Purpose and Profit
We have all seen some great examples of how advancements in technology, more specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) are changing the face of the world. However, a closer inspection reveals that the majority of these investments are being put towards more revenue-generating innovations. Which begs the question – are we doing enough to ensure that technology is being used to offer scalable solutions to some of the biggest social challenges being faced globally and who should take the lead on this – community leaders, government, educators or the technology giants and their teams of highly intelligent creators?
Currently, technology stands as the biggest chance of being a force for good and in helping in-need groups get access to the right healthcare services, amongst others, that they need. However, it’s not just about purpose, there’s profit too. In 2018, the technology for social purpose sector was worth £2.3 billion in the UK. These numbers are not to be to be taken lightly, so why isn’t more being done to invest in technology for social purpose?
Current state of affairs; the ugly
In a (short-lived) bid to put in place a best-practice guide to responsible AI development, Google’s independent ethics board lasted less than 2 weeks. Hit with its fair share of problems, headlines surrounding the ethics of some of its board members led industry and the wider public to question the validity of its board and its ability for transparency. Especially when considering issues like algorithmic bias within AI. Our celebrity ‘tech-giants’ are now being called into question, opening our eyes to the need for more responsible regulations and use of technology to deliver real innovative change for the good of society, and not just to supplement the convenience culture of todays society.
And the good news…
Google aside, let’s not forget about the good. My Carer, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society, uses Amazon’s Alexa to improve the lives of Dementia sufferers in the UK by tapping into their lives and setting daily reminders and guidance on daily tasks like preparing your days meals. Then there’s Traffic Jam, which uses machine learning technology to trace missing people, what3words and the use of its GPS technology by emergency services to help support response teams in co-ordinating emergency operations, and finally Producers Direct, who co-create with local farmers across East Africa and Latin America and provide the data and technology that they need to make effective farming investment choices.
Or maybe it’s simply time to follow in Estonia’s lead, a nation currently being touted as the most digitally advanced society, with 99% of the nations public services being offered as an e-service from as early on as 1997. Surely it can’t be that hard, can it?