Brilliant! Using technology to change behavior

By Steve Outing

I’ve been trying to think of ways that digital technology can influence people’s behavior — ride their bike instead of drive, combine errands to drive less, recycle more, etc. The “social” nature of today’s digital media and the popularity of social networks could be leveraged to influence people more. I can’t say I’ve got my head wrapped around how yet, but it’s something I’m really interested in.

Today a friend pointed me toward an initiative that I think is amazing: Freiker. The kids in the animated photo here are using Freiker, by riding their bikes under a scanning unit that tracks how often they ride their bikes to school.

The concept behind Freiker is brilliant. Schoolkids get an RFID tag for their helmets, then ride under a Freiker scanner when they arrive at school to get counted. At the end of the school year, they can get prizes based on how many times they rode to school on a bike.

The program was started in March 2005 and now operates at 5 schools in the Boulder Valley (Colorado) School District. Developer Rob Nagler is hoping to get the program installed at more schools, but he’s lacking enough prizes to give to kids to expand the program further. Prizes currently include iPod Nanos for those who bike to school 90% of the year, and a bunch of bike-related goodies for lesser commitment.

Nagler says that at one Boulder elementary school, the program has doubled the number of bike trips by kids to school.

This is an ideal green initiative for local media outlets to get behind. Freiker is a non-profit, and it’s looking for donations so that it can expand the program. If you publish a local newspaper, get behind this program!

I wrote a column a while back imploring news organizations to use their power to influence to do something about climate change and influence the behavior of their readers and viewers. (I got a lot of flack for suggesting such “heresy” as to cease giving shrill climate-change skeptics equal voice in coverage of the issue.) Freiker looks to be exactly the kind of program that a local news organization can get behind to make a difference.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!