Joe Roberson

@workingwithjoe

What is Tech for Good?

We hear the words ‘Tech for Good’ used on social media and even in the popular press. But what do we mean when we talk about it? This post was written for charities and funders at Comic Relief’s Tech for Good Hub.

Tech could save the world.

Literally.

Good tech, that is. Not bad tech.

Good tech: digital tech that solves the world’s problems or brings joy and hope to people.
Bad tech: digital tech that disregards people’s rights or uses dark patterns to influence online behaviour.

And of course, there’s tech that has potential for both. But for now, let’s polarise.

You’re part of the solution

If you’re reading this then you’re probably interested in tech’s positive potential. You’re not alone in that. There’s a lot of us trying to find ways to use, design and build tech in ways that help the world.

We’ve asked three different people working in the Tech for Good domain “What is Tech for Good”? But first, a little history.

A little history

The phrase ‘Tech for Good’ was first popularised in the UK by Paul Miller, formerly of Social Innovation Camps and now CEO at Bethnal Green Ventures. It began in the noughties days of hack weekends when web developers who cared came together with third and public sector folk to hack a solution to a social problem during 48 hours of pizza fueled tech creativity.

Those events seeded hundreds of ideas and prototypes many of which went no further. But what they did was show it was possible to do something explicitly good with tech. To use it to solve social challenges.

Zoom forward a decade or more and the tech for good movement has risen. And risen.

We’ve now got the triple helix model, ideas of user, social and economic value through doing good with tech. Accelerator programmes for tech startups with a social mission and funding programmes for charities and social enterprises looking to use tech to achieve their aims. The ecosystem has grown into a thriving marketplace of needs, problems and solutions.

So tell me what Tech for Good means!

Tech for Good is a community of people, projects, organisations and funders promoting the role of technology to improve social, environmental and economic outcomes.
Nissa Ramsay, Consultant at Think Social Tech and former Comic Relief Tech for Good Evaluation Lead

Great, so its a community thing.

Tech for Good is the intentional design, development and use of digital technologies to address social challenges. It is the combination of the most powerful and flexible tool we’ve ever had and good design approaches that are user-led and test-driven.
Dan Sutch, Researcher and CEO at the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technologies

Ah, so its making tech that solves social problems and uses good design practice.

“Its not only tech for a good social purpose. It should in my opinion be tech that is implemented with ethical consideration, with a conscience. I think that Tech for Good should also imply an egalitarian approach to its development; collaboration between those who develop and those who use. Rather than only those who develop.”
Harry Harrold, Web developer and co-founder Neontribe

So it’s also about how you build that tech. Co-designed with folk it’ll help and with respect for their rights.

Is this a perfect description?

So Tech for Good is:

  • A community of people
  • About making tech that addresses social, economic and environmental challenges
  • About building that tech in a collaborative, user-led way with an end result that’s ethically right-on.

I think it’s a good working description, but as Cassie Robinson from Doteveryone points out: “The field is growing rapidly so it’s important to continually ask ‘What is Tech for Good’? That way we can keep it inclusive and keep connecting it’s people and projects.”

What would you change? Sign up for more articles like this at the Hub.

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