Technology for good

Also sometimes called “public interest technology.”

If we’re serious about re-imagining systems, one possible outcome of the great 2020 pandemic, then we have to examine the whole of technology.

First thing it’s important to understand:

Technology is not neutral and technology that delivers services to those in need, even in the form of humanitarian aid, is not for good unless the underlying architecture reflects the spirit of humanitarianism.

Doesn’t matter if it’s the tech offering of a social enterprise or is backed by social impact investors.

If you develop a smartphone lending app that runs on an algorithm fed by accessing all data on the borrower’s smartphone, the spirit of the technology is not transformed simply because the offering focuses on Malawi or El Salvador or Bangladesh. It’s a black box system that captures personal data at the moment of greatest need or impulse. It reflects an individualistic model exported to regions that historically organize around community and extended family.

And that’s just the matter of architecture. We must also rethink dev processes. Whose voices are heard throughout the process? How do bring them into, say, an agile dev environment?

I see this as the re-imagination opportunity in front of us. I’m worried we’ll just go for patchwork but I know it’s possible to truly transform systems. Tumultuous times are hard but they have potential as catalysts for innovation anew and across the board. I’m holding that vision in my heart.


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