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Technology for Social Good

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In a world where Technology has become deeply ingrained in our lives, its ability to bring about change and contribute to the betterment of society goes beyond mere convenience and efficiency.

The true strength of Technology lies in its potential to act as a driving force for initiatives that tackle challenges and foster positive transformation. 

Utilizing Technology to promote involves using innovative technological advancements and digital tools to address societal challenges, foster sustainability, and contribute to positive social change.

It encompasses leveraging emerging technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, and virtual Reality to develop solutions that have a meaningful impact across different sectors.

What Technology helps in

1. Collection of data and relevant information: Access to data and information enables people to make informed decisions that benefit their private and professional lives. Readily available information needs to be based on local needs and should be accessible in ways that people can understand.

Communication enables people to join forces, share views and ideas, and co-create solutions, enabling them to address their problems.

2. Processing that data: Technology helps us gather, access, and disseminate information more quickly. It also enables people to communicate faster and more efficiently and involve more people.

Technologies that support information gathering, storage, and dissemination include a wide range of offline and online applications.

How this translates into benefits

1. More data means more information. More information in the public domain brings transparency, which brings accountability. This also led to better decision-making and better collaboration among society members, who may not know each other but can now trust each other due to data. 

2. It helps in waste reduction. With Technology, one can find a cost-effective travel option or grocery items for a person—no dependence on any intermediary to find out how to sell your crops. On a similar note, you can, on your own, find cost-effective products and solutions for your daily needs.

3. As many things are now accessible at lower cost, it helps others to develop business models that were unthinkable earlier. Our 'What' part has remained the same, but 'How' has changed.

Disbursing micro-loans to people in need daily and collecting the repayment amount weekly or daily. Earlier, doing this was very costly as you needed to spend a lot of money on KYC, the worthiness of the borrower.

But now, with alternate sources of information, like his grocery purchase details and social media feeds, you can arrive at a model that can do KYC and help assess the creditworthiness at a meager cost.

The borrower may be sitting at a remote location. MicroTechnology is disbursed with Technology, and repayment amounts can be collected. T

his led to entrepreneurs coming out with new business models or being able to innovate as Technology reduced the cost of many things. 

How Technology Helps in Social Good

1. Help to people in lower income range: A cyclical predicament is conceivably formed from poverty. To surmount destitution, individuals must possess the following necessities: education, access to potable water, sufficient healthcare and sanitation facilities, and employment opportunities that enable them to progress financially. 

Unfortunately, needy people often inhabit areas that lack these essential resources. 

As a result, individuals find themselves entangled in a self-reinforcing cycle in which they cannot afford the vital improvements until they obtain better employment.

While improving their circumstances is advantageous, securing better employment only allows them to finance the necessary improvements. Poverty extends beyond the mere absence of material possessions.

Moreover, it comprises components such as restricted access to high-quality healthcare and education, vulnerability to external factors, and exclusion from participation in decision-making processes.

Technologies can enhance low-income and vulnerable communities' access to vital public and private services, such as electricity, healthcare, water, and humanitarian assistance.

Furthermore, apart from bolstering sectors and increasing awareness, Technology can accelerate the elimination of poverty in both the modern and traditional senses by facilitating economic opportunities.

Access to the Internet and mobile services does not guarantee a valuable application for specific development purposes.

Internet, for example, can only offer a limited amount of relevant information to a farmer, a health worker, or a teacher.

Access to appropriate content and knowing where and how to find and connect with others who can help you are equally important. 

2. Health sector: Rural medical facilities, often situated in geographically isolated areas, are more likely to be able to recruit personnel with exceptional qualifications.

The Internet enables them to engage in increased opportunities for communication and information exchange with their colleagues, to experience a sense of support, and to further their education through consultations with other medical specialists.  

Mobile health apps are transforming healthcare delivery by connecting individuals to medical resources. These apps allow people to access information, receive consultations, and monitor their health conditions. They are particularly beneficial for individuals living in areas with access to healthcare facilities.

Enhanced access to high-quality healthcare and improved education for all members of society in remote regions result in a healthy and proficient labor force, increased self-employment, and additional employment opportunities—all contributing to eradicating poverty.

Imagine having a health assistant on your phone that provides guidance and information and connects you with healthcare professionals regardless of location.

It's sort of saying that now, with Technology, everyone can afford a family doctor, who understands the needs and genetics of that family and can proactively advise the family members.

3. Employment Creation: For any country to progress, its citizens must be engaged in meaningful jobs and add value to the overall GDP of that country.

Many entrepreneurs have good ideas for creating a new product or offering new services. But to execute that, they require funds.

Their concept is still on paper, so financial institutions refuse to give them credit or provide costly loans. In many cases, it is expensive for banks to procure deposits and lend. Banks have to carry out various operations like KYC, matching the tenure of deposits with the tenure of loans so that there is no liquidity problem or internal operation cost in case the bank is not fully automated.

Now, with Technology, these costs for the bank can be reduced. This, in turn, will incentivize the bank to lend at a lower cost.

A successful execution of that idea by an entrepreneur will open up new job opportunities for other members of society.

4. Support to MSME and others members of society : Along similar lines, banks and other financial institutions can now collect data from various alternate sources to arrive at the viability of that idea and do proper credit assessments of those entrepreneurs.

All these will help the banks and financial institutions lend money smoothly and at a lower cost.

By collecting data from alternate sources, banks can also lend microloans to the MSME sector and people who require daily cash. Earlier, doing all these things was very costly.

Lending a small amount, say for five days, and later recovering that amount involved a lot of overhead and hence was not profitable for any institution. That forced people from the lower range of society to borrow from land sharks at very high interest rates.  

Now, as Technology has reduced the overhead or the cost of overheads, small loans can be given to this section of society.  

5. Support in overall financial planning: A family needs to plan for contingency funds for any emergency like any medical condition, etc. Also, they need to prepare for various future needs, like planning for their children's education and income during retirement.

Families often don't find a good place to put their savings and deposits to grow. Alternate asset classes, such as equity, mutual funds, or government bonds, have a minimum threshold.

The reason is that a lot of work costs money, like KYC, AML, and other operational activities.

But now, with Technology, these costs are coming down. In the coming days, it should be possible to invest in mutual funds on a daily basis with a small amount.

In many parts of the globe, you will find cases where small shop owners or people selling fruits and vegetables on the street are putting money with dubious persons as they had promised a very high rate of return. Also, those dubious persons and companies make the fund collection process easy.

The agent of that company goes from door to door to collect money. Many people invest with these companies as they don't have time to physically branch and deposit money or study various mutual fund schemes and invest.

But, now, with Technology, alternate ways of investing can be planned. People can invest in alternate asset classes only by using their mobile phones. Or they can deposit the money at machines, which take cash notes.

All these will help the majority of the section of society to invest as per their capability, as per their time, and at their place. 

6. Help in agriculture: Smallholder farmers suffer from low yields and lack access to the same technologies as farmers in other regions of the globe in certain areas.

Applying geospatial technologies, including satellites and uncrewed aerial vehicles, can provide the all-encompassing surveillance services necessary to implement "precision agriculture" methods on farms successfully. This, in turn, can lead to increased agricultural yields and reduced input costs.

Accurate agriculture ascertains the ideal conditions and amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and other crop inputs through machine learning and remote sensing data.

Here, information and images are obtained from drones or other equivalent machines. Agricultural output will increase, and producers will have the capacity to negotiate for higher prices. 

Access to market and price information effectively strengthens the bargaining position of individual producers, producers, and entrepreneurial organizations, including cooperatives, unions, and federations.

IoT devices monitor and gather real-time data in healthcare, agriculture, and environmental conservation fields. This data-driven monitoring allows for decision-making and targeted interventions to address challenges effectively.

7. Online Education 

Online learning platforms can provide entrepreneurs with the tools, information, and resources to run successful enterprises without physical instructors. Nonetheless, Technology constitutes a fraction of the solution. 

Technology facilitates innovative approaches to education by making learning resources available globally.

Online courses, e-learning platforms, and educational applications enhance literacy rates and offer skill development opportunities. Online Learning platforms provide education opportunities, allowing individuals from different backgrounds and locations to access educational resources and courses. This promotes learning and the development of skills.

Virtual Reality can enhance awareness and foster empathy towards various social issues. Through VR simulations, people can virtually experience the perspectives of those affected by challenges such as poverty, homelessness, or environmental crises. 

7. Saving of natural resources with Smart buildings: Technology, especially IOT devices can help in collection of data, at a far remote place, 24/7.

For examples,  in one residential apartment, IOT-related devices were placed near the water tanks  That apartment has four blocks and has a separate water tank for each block. IOT devices were put near each water tank. 

The Secretary of that complex has now started seeing reports of water usage. He noticed that water usage at night remained very high for an apartment block. That was quite unusual.

Though one can relate to high water consumption during the day, water consumption remained very high for a particular apartment block even during the night.

That led him to investigate the reason here. It was found that in one of the houses on the ground floor, there was a leakage in the water pipe, and that water was continuously flowing from that leaked pipe to under the surface, 24/7.

The beauty is that the apartment's Secretary was not monitoring water usage 24/7.

He has installed IOT devices near the four water tanks for the apartment's water needs. Also, he had asked for a report, which shows an alert.

Within minutes, he learned something was wrong as water usage in one of the apartment blocks remained the exact/high even at night for all days.

Like this, we can use various IOT devices to identify leakage in power distribution, water distribution, and many other things. This will help correct the utilization of multiple resources and ensure these things reach people in need. 

8. Resilient infrastructure: Technology is helping in building resilient infrastructure that proactively identifies natural calamities, floods, and cyclones before they impact society.

Early detection of a hurricane, earthquake, or any other natural disaster helps ensure that members living in that area can be moved to a safe place. Also, with Technology, the damages can be assessed after the event. That again helps ensure relief and help are sent to the distressed places.  

9. Technology can help in the reduction of various perishable products. Here, perishable products refer to food, fruit, vegetables, and dairy products, which get wasted if not consumed within a specified time limit. 

We also need to think of various other things, such as a bus going from a village to a partially filled town. Now, those seats remain vacant, and it is a loss. If those seats can be offered to other needy persons, say, students, at a reduced cost, they may want to travel to the city in case some work is pending. 

10. Community Funded Platforms:

Technology enables the development of platforms that directly connect donors with social impact projects. Crowdfunding platforms empower individuals to contribute to causes they believe in, ranging from community development to conservation. 

 Crowdsourcing platforms have revolutionized aid efforts by connecting people worldwide and enabling them to contribute effectively. Whether mapping crisis areas or providing translation services for affected populations, these initiatives harness intelligence for impact.

Crowdsourcing platforms empower individuals to contribute to community initiatives. Whether it's supporting projects, disaster relief efforts, or social causes, these platforms democratize philanthropy. This enables individuals to have a collective impact.

Think of crowdfunding  as a virtual community gathering where everyone contributes a bit, coming together to make an impact and support important initiatives for the community.

11. Mobile Solutions for Access: 

Mobile Technology plays a role in making social impact initiatives more accessible to a broader audience. Mobile apps and platforms provide real-time information, educational resources, and communication channels for communities to engage actively in efforts to create change.

12. Role in Environmental Conservation:

The role of Technology in environmental conservation efforts cannot be overstated. From utilizing satellite monitoring to track deforestation patterns to leveraging AI analysis of climate data, tech-driven initiatives actively contribute to preserving our planet.

12. Global Collaboration through Open Source Solutions:

Open-source technologies are instrumental in fostering collaboration for good. Projects like OpenStreetMap offer mapping data facilitating disaster response and urban planning even in resource-limited regions.

These extended features exemplify the diverse ways technology, when purposefully utilized for good, becomes a catalyst for change. By embracing outreach philanthropy and environmental stewardship, we can harness the collective power of Technology to address the intricate challenges of our interconnected world.

The interconnected nature of Technology promotes connectivity and collaboration. Organizations and individuals can seamlessly collaborate across borders, fostering the exchange of knowledge, resources, and best practices in tackling challenges.

13. Scalability:

Technology enables the implementation of solutions, reaching an audience and maximizing the impact of social initiatives. People can access these initiatives globally through platforms, mobile applications, and online resources, overcoming limitations.

14. Efficient Resource Allocation:

The strategic use of Technology allows for the allocation of resources. Organizations can utilize data analytics and predictive modeling to identify needed areas, ensuring that interventions are focused where they can make a difference.

15. Empowering Marginalized Communities:

Technology empowers marginalized communities by granting them access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. For example, mobile Technology enables inclusion. Provides critical services even in remote or underserved areas.

16. Improved Accountability and Transparency:

Technologies like blockchain enhance accountability and transparency in initiatives. Donors can track the flow of funds to ensure that resources are used as intended. This transparency builds trust among stakeholders while encouraging support.

History :

By these examples, we can see how Technology is not only transforming our lives but also playing a role in promoting positive change within society. The history of how Technology contributes to sound can be traced back to the efforts of individuals and organizations who believed in using innovation for positive change. 

 One significant milestone occurred in 1987 with the establishment of the TechSoup network. TechSoup connects technology companies with nonprofits, providing them with discounted or donated software and hardware to support their missions.

The Internet revolutionized giving through dedicated online platforms in the 1990s and early 2000s. Websites such as JustGiving (2001) and GlobalGiving (2002) emerged, offering spaces where individuals could contribute to causes across the globe.

 The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative led by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte aimed to provide laptops to children in developing countries. This initiative aimed to bridge the divide and create opportunities.

As we entered the 2010s, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo revolutionized how individuals could directly support social innovation projects. These platforms democratized funding for initiatives that empowered people to make a difference.

Apart from these, many organizations like Microsoft and Google have a philanthropic arm that utilizes Technology for social good. 

Initiatives like AI for Accessibility, supporting initiatives to respond in times of crisis, and affordable Access Initiatives focus on using Technology to address accessibility challenges and bridge the divide.

Important Technologies, which are contributing towards Social Good : 

Let's delve into how innovative technologies serve as catalysts for addressing issues and promoting awareness for social good.

1. Big data for making decisions:

Technology enables data collection, analysis, and interpretation to inform decision-making processes in social impact initiatives. By leveraging data analytics, organizations can gain insights into community needs, measure the effectiveness of interventions, and optimize resource allocation.

2. Internet of Things (IoT):

The Internet of Things (IoT) devices promote good by providing real-time data for various applications. For example, in the healthcare sector, IoT devices monitor patients' health conditions, while in agriculture, they enable precision farming practices that contribute to food production.

3. Biotechnology for Improving Health:

Biotechnology innovations have an impact on improving health outcomes. From gene therapies to tools, biotechnology plays a role in advancing healthcare and has the potential to bring about breakthroughs in disease treatment and global health improvement.

4. Renewable Energy Technologies: Adopting energy technologies is crucial for addressing concerns and promoting sustainable development. Clean energy sources like solar and wind power help reduce carbon emissions.

5. Enhancing Transparency with Blockchain:

Blockchain technology ensures transparency and accountability in initiatives, particularly humanitarian aid. Smart contracts on blockchain networks facilitate automated and transparent distribution of resources, reducing the risk of fraud while ensuring assistance reaches its intended recipients. Also, various public records, like land records, academic records, etc., can be maintained on the blockchain, ensuring no data tampering.  

6. Assessing Impact with AI 

Artificial intelligence plays a role in conducting impact assessments by analyzing vast datasets. Through machine learning algorithms, it becomes possible to predict outcomes, identify trends, and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. This data-driven approach enhances the accuracy and efficiency of social impact initiatives.

Also, NLP help in transaction of important information to other vernacular langauges.  

7. Cloud Computing : It helps provide massive computing power to individuals without spending too much money. One need not buy costly machines but can rent the power of computing machines as per usage only.

7. Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a tool for promoting empathy and understanding towards social issuesFostering Empathy with Reality. 

Virtual Reality can be used to create awareness and promote advocacy.

This helps increase understanding and support various causes. 

Immersing individuals in the lives of others through VR experiences creates a connection. Enhance awareness about the challenges faced by marginalized communities.

Conclusion:

To summarize, the collaboration between Technology and social welfare is not a concept but a tangible reality that continues to evolve. From the days of telegraph communication to our era of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, it has consistently played a vital role in striving for a better world.

Integrating Technology strategically becomes crucial in addressing challenges and navigating the century's complexities. It goes beyond adopting gadgets or software; instead, it involves leveraging innovation, connectivity, and data-driven insights to uplift communities, empower individuals, and create sustainable solutions.

The benefits are scalability, efficiency, empowerment, and global collaboration. Whether predicting and preventing crises, during the distribution of aid, or even utilizing virtual Reality to foster empathy, Technology provides a diverse toolkit for promoting social good.

Looking ahead into the future holds promise as emerging technologies, like quantum computing, advanced robotics, and biotechnology, continue advancing.

The ongoing story of how Technology can contribute to good is a narrative that continues to unfold. Every innovation, collaboration, and initiative plays a role in building a fair, sustainable, and caring world.

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This content is provided by an external author without editing by Finextra. It expresses the views and opinions of the author.

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