Technology and Humanity//

Improving Our Relationship With Technology

It's about focusing on the good.

Every day, we sift through headlines about technology. Some of them good, some of them bad, and a lot of them darn right ugly. Investors are panicking about a Bitcoin bubble and a looming crash bigger than the dotcom era. Workers in every sector are scared of losing their jobs to AI, and there’s a constant threat of a nuclear war hanging over our heads. Early Google and Facebook employees have even come together to create a coalition, the Center for Humane Technology, to “fight what they built” in light of unintended consequences such as tech addiction and rampant fake news.

Our relationship with technology is complicated. Sometimes it seems as if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew with our inventions, or as if technology is inherently bad for us (just ask any mother who’s sick of prizing her kids away from their tablets). But, we need to remember that technology can also be a tremendous force of good in the world, depending on how we use it.

The Power of 9 to Change the World

Power of 9 is a short film about how harnessing the power of technology and innovation can lead to improved lives across the globe, specifically, by showcasing the role of mobile tech. The makers behind the film, Qualcomm, invent foundational technologies that can be built upon to improve people’s lives. Through advanced wireless technology, for example, even underserved communities can get access to education, funds, and vital knowledge, making technology a great leveler.

Featuring interviews with the UN, the GSMA, and other foundations, the Power of 9 focuses on the SDG9 (Sustainable Development Goals), agreed upon by world leaders in 2015, when they met at the United Nations in New York. SDG9 is about the recognition of connectivity, technology, and innovation; and how they can eradicate poverty.

Over 5 billion people have access to mobile phones worldwide. And they can be used to help impoverished people to find work, locate customers, and link buyers and sellers together. From a single shop owner in the Philippines, to a factory worker in China, mobile technology is empowering people worldwide.

Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, says, “computers are a distant dream but the mobile phone is an immediate reality.” Technology is the great enabler and equalizer here, and it has been proven in practical cases.

Fishing with Mobile Nets

In a small fishing town, La Boquilla, Colombia, illegal overfishing, banned practices, such as using dynamite, and climate change are diminishing the fishing population. In a town where fishing has been handed down from generation to generation and is woven into the culture, the people risk not only losing their livelihoods, but their identity as well.

Using mobile devices allows the fishermen to navigate the tides better, check for bad weather, and learn to become more efficient, locating the fish more easily. They can also find buyers for their catch through handy apps and organize their finances throughout the year. Mobile devices here are preserving a traditional way of life, so that the fishermen and local communities aren’t wiped out.

Use of Clean Cooking Technologies

Globally, some 3 billion people still use traditional mud cooking stoves that cause a lot of indoor and outdoor pollution. This is a practice particularly common in India, where indoor smoke kills more than 4M people annually. It also has very harmful effects on the earth, as biomass burning pollutes up to three times more than black carbon.

When engineers designed clean burning stoves, the women were reluctant to use them and needed an incentive. StoveTrace is a cloud based monitoring system that connects the clean stoves in rural areas to a sensor and monitors cooking times and temperatures. It allows the women to earn climate credits that can be converted into money. This mobile innovation impacts their families directly and the health of the entire country as well. There are now over half a billion mobile money accounts registered worldwide and they are lifting people out of poverty.

Empowering Microentrepreneurs

In the Philippines, many women own hole-in-the-wall stores, called Sari-Sari stores. They stock very little and often their earnings are not enough to support their families. Hapinoy Mobile Money Hubs is empowering microentrepreneurs to become mobile money agents and helping female business owners aid in the overall recovery of the Philippines after the devastating typhoon in 2013. They can receive international money transfers and get equal access to technology and resources so that they can feed their families.

In the words of Thomas Friedman, three times Pulitzer prize-winning journalist of The New York Times, “It’s very simple. Mobile, broadband, cloud, means I can reach farther, faster, deeper, cheaper.” Technology is beginning to change our world and it’s refreshing to finally find a headline that promises hope rather than despair. 

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