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Technology for good

22 April 2013

I’m a communicator, not a technologist. Yet even I know that technology is not so much about finding what’s new, as using what is already here. That’s why I’m a firm believer that digital technology can be woven into the fabric of our society to tackle the most important social challenges.

Throughout history we’ve seen the application of imagination. Technology is the bringing together of humankind and natural materials to help us evolve. When you consider the resources that go into military technology, that statement might sound dubious.  But this is where  collaboration (not competition) and incentives (such as Google challenge award) and support are needed to demonstrate the potential of technology for good – technology that teaches us how to behave differently for a positive social purpose. I’m happy to call that Teachnology.

I’m committed to seeing the social sector as a market opportunity for technology entrepreneurs. I’ve spent my working life appealing to social conscience as well as to financial motivations.  It’s a big task to raise the profile of ‘tech for good’ among social entrepreneurs. It doesn’t automatically follow that a social entrepreneur will embrace technology. We must help them to re-think how the imaginative use of digital technologies might transform how they address the social challenges they are tackling and also help them to create social change at scale.

The questions then become: (1) how do we engage social entrepreneurs with the potential of digital technology, and (2) how do we inspire tech-savvy entrepreneurs with the potential of social benefit?

As my fellow Global Impact Challenge 2013 judge, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said:  “The Web’s contribution to economic progress has been much celebrated, but I believe that we are only scratching the surface of its potential to solve social and political problems.”

To my mind, the harder the task, the greater the opportunity. Solutions can be found. People can change. They just need the right support. That’s why I’m happy to be on the Challenge judging panel; the Award presents an important chance for turning innovative thinking – that I know exists in the UK’s non-profit sector – into influential, life-transforming reality.