I found something strange at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Apparently the Consumer Electronics Association (the organization that runs CES) allowed a first-ever featured charity to have a booth at CES—for free. The organization is called Nothing But Nets (NothingButNets.net), and is dedicated to fighting the spread of malaria in Africa. And apparently a serendipitous connection with a CEA executive netted them a donation of some surplus booth space.
I stumbled across Nothing But Nets at the very back of the hall on the top floor of the farthest north end of the Las Vegas Convention Center. I only went back there to see the Ubuntu Linux booth (the location of which says something about how the commercial tech industry regards Linux). I still almost ignored the odd booth with pictures of African kids, employees wearing shirts emblazoned “Buzzkill” and a guy walking around in a goofy mosquito costume. But something about it was so completely out of place it piqued my curiosity.
Nothing But Nets has a very simple purpose: to buy bed nets for African families so they can sleep without getting bitten by mosquitoes. Apparently it costs about $10 to provide a bed net, so the organization’s push at CES was to persuade people to make a $10 donation by texting BEDNET to 90999. (After texting, the carrier responds to confirm, then adds $10 to your next phone bill.) Something about the simplicity of texting seemed to appeal to CES attendees, because with just a few hours left in the four-day show, Nothing But Nets had received enough texts to purchase 912 nets. As people text more, I believe sending a couple of text messages feels less like spending money than does pulling out a credit card (and with so many ridiculous charges on phone bills these days, many people wouldn’t notice an extra $10 anyway).
Nothing but Nets regularly Tweeted its CES experiences, and its website is hooked into all the expected social networks. So even though it’s not a tech company, Nothing But Nets is a good example of how technology is spreading into every aspect of our world.