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Tech for good

/ Posted By Amy Hinchliffe

The internet is a really powerful tool and it is changing the way people relate to each other socially. It is making areas of the world very accessible while also creating detachment through endless scrolling. Today you are engaging with a screen of various sizes when a few years ago you may have been engaging with a person. I really enjoy getting to know people in an authentic, humanistic way, relating to others in a way that you can only get from being face to face. The design and tech industries are ever evolving offering innovative solutions to the changing needs of the world. 

I have been thinking about a few themes recently. One of these is “online offline” looking at how the digital world is breaking down barriers to get users reengaged with the environment. Another is detachment and engagement which is thinking of ways to remove the invisible barriers created by the screen and getting people to relate to others who exist behind the devices. 

Reported by the Financial Times out of UK based tech innovators only 6% class themselves as having a social focus. A large part of this is due to a lack of investment in both financial and non financial terms. It would be really inspiring to direct our skills and creative minds in this arena to help improve the lives of others. Here are some examples below where start ups, charities and grassroots projects have used technology to achieve this. 

Kiva is an international non-profit organisation with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Lending as little as £20 helps a borrower start or grow their business. This gives the borrower the exposure they need to create opportunities for themselves, their families and communities. Offering the borrowers a loan rather than a donation creates a partnership of mutual dignity with a payback rate of 97%. I like the phrase ‘mutual dignity’. This for me changes the dynamic of online detachment and gives us the opportunity to help another person as we would in our own community. 

The lender can “Fund a loan, get repaid, fund another.” An example of a typical project: you can help to back Lene from the Philippines raise $300 to purchase raw materials to make native products like bags and baskets to sell. If I was in the Philipines and had a chat with Lene I’m sure I would be very inspired to help her business adventure and encourage her craftmanship. 

Another excellent start up is Chatterbox which offers language courses online and offline taught by refugees. The platform was designed and created for refugees by refugees and I admire the authenticity of that. This is a special programme that recognises refuges as having advanced degrees and valuable skills while still facing shocking levels of underemployment and displacement worldwide. The platform provides an income paying the national living wage for refugees.  This neatly showcases how everyday tech can be used to reframe stigma and help to re-educate the public about refugees. The technology is based on an online booking system and creates video classrooms which is connecting refugees and learners worldwide. So, the technology is relatively simple but the vision for creating the platform is extraordinary and deeply inspiring.

Innovation has been working its way into ecommerce for a long time by changes in our attitude encompassed by Pennies which is a digital upgrade of the traditional charity box which is designed to work with a cashless lifestyle. A customer can donate a few pennies while paying instore, online or in via an App. A simple yes or no question throughout the transaction process has raised more than £13,000,000 for UK charities. That’s a big impact from a couple of buttons! 

For something a little different, Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees while you search the web. Ecosia uses the income generated from ads to plant trees where they are most needed in the world you simply need to get a free browser extension. It’s a beautiful process to take a daily digital task which then powers a physical positive impact on the environment. It’s a nice feeling to increase my connection to people and places in the world while still being sat at my desk in the centre of Glasgow. 

We are excited at the potential of integrating socially minded technology into our projects whether that be in the form of API’s or focusing on different ways to involve a user. Hopefully, with this approach we can be active in the tech for good movement and help to reduce the social barriers of the screen based world.

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