Benetech, a Palo Alto, California–based nonprofit technology company, develops software applications to address pressing social needs. Founded in 1989, Benetech operates on the belief that the benefits of technology must reach all of humanity. The organization’s business model aims to create financially sustainable projects that measure success in the number of lives changed for the better. Each of its program areas—Global Literacy, Human Rights, the Environment, and Benetech Labs—offers the greatest social impact on funds invested.
Benetech emerged from its founding work as a leading provider of reading machines for people who are blind. Understanding the value in offering affordable tools that transform the lives of individuals with disabilities, MacArthur Fellow Jim Fruchterman, Benetech’s founder and CEO, was inspired to start a business that uses technology to serve social causes. Its Global Literacy program includes Bookshare, the largest online digital library of accessible materials; DIAGRAM, which focuses on accessible images; and Route 66 Literacy, the online instructional literacy program for adolescent and adult beginning readers.
Benetech has not only changed the ways in which people with disabilities access printed information. The organization’s open-source software enables frontline human rights defenders to securely gather and organize information about human rights violations. Benetech’s open-source software also empowers environmental activists to design, monitor and evaluate their conservation efforts.