challenge’s focus is mobile. Finalists include Digital Democracy's Handheld Human Rights, IJCentral: A Movement to Support Global Rule of Law, PublicStuff--The Craigslist for Local Government Interaction!, as well as Frontline SMS: Medic, which spoke at L’Atelier Tuesday night and has recently partnered with last year's winner.

NetSquared is still accepting submissions for the Microsoft Mobile Challenge for Development, a competition for the design of mobile applications that contribute to one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Submissions are still being accepted for the Yahoo! Green Award as well.

Winners will be announced at N2Y4.

In a conference climate dominated by sessions on SEO Optimization, NetSquared is a refreshing invitation to explore – and participate in – the intersection of activism and technology that is transforming today’s political and social structures.

By Mark Alvarez