Tech For Impact wants to solve societal and environmental challenges with a positive impact, one could say it is the human side of technology for social change. The great potential of technology to foster social change is evident. However, past events have shown that this potential not only brings chances but also risks. The aim is to proactively foster the tech for impact movement by focusing on the “good” and positive side of technical solutions. This will enable us to harness technology’s great potential to create a positive impact on society at large.

Technology’s potential

The challenges our society and environment are facing are stated by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What they further show us is that these challenges have a dimension that can’t be met with small-scale and local solutions only. In that context, technology has not only the potential to solve some of these challenges but often also, tech solutions have the scalability needed to meet the magnitude of the issues and hence, to have a large-scale impact.

Some of the most pressing issues such as climate change, the aging population, dementia, inequality, financial inclusion or health solutions are no longer hopeless but can be solved with new technology approaches. But we also need to be aware of the potential negative impact the use of technology may bring along. Just one example: still half of the world’s population has no access to the internet, hence, digital exclusion is a threat to increase social inequality.

Therefore, we believe it is important if not urgent to focus on and foster the positive potential of technology. This means to integrate the impact dimension in the newest technological developments and to communicate the impact management transparently. And we are pleased to see that a growing community starts to think in this direction.

Focus on the “good”

When we are looking to blockchain technology we see a movement of innovators and startups that want to solve real-world humanitarian, social and economic problems. They are using, for example, the technology to give small farmers in developing countries a fairer deal or they are developing a solution to help refugees to rebuild their lives and to help immigrants port their identities. These startups are empowering positive social and economic change and delivering new values with the impact-oriented mission which can not be reduced to simply monetary value.

Also, in the health sector, we can now see the rise of social-oriented technology which want to bring the sector into the next phase of the digital age with a strong impact focus. It is important to proactively tackle health inequalities, use the next generation of technology and increase prevention. A people-powered health approach enables the movement that people have more control over their own health and more personalized care. However, if it is badly-designed technology can be dehumanizing and a barrier to good healthcare. So, with an impact focus, we must ensure that these innovations are designed and used to give people greater control over their health and data, rather than less – and in ways that promote the public good.

Are you an impact driven tech startup?

Following, some guidelines for tech for impact startups:

  • the technology and the social business model are designed to address an issue or need which is described in the framework of the SDG goals;
  • the technology is designed to improve the life of many people and not just serving a few privileged;
  • the technology and the business model is designed responsibly, e.g. with respect to the privacy and the security of people’s data;
  • the impact dimension is reflected in the business principles and the impact measurement and management is in place or at least in planning.

We see the beginning of a tech for impact movement at the universities and in the startup community in Switzerland. We are currently developing different services and programs to support the special needs of these impact driven tech startups.

At the moment the call for the seif Tech for Impact Awards is open and we are happy – no thrilled! – to see a huge interest all over Europe.

This article was originally published on the seif blog.


Author Prof. Mariana Christen Jakob, Founder, seif

More posts by Prof. Mariana Christen Jakob, Founder, seif