Technology won't save us, people will
Welcome to our first ever pick of the top tech talent in the UK who are using their skills to do good.
One of the truths we believe in at Nesta is:
Technology won’t save us, people will.
It’s a truth that’s often misunderstood by the tech evangelists, the singularity obsessives, and all the dystopian bandwagoners who think that technology is an alien force that we have to fight to control, otherwise it will eventually control us. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Technology is an enabling force that allows us to improve the world around us. It is part of our human fabric, not some alien species.
As Kathryn Myronuk said at a recent Wired event: “We can combat global challenges through the lens of tech, not with technology alone.”
We’ve been carrying this enormous human potential in our pockets for years now. And despite a few seismic shifts, what do we use it for most? LOLcats.
That’s why we wanted to pick out some of the brightest and best talents around the UK and show the great ideas they’ve come up with that use digital technology as the enabling force to improve how we live.
We think it’s a really strong list that shows not only the refreshing diversity of the tech for good scene, but also some of its current trends:
- Open data. This underpins many of the ideas on the list, from creating open platforms for sharing civic data to taking more control of your medical data. It's also the mechanism for the brilliant citizen science platform Galaxy Zoo co-founded by Chris Lintott.
- Edtech. New tools for education is also a big influence on the list – from the groundbreaking work of Eben Upton with Raspberry Pi to the world of online training courses such as Code Club, co-founded by Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik.
Show me the criteria
We wanted to keep this first list local to the UK and as tech-lite as possible. That’s why we’ve included leaders of teams, not just developers and coders.
The impact criteria is much harder to judge, but we agreed that impact should be based on an idea that is out of Beta, that is currently in use, and that has been distributed across more than one region in the UK.
Here are our criteria in full:
- They need to have produced a digital product or service that benefits society
- Their product or service needs to have demonstrated impact
- They should be a leader of their idea, not just a team member
- They need to be based in the UK (for this version at least)
A top Nesta panel came together to help generate our first Tech Heroes list, including Jon Kingsbury, Alice Casey, Peter Baeck, Tom Kenyon, Amy Solder and Joe Ludlow. All of them are experts in their respective fields, from education through to social impact investment.
We had some robust disagreements (what constitutes a “tech hero”? Why can’t we put whole teams on the list?) and some violent agreements (You don’t need to give away something for free just for it to be a force for good).
But although we finally settled on our top ten, we’re still not 100% happy, which is where you come in.
Who have we missed?
We know that we will have missed out some great Tech Heroes on this list, but that’s OK. We want this list to provoke a discussion, not end it.
Tell us your suggestions as to who should really be on this list – we’d love to hear your comments.