In spite of record GDP growth in the Philippines, over 26% of citizens live in poverty. About a third of the 90 million Filipino population lives on less than US$2 a day, one of the highest levels of poverty in Southeast Asia.

Yet 9 out of 10 Filipinos have a powerful tool at their fingertips – the mobile phone.

Mobile phones are valuable devices – but they are just devices. It is the content that can be delivered through the device that can significantly impact a person’s life. Mobile applications have changed our lives – the way we communicate, the way we work, and have fun. Globally, over 1 million Smartphone apps can be downloaded with a tap of a finger at negligible cost. But today, most mobile applications are designed for those who have and not those in poverty or at risk that have the most to gain from SMS or Smartphone apps that can help elevate themselves.

Local citizens know their community, cultural sensitivities, and the challenges facing their family. There is nothing new about attempting to foster innovation from the ground-up. But today we can create the necessary ecosystem to realize bottom-up creativity and accelerate creative ideas for tackling local societal problems.

This June, AppBridge, an Initiative of the World Economic Forum, began piloting the Ideas & Apps Challenge Competition in the Philippines. The goal of the Challenge is to engage local citizens (by region) to identify local problems in the education, health, job-skill training or financial literacy space, and propose ideas for or build mobile applications to address these local problems.

About 50,000 Information Technology and Computer Science students graduate from schools in the Philippines every year. Yet, only 8% are finding jobs.

Six 17-23-year-olds from Cebu, Philippines had an idea for addressing the IT unemployment issue in their country. Their proposal? Codetoki – a mobile app for IT and computer science students to learn mobile and web app development, test skills, and find internships and jobs.

Codetoki submitted their idea for the first phase of the Ideas & Apps Challenge. This week, seven distinguished judges selected them as winners for the Best Idea, ahead of 76 other contestants. Codetoki will receive prize money, mentorship and incubation to turn their idea into a mobile app reality.

The Apps Challenge – the second phase of the competition runs now through September.

Without the creative ideas and apps being submitted by Filipinos, AppBridge would be an academic concept. Without partner telecom partners distributing and promoting apps to end users, the solutions would not reach those who have the most to gain. Without relevant local apps to educate and empower oneself, a phone is just a device.

Margo Drakos (@MargoDrakos) is the Founder of AppBridge, an initiative of the Forum, committed to bringing mobile applications to those at risk, enabling education, employment and economic opportunity. Margo is VP of Business Development for Morphlabs. She was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010.