The phrase ‘tech for good’ is something that has certainly risen in popularity in recent years. Perhaps even recent months. But have we forgotten about the literal meaning of the phrase? Is it now used as a way for organisations to tick a box when it comes to their green credentials, rather than using tech to create change?
If we look back to its inception, ‘tech for good’ was created way back in the early 2000’s as a way of providing a tech solution to a social problem. The phrase itself was popularised in the UK by Paul Millar, formerly of Social Innovation Camps and now CEO at Bethnal Green Ventures. Tech for Good proves that it is possible to do something explicitly good with tech, and use it to help solve social challenges. Fast forward to 2020 and the phrase has now taken on a completely different meaning. Now it’s less of a phrase and more of a movement
But what does it mean to you - as an individual and/or as a business owner?
According to Dan Sutch, Researcher and CEO at the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technologies: “Tech for good is the combination of the most powerful and flexible tools we’ve ever had, and good design approaches that are user-led and test-driven.”
Now, in the fast-paced modern world in which we live, the literal meaning of tech for good has evolved. The focus is no longer solely on the impact of using technology to create social or environmental change, but additionally , in terms of workplaces specifically , on laying a solid foundation for technology to be integrated into streamlining and improving processes and productivity and boost employee wellbeing.
If we look at my particular area of interest and a rapidly growing phenomenon , the remote/flexible working concept as an example. Without the use of technology it would be so much more difficult therefore the reliance on technology is heavy.
But how we use that technology will be the difference between tech being used for good, and tech being used as a way to maintain control and power over employees while working outside of the traditional office environment.
When Annil Chandel and I created the blueprint for Wurkr, our ethos was to create a software system that not only allowed the workforce to stay in communication with remote workers, but to help enhance the company culture and overall employee experience.
Many studies have shown the negative effects of remote working; from employees feeling lonely and isolated to feeling misunderstood. This is a major factor for any organisation that works with remote workers. The idea behind Wurkr was to recreate a physical office environment online. All the things people know and love about working in an office, such as open communication, collaboration and closeness, needed to be replicated online.
Cloud based technologies such as Zoom, Google Hangout and Slack are a great way of creating open communication, but it’s often the social aspect of being in an office that is lacking when working remotely. That need and desire to be able to brainstorm ideas as a team, to run an idea past someone or simply catch up on Eastenders over a coffee in the kitchen. In terms of tech for good, Wurkr provides a solution to a societal problem - one of social connection and collaboration within an organisation. It has been designed to enhance the work from anywhere business model and enhance the experience of each employee by keeping the informal and formal communication as open as possible.
If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that staying connected while working remotely is key to the successful growth of any organisation, as well as the ability to adapt very quickly during uncertain times. As an aside, because we recognise that working from home does then increase how much energy we’re using and the carbon emissions that creates, we’re helping to offset those carbon emissions by planting a tree (www.onetreeplanted.org ) every time an organisation signs up for Wurkr ...we are always on the lookout for other great carbon saving initiatives too .
So, from a tech for good perspective, many businesses are now using technology to provide a solution, whether that’s societal, cultural, environmental or within business. It may not be tech for good in the literal sense, but it’s certainly using technology in a good way that makes a difference to humans and the planet.