From financial inclusion and education, to accessibility and social mobility, we've never had more tools available for problem solving.
The phrase ‘for good’ is becoming well used. Relating to tech, it signals activity that advances society, for instance braille e-readers, crowdfunding platforms, smart walking canes, identity cards for refugees. Products like Be My Eyes enabling those with visual impairments or RogerVoice and Ava, enabling the hearing impaired. The list is long.
Technology and this digital era presents a world of opportunity for people to experiment and come up with ideas ‘for good’. We’ve never had more tools available for problem solving. It’s exciting, inspiring and brings a great sense of hope to level the playing field in society around diversity and inclusion - be it financial inclusion, accessibility, social mobility or education. Nesta sponsored this year's Diversity Award at the Ability Net Tech4Good Awards as part of the fairer strand of our education strategy, building on our recent Women in AI, and gender diversity in AI work alongside other related activities like financial inclusion and our assistive technology prizes. We’ve seen really strong entries, including from the four finalists; White Hat, We Walk, Bright Little Labs and Foundervine.
We are delighted to announce that White Hat were crowned the winner at yesterday’s Tech4Good Awards ceremony. WhiteHat are a tech startup, founded to ensure young people have access to the best career-focused apprenticeships on offer. They match non-graduate talent with apprenticeship opportunities at some of the UK's most exciting companies, democratising careers.
As we support discussions policymakers are having on ethics and regulation, we also stray into something much more values based and strategic - responsible tech.
If we are going to make the most of it, we need to take the chance to shape the digital world before it shapes usMartha Lane Fox
Where ‘tech for good’ is a celebration of the challenges we can overcome through technology - start with a social issue and use tech to find the solution - ‘responsible tech’ is the social conscience (or responsibility) of technologists. With over half of the world’s population now using the internet and 7 of the 10 largest firms in the world being tech firms (Mary Meeker’s internet trends 2019), the biggest influence on the well-being of our communities, relationships and individual citizens has shifted beyond recognition. As Martha Lane Fox said "If we are going to make the most of it, we need to take the chance to shape the digital world before it shapes us". We know the public are concerned about the effects of technology on society - it’s in the headlines every day - from privacy to security to job insecurity to values shifts to cyber bullying to identity theft to loneliness. The list goes on. Recent DotEveryone research shows that the people making the technology products and services are also calling for an end to the era of moving fast and breaking things.
We’re hugely proud of the ‘tech for good’ work we do and the footprint we’re leaving behind - Nesta is all about bringing bold ideas to life to change the world for good. We’ve seen our fair share of irresponsible technology stories - such as facial recognition tools to identify sexual orientation or porn star movies, attempted assassinations by drone, 3D printing of guns, and CRISPR babies.
In a world where the future seems more uncertain than ever, we’re seeking to demonstrate that there is good reason to be optimistic and that if we collectively push for values such as openness, inclusivity, transparency and fairness in the tech industry, the promise of the future will outweigh the perils.