Treat yourselves: technology for good
Contemporary tech solutions often prove to be true game-changers. They bring unprecedented improvements in different areas, help us see the bigger picture and easily solve complex problems.
Contemporary tech solutions often prove to be true game-changers. They bring unprecedented improvements in different areas, help us see the bigger picture and easily solve complex problems. It’s great to read some good news, so let’s dive into the examples of tech that bring a positive impact to the world.
In this article, I write about:
- the positive impact tech solutions have;
- astounding examples of such solutions in different areas;
- my book “Tech treats & treasures”.
I do believe that it’s us, tech creators and users, who choose the direction technology runs towards. Luckily, there are so many creative minds, scientists and tech enthusiasts out there who are passionate about changing everyday human struggles into challenges for technology.
The last few years have demonstrated how tech solutions created in a crisis situation change our general attitude towards the way we live, work, communicate and help one another. Researched trends, numbers in reports and many initiatives prove we live in the era of #SocialImpactTechnology.
Technology in agriculture
Data is more powerful than we can imagine. With progressing climate changes and decreasing global access to natural resources, technology can be the answer to essential questions.
Wild Ken Hill Farm
Peter Job introduced me to the amazing idea of regenerative farming that Wild Ken Hill Farm is currently pioneering. They focus on returning to natural techniques instead of using chemical fertilisers and herbicides. Peter Job has been exploring with Wild Ken Hell their current data modelling predictions and how to maximise even further with predictive models based on machine learning.
“Visualising the data correctly means they have a much better way of forecasting when events are going to happen. Using the power of machine learning and AI you can look historically at weather trends and also forecast” – said Peter.Peter JobCEO at Intergence Systems Ltd.
The other interesting news comes from Linda Achan and it regards the good old potato and the incredible potential it holds for our future. The number of things that can be created out of potato waste is outstanding. We all need to appreciate the value of this most democratic and usable vegetable.
“The waste can be used to generate power via anaerobic plant digesters as well as in bioplastics for use in fashion eyewear, furniture and packaging, who knew?! On a few occasions at conferences I’ve heard warm utterings of ‘Ohhh, you are the potato lady, I’ve heard about you.’ We can toast to all this with potato vodka, why not?”- explained Linda.Linda AchanCo-founder and CEO, Nature Wrap UK and Energy Wells LLC
Technology in safety
When thinking about supporting common safety, we need to consider facilitating the work of public safety services.
Dave Roberts told me about Fire Flow, a digital tool developed by Santec.io in partnership with Thames Water and London Firebrigade. Thanks to technology, firefighters can check the flow and firefighting capacity of every single hydrant. They know where to send station appliances, which hydrants to use and which routes to take as Fire Flow categorises every building in London based on fire flow requirements and local capacity. It provides fast, accurate data transfer between water suppliers and the fire service. It’s also embedded into new construction programmes to improve building safety.
“The in-built hydraulic modelling system provides instantaneous modelling of the network to assess the fire flows available for buildings, analysing for single and multiple hydrants running simultaneously. The emergency service teams can select the location of the fire appliance and the system will choose the best hydrants to use to maximise fire flow and determine routes for the fire hoses” – explained Dave.Dave RobertsAward-winning Tech Leader, Global IT Director and Non-Executive Director
Technology in access to information
The internet and different tech tools changed the way and the pace we consume information these days. Our choice of what’s breaking news for us is based on our behaviour and algorithm sending us numerous notifications.
Brian Brackenborough raised an interesting point that it’s not technology that is bad but the human approach towards it.
“By connecting with people technologically, we can connect with people emotionally. We can share moments together, the birth of family members around the world, to the plight of others, to help us better understand what we need to do, to bring more hope and happiness to the world. The problem with technology is people. Not what’s been created, but how people choose to use it” – said Brian.Brian Brackenboroughan information security professional from the broadcasting industry in the UK
Technology in education
Tech solutions that fuel development in education are absolutely astounding. Access to knowledge increases globally, and different approaches toward learning and smart tools making it a more fun and effective process is game-changing.
Eileen Jennings-Brown, CIO at Exscientia and Director of Emerge Technical Solutions Ltd., explained how the audio-visual team made different features of Wellcome’s Gallery accessible and safe again throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The team designed a number of solutions that didn’t require touching or using the museum’s appliance. For example, they installed headphone sockets for users’ own gear to be plugged-in and automatically play back the recording. They replaced standard buttons with foot switches and used an infra-red trigger to control lighting and start video playback. What is more, they implemented real-time 3D modelling of visitor’s hands for more sophisticated controls. The absolute cherry on top is a touch-free gesture control interaction from invisible sensors that allows scrolling through a gallery of images simply by waving hands. And I love the way the team sums up this incredible achievement. They’ve just brought “a little bit of audio-visual magic” to the overall experience. Brilliant.
As a wide area of activity, education can also be understood as building a professional community, where people on different levels can exchange knowledge, experiences, thoughts and ideas. Zoe Morris brought up a brilliant initiative called Mentor Me, launched in 2021. It matches women across the technology industry with more experienced professionals in their field for a six-month mentoring programme. Attendees hope to make their next career move – build skills and expertise after the programme.
“Since the programme began, several of our mentees have started new roles or taken on new responsibilities. Others have gained valuable technical certifications. A couple have found new audiences for their blogs and posts about their experiences as women in tech and been invited to seminars and podcasts as a result. For many of our mentors, the experience has been just as rewarding – a way to make a difference and a reminder of the skills and experiences they can share” – said Zoe.Zoe MorrisPresident of Frank Recruitment Group, leading technology resourcing
Technology and society
COVID-19 pandemic and connected lockdowns were a huge change that happened practically overnight. It was difficult for almost everyone as it affected our social interactions. Many of us struggled extremely hard as the situation lasted for months. Caroline Carruthers has made her point on what really matters in online meetings and communication. We need to see and hear each other, find time for fruitful, authentic conversations and meetings, as well as share calls with all the ones we need to connect with simultaneously. That’s what technology already offers us, but before 2020 we somehow took it for granted.
“That’s why I wanted to focus on that as the technology that has made a positive impact. We can spend so much time thinking about massive changes and the far-reaching impact of technology that we miss the little things, the personally important things that get someone through a hard time that we shouldn’t forget. There is such a massive range in the scale of the positive impact of technology and that’s what I find really exciting“ – explained Caroline.Caroline CarruthersAuthor, Chief Executive, Data Cheerleader
The pandemic pretty much changed the attitude towards online meetings and work as such. The essential positive effect of remote work and communication is that the importance of disabled people’s inclusion in society grows. Tracey Jessup put up the example of the UK’s House of Lords and the Lords Members who couldn’t attend the House due to long-term disability.
“The House of Lords Procedure and Privilege Committee suggested: it’s vital that the House should continue to benefit from the perspectives of disabled members’ (…) and it was agreed to introduce Standing Order No 24a meaning disabled Peers can apply for eligible member status and if granted they may choose to participate virtually in proceedings in the Chamber or in Grand Committee, and vote remotely” – said Tracey.Tracey JessupCTO at De Montfort University
It only shows that solutions necessary to be introduced due to the pandemic changed the way the whole organisation benefits for every member, regardless of health condition.
“Deep tech is where engineering meets scientific discoveries” saysFlying Binary and it’s hard not to agree. Dr. Jacqui Taylor contributed her web science knowledge at the gathering of research specialists at the Royal Society in 2009 and brought her inclusive initiative to life. FlyingBinary is a NCSC Cyber Essentials accredited web science company which changes the world with deep technology. Cloud, data and collaboration services, including Smart City, AI, Big Data and IIoT on HM Government accredited G-Cloud platforms. Top Ten Global IoT innovators enabling organisations to grow globally online. They use deep technology to support the new generation of entrepreneurs, unlock their talents and bring them to the world. As Dr. Taylor says:
“So far, we have welcomed over 100 million entrepreneurs to the Empathy Economy (…). We are working to deliver a Net Zero agenda and we would love you to join us.”Dr. Jacqui TaylorCEO at FlyingBinary Ltd, Expert Advisor at The European Commission and U4SSC, #15 Most Influential Woman in UK Technology, 21 Most Inspiring Women in Cyber who and one of the 250 Founders of Tech City.
The British Computer Society (BCS)
Another interesting view on inclusion in the tech world is brought by Freddie Quek, who figured that if he wants anything to change for good, he needs to be the change.
“The BCS, whose purpose is ‘Making it Good for Society’, has made addressing the digital divide as one of their strategic priorities. As Chair of its newly established Digital Divided Specialist Group, I now have the opportunity to mobilise its 60 000 members to this cause” – explained Freddie.Freddie QuekCTO Times Higher Education, passionate about addressing Digital Inclusion for all by #JoiningtheDots
Tech professionals know how to deal with technological changes and disruption as they encounter a lot of such situations throughout their careers. Imagine how much good can happen, if one person takes one action at a time? Sharing knowledge and expertise and simply taking action is key to a better tech future for all.
Technology and healthcare
Everyone who dealt with their close one’s or their own serious health condition or oncological disease knows the significance of receiving a decent level of care.
Mark Lockton-Goddart, who has supported hospices for 15 years, decided to do something more for the wonderful people working in those facilities. As many of them function with very little tech support, he started to work with a range of different hospices. He gave advice on technology strategy and became the chair of HQP: The Care Procurement Specialist, a charity that supports hospices all over the country as a buying group. It helps hospices join together and get the best possible price on key products and services.
“My company embracent is on a HQP framework for providing digital technology skills and experience to hospices at a heavily discounted price, or sometimes pro bono, because those organisations should have access to the best technology out there. (…) It’s about giving them better tools, it’s about giving them better automations of manual processes, understanding their data and how they can better serve their patients” – said Mark.Mark Lockton-GoddartFounder and CEO at embracent
This is my dearest project, which I’m incredibly proud of. Ask Ave is a health chatbot created by Cancer Central. During the pandemic, a version of Ask Ave helped NHS Scotland deal with over 1 million Covid-19 enquiries, this version was engineered by our partners Ensono Digital. Ask Ave for the NHS Inform website was awarded with Best Public Sector Project, Computing Digital Technology Leader Awards 2021 and Best Cloud-Native Project, International Cloud Awards 2021-22. Let me share with you a few words from Mathew Mallet, who led this initiative.
“Within a month, still understandably being cautious, they went for a soft launch. This resulted in 40 000 enquiries from the public in the first 30 days. It blew us all away. With Ask Ave handling standard, repeatable questions, such as ‘What are the symptoms’, it began to free up vital resources on the 111 call lines for the more complex queries and concerns. Two years on, Ask Ave is dealing with nearly a million queries and is a multi-award-winning platform. I sit here as life returns to a ‘new normal’, where digital is fundamentally part of everyone’s lives and smile” – recalled Mathew.Mathew MallettChief Digital and Information Officer, UK Space Agency and Chief Operating Officer Cancer Central
Technology and sustainability
Energy Wells LLC
The UN commits to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental development through main goals: accessible and clean power, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure. 600 million Africans live without electricity, but 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas remains undeveloped in sub-Saharan Africa. As Linda Achan said:
“The Energy Well TM integration of these abundant natural gas deposits with modern, renewable sources such as solar, wind and mini hydro schemes, plus state-of-the-art battery storage technology, ensures a practical and ‘Africa-ready’ solution can be provided. It will be managed with dedicated blockchain platforms that will provide immutable energy tracking and tracing and mobile money transactions.”Linda Achanco-founder and CEO, Nature Wrap UK and Energy Wells LLC
Sounds brilliant, right? What is more, as Linda explained, natural gas can replace kerosene and wood burning, help reduce deforestation, and decrease risks of fires. On the other hand, the provision of affordable power will enable cold storage, crucial for food security as well as will support e-commerce trade.
Sustainability is no longer a trend or a smart PR catch. It’s a must not only in terms of fighting climate changes or decreasing carbon footprint. The most significant outcome of running a sustainable business is being authentic for customers who are aware of the problem. Sean Sadler brought up the idea of sustainability as an important part of the company’s portfolio. He listed 3 benefits of becoming consciously and authentically sustainable as a business:
- the opportunity to rethink your business model,
- the opportunity to save costs over time,
- the opportunity to take advantage of the latest technology available to increase your agility and speed to the market.
As technology plays a major part in resolving issues with climate change, there are a number of solutions to implement for good. One of them is moving from “costly, power hungry data centres” to more carbon neutral cloud environments. As Sean emphasised, major providers of cloud services (Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, AWS) offer tools to calculate your carbon footprint when using their solutions. But, to be honest, let’s face the facts:
“However, we also need to be mindful that the carbon footprint of tech infrastructure now exceeds that of pre-Covid air travel, according to a report released earlier this year by French think tank The Shift Project, which says emissions generated by tech are growing at 6% a year. This is as a result of the increasing reliance on technology, whilst the corresponding improvements in efficiency are unable to keep up” – emphasised Sean.Sean SandlerAn IT Leader taking one day at a time
This piece of writing is just a little hint of what you can find in Avril Chester’s “Tech treats & treasures. A collection of short stories and nuggets of wisdom from the world of technology”.
You can find the book on Amazon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avril Chester is a Chief Technology Officer at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, an award-winning Technology Entrepreneur, experienced CTO, Author, Podcast Host and Cancer Thriver. She is passionate about #SocialImpactTechnology. She loves good food, big dreams and a giggle.
Avril is featured in Computer Weekly’s most influential women in UK Tech 2022, 2021 & 2020 long list, Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 Women in IT Awards. She is also the Founder of Cancer Central – Digital Leaders HealthTech Innovation of the Year 2019.