#Tech4Good, this hashtag we see everywherehttps://www.use.design/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/header.jpg25501702Use DesignUse Designhttps://www.use.design/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/header.jpg
As a consequence of the growing collective awareness about sustainability and the negative impacts of innovation and digital technology, the term Tech4good is now emerging. Indeed, this concept is not only more and more common in the startup ecosystem but is also promoted by our politicians. The purpose of this article is to paint a quick portrait of this rapidly expanding concept.
What is Tech4Good?
Our society is constantly changing, especially since the beginning of the digital age. We are gradually becoming aware of the effects of this new era on the economy, society and the environment. We are witnessing a turning point in industries as the desire to innovate for good spreads. Clément Bastide, founder of the digital agency OutRun, has depicted Tech4good as a mean to integrate the principles of caring and sustainability into innovation.
“For me Tech for Good refers to the idea of moving from innovation to progress. We imagine concepts based on ideas that could help us to live better because they have a direct impact on the individual and society. Today technology allows us to address issues that were beyond our reach a few years ago but also raises many questions that are important to answer. For example, how can these measures be implemented in morals without disrupting an already established mode of operation?”
#HealthTech – The French startup Pixee Medical has developed a device that guides the practitioner through the process of knee and shoulder surgery using connected glasses and Augmented Reality. See the article in Les Echos.
Indeed, let’s have a look at social medias such as Facebook that have been popular and extremely fast. Few of us could have anticipated the impacts this could have had on our lives. Social medias have changed our daily lives and contributed to the shaping of new societal issues: the spread of cyber harassment, body shaming, over-mediatization, instantaneity, new businesses emerging, etc.
As you will have noticed, Tech4good aims at anticipating these impacts – especially negative ones – while continuing to improve our daily lives. New sub-concepts are emerging promoting inclusion and benevolence:
Tech 4 climate change or GreenTech: to meet climate change challenges;
Health Tech or Tech4health: to promote innovating technologies such as 3D printing in the Health industry;
CivicTech and HandiTech: dealing with social and civic inclusiveness;
EdTech or Tech4Education: implementing technological solutions such as VR to develop new pedagogical tools, for example.
Thus, traditional industries are changing.
#EdTech – Lalilo is a web application co-designed by school teachers. It simplifies the follow-up of students work at school and at home.
A general movement
It is certain that Tech’s positive impact on society is now at the heart of many debates. There’s seems to be real desire to innovate for the society and not only for technology. Indeed, throughout Viva Tech conferences were held around this topic in order to raise awareness. It is a real opportunity: the 4th Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 for the benefit of Humans well-being. This excitement about Tech4Good also calls for substantial financing interest and support from leading firms. Indeed, according to the study by Tech In France, PwC France and French-speaking Africa, here are some key figures that represent Tech4Good:
Out of 120 companies selected by the study, more than 50% had a fundraising of at least 1 million euros.
Nearly ⅔ Tech4Climate companies have raised more than 1 million euros.
7% of the 120 companies raised more than €10 million.
In addition to this economic enthusiasm, there is also support from civil society with associative initiatives and strong support from the government.
In recent years, more and more politicians have become interested in technological innovation. Indeed, this constant technological evolution raises new governance issues in particular regarding Data management, dematerialization of Public Services, new means of transport, urban transformation, etc. Governments must therefore adapt and develop new citizen protections. Politicians have a duty not only to protect citizens but also to protect the planet while developing the country economically.
This is what the successive events of mid-2019 have highlighted:
The 2nd Tech4Good Summit took place on May 15th at Élysée. Its objective was to discuss with innovation stakeholders technological development for a positive impact on society. This year 5 workshops were on the agenda: access to education; diversity, work, social inclusion and environmental protection.
That very same day state and business leaders committed to fight terrorism and online extremism via the “Christchurch Call”.
VivaTech 2019 during which digital security was at the top of the political agenda. Indeed, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, stressed the importance of government involvement in innovation and in the 4th industrial revolution we are going through: “hate and extremism are thriving online”. As we have witnessed with the American elections, Facebook Data Leaks, the live broadcast of Christchurch attacks and the massive spread of fake news, online security is more uncertain than ever.
The succession of the Tech4Good Summit, “Christchurch’s Call”, and then Vivatech 2019 sends a message that every innovation stakeholder from startups to government should come together to move forward for a safer, more equitable and healthy society. Whether it is a communication move or a sincere action is another debate.
What do we make of all this?
All this is well but what next? We will inevitably be confronted to the GAFAs whose influence on the economic world is such that we cannot ignore them and even less include them in the process. The value and impact of the original initiative is diminishing. Sanctioning them also means punishing oneself economically but also culturally because they are rooted in our lifestyles. Who doesn’t publish their holidays on social networks? Who does not communicate remotely via Whatsapp? Who doesn’t want to limit their daily costs while maintaining comfort and freedom of movement? Furthermore, the Tech4Good Summit received little media coverage but was attended by the CEO of Twitter in particular or representatives of Delivroo. It is great! But one might say that they have a lot on their plates before they can be perceived as the perfect illustration of Tech4Good. In short, the controversy is inevitable whatever is done.
To wrap up, Tech4good is not only a communication move for investors but also a state of mind and an ethical attitude in its overall form (internal and external). Investments seem to be moving towards more benevolent innovations: technology and sustainable development are no longer seen as opponents. However, can we think that Tech4Good is the answer to the global and social crisis we are experiencing? Or is it a new kind of green washing?