Jim Fruchterman, once an actual Rocket Scientist at the NASA AMES research center, entered the social entrepreneur arena to provide cutting-edge technology to the visually impaired and other underserved communities. In 1989, he founded Arkenstone to develop and manufacture a reading machine for the blind using optical character recognition. This reading tool was ultimately delivered to 35,000 people in 60 countries.
In 2000, Jim continued building on his work at Arkenstone when he founded the Benetech Initiative with the goal of tackling a broader range of social challenges with affordable innovative technology solutions. The first project was Bookshare.org which is now the worlds largest on-line library of accessible books for people with visual or print disabilities.
Later, Benetech added a Human Rights Program to provide tools and technology to activists all over the world. The first such tool is Martus (which is based on the Greek word for "witness"), a secure information management tool that allows human rights investigators to collect, safeguard and disseminate information about human rights violations. In 2004, Jim brought on board the Human Rights Data Analysis Group to help Human Rights organizations develop scientifically-based statistical arguments. In addition to providing in country technical assistance all over the world, HRDAG also provides Analyzer, a free software tool to properly capturing and structure Human Rights data in a standard form suitable for statistical analysis.
Other more recent projects include a landmine detection tool in order to get rid of landmines (nobody likes landmines), a project management tool for environmental groups (everybody likes the enviornment) and Route 66, an internet based teaching assistant for teaching literacy to readers with developmental disabilities.
Congradulations to Jim Fruchterman and the folks at Benetech!