Technology has grown exponentially especially over the last two decades and has impacted our lives both positively and negatively. While on the one hand, we can access a tremendous amount of information at our fingertips on the other we have become overdependent on it, suffer from an information overload and our lives have become far more complex. The current Pandemic has further accelerated the use of technology extensively and this has come with some unintended but positive side effects.
In this article, I explore how technology is being leveraged in many fields and has helped drive a positive social impact on the entire community.
Education – With the penetration of the internet and smartphones and a plethora of sites where one can learn or study anything for free, knowledge is now available in the remotest corners of the world. In the pandemic situation, it has helped in the continuity of classes via an online medium when physical face to face classes had to be suspended.
Microfinance – Fintech companies are able to leverage technology to reach out to the poorest customers and offer both saving and lending opportunities thru digital means. In India, a start-up in this space is encouraging workers to save as little as Rs. 1 per day. This helps daily wage earners to allocate some money daily for savings from their limited incomes.
Health & Nutrition – Today everything from fitness sessions for physical health to mental wellness sessions are available thru apps online. We also have access to nutritional information and best practices for dietary control that encourage us to lead a healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of major diseases.
Telemedicine – Technology has made it possible to monitor parameters of a patient remotely thru simple devices sometimes as simple as an app on a smartphone. This along with remote consultation from Doctors and specialists helps take healthcare to places that may be difficult to access or set up a health infrastructure. Apart from this artificial intelligence embedded in systems like IBM Watson helps Doctors to come to a quick diagnosis of a complex problem by using the capability of the computer to sift thru the database of millions of cases.
Agriculture – Today agriculture has benefitted a lot thru accurate local weather forecasting, satellite-derived data on soil conditions, the use of drones to combat pests, genetically modified high yield plants, and apps on smartphones to disseminate knowledge on the best ways to grow crops. These apps help farmers with answering their queries and also share information on the best crops to grow given the soil and weather conditions etc.
Remote Working – Today especially during this pandemic it becomes easier for people especially from the services sector to work from anywhere. This has the possibility of reversing the mass migrations that our cities have witnessed to date. People can stay wherever they are and get opportunities to work with the best of companies. This trend will also help in equitable distribution of income in all areas of a country. As income levels increase in remote areas so will the spending capacity of people which will further help those areas receive focus and development funds.
Legal – Some sections of society were always impacted as they did not have access to the legal system to resolve the injustices they suffered. They could not repeatedly travel to cities where the courts were located for each hearing as cases stretched for years. Online courts are a step in the right direction that can help. Secondly, digitization of cases with constant monitoring of a court’s performance ensures that the pendency of cases decreases.
Disaster Management – Technology has been a boon in this area as well. Right from predicting natural disasters more accurately to handling the post-disaster rescue and relief operations with the assistance of robots and other devices that can help deliver assistance to affected persons quickly. Funds can also be quickly mobilized online for the affected populations within hours of a disaster striking.
Aggregator economy – Aggregator apps have proliferated in the last decade. There are various apps for cab bookings, hotel bookings, bookings of services like hair styling, home cleaning, etc. This has helped optimize capacities and resources and ensured that people providing those services get bookings continuously in locations closer to their base location.
eCommerce – A person wanting to sell a product need not look for a brick and mortar shop offline but can list on any of the various e-commerce sites or even create their own hyperlocal store app. The cost of the sale goes down as real estate costs and inventory costs are saved. This is a win-win for the seller and buyer as there is a ready market to sell and customers get the product at a reasonable cost.
Social Welfare – We have seen the strong impact social media stories have on helping people in need who have suffered for various reasons. Society in general rushes in to help the moment such a case comes to light and this is definitely one of the most heartening uses of technology.
Innovation – We have bright minds everywhere and all they need is a spark. The access to the world of information provides that spark and we have a million folks trying to use the already discovered solutions in other parts of the world and adapt and innovate on it to solve their local problems and issues.
Entrepreneurship – Access to ideas globally as well as access to funds for a good idea has created an ecosystem where a whole generation of entrepreneurs has been built. Also the success stories of such entrepreneurs coming from humble backgrounds and then making it big, shared mostly on social media, inspires many more.
Talent – A person can now showcase their talent to the world and get recognition using various social media apps.
On the whole, we see that technology is being positively leveraged to help maximum sections of society who were earlier deprived of access to basics like education, healthcare, justice, etc It has also helped optimize resources and increase productivity. In general, society as a whole has seen the impact.
Original article published in Insightism October 2020 Edition, Amsterdam, Netherlands. https://www.insightism.io/table-of-content-october-2020/leveraging-technology-to-drive-social-impact