• December 6, 2017

5 Ways Technology Can Be a Force For Good

Now more than ever, technology is an integral component of human life. Whether you are face-timing your doctor about getting a prescription to combat the flu or ordering a Lyft to get to work, chances are, within the past day, you’ve used a technology that didn’t exist ten years ago.

In the wake of the 2016 election, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding technology’s role in society. It is important to remind ourselves of the ways technology is being used for good—whether that be saving lives, increasing accessibility in communities, or fostering change.

During Phone2Action’s inaugural conference, the Good Tech Summit, we heard from leaders Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Ken Lowe, Co-Founder & Vice President at Vizio, and Sarah Springer, Senior Creative Development Producer at RYOT, on how technological advances are being used for social good.

Below we’ve highlighted some of the ways these innovation experts see technology, in its current state and in the future, being used for the good of society.

Technology that has Contributed to the Future of Social Good

1. Autonomous Vehicles | Increasing Safety, Saving Lives

Autonomous vehicles are going to change our lives in so many ways – many of which we aren’t even aware of at this point in time. Despite some critics’ claims that self-driving cars will make society lazier, these vehicles are expected to increase safety and save lives. According to the National Safety Council, motor-vehicle deaths in 2016 totaled 40,200, up 6% from 2015. With autonomous vehicles, the number is anticipated to drop drastically. Gone are the days of accidents at the cost of texting while driving, or driving under the influence.

2. Drones | Providing Medical Access to Remote Locations

Drones, often associated with weapons, are a great example of how technology can be used for good. Zipline, a new startup out of San Francisco, is using these machines to foster medical accessibility in remote parts of Africa.

Every year, 95% of roads in Africa are completely washed out, making it nearly impossible to deliver medical supplies in emergency situations. Zipline, nicknamed “Sky Ambulances,” wants to fix this problem by using drone technology to deliver lifesaving blood supplies by parachute to remote hospitals and clinics. The company has launched in Rwanda, flying blood bags—plasma, platelets, and red blood cells needed for transfusions—from a central hub to primary health clinics and hospitals. The organization is looking to expand, and is expected to launch in Tanzania in early 2018 with a goal of 200,000 deliveries a day.

3. Wearable Devices | Promoting Healthy Living

Most people link wearable devices with their office’s step challenge, but on top of promoting a healthy lifestyle, wearables are also making headway in the ability to detect health risks. A partnership between Michigan State University and Bell Labs had researchers and engineers producing what is known as HeadScan,” technology that can monitor a person’s eating, drinking, coughing, or even social habits. This data will help healthcare providers treating patients with obesity, diabetes, asthma, and depression offer better treatment options, which can result in lower healthcare costs.

4. Virtual Reality | Storytelling That Fosters Change

RYOT, an immersive storytelling media company, uses a range of technologies to bolster the impact of its stories in the hopes of being a catalyst for action for viewers. In a recently produced segment called “Purely Puru,” RYOT used virtual reality (VR) technology to immerse their audience in the life of a Peruvian civilian in a remote village, walking viewers through the difficulties of finding safe drinking water.

During this moving piece, when RYOT had their audience most engaged, they presented viewers with a way to donate to an organization working to solve this challenge, without ever leaving the experience of VR. Capitalizing on the moment, RYOT was able to use technology and media to boost awareness of, and aid to villages without access to safe drinking water.

5. 360 Video | Expanding Horizons for Less Fortunate

Another component of RYOT’s forward-thinking storytelling strategy is 360 video, a concept taken mainstream by Facebook. While VR transports a viewer to an entirely fabricated environment, 360 video uses live action video shot in all directions, immersing the viewer completely in a real environment accessible through a headset, phone, or computer.

RYOT leveraged this technology to transport the children at Children’s Hospital of Orange County to new destinations around the world. Although the kids were in the hospital, with 360 video, they were able to virtually escape and experience beautiful places around the world.

The future of social good looks bright, but what we learned from the Good Tech Summit is that it will moderated by societal demands. As Ken Lowe from Vizio noted, only technical feasibility supported by public demand will translate into success; new technology is adopted when the user is ready and willing to embrace new innovations.  

And in no other place is this more true than in civic engagement. People are becoming more politically aware than ever before, and grassroots technology, like Capitol Canary, helps engage them more deeply in the civic process. As new channels emerge for communicating with elected officials, constituents will have a stronger influence in shaping the public policy in their communities. We are proud of the role we play in creating technology for social good, and are committed to powering the movements that change the world.