What is tech for good?
Your introduction to what it is and how your idea can be developed in a way to do some good in the world.
5 min read
You may be familiar with the concept of tech for good. It’s a term - actually, scrap that - it’s a movement that’s gaining momentum as audiences expect brands to do good in the world.
As a group of people focused on championing this movement - whether that’s through the work of our clients, partnerships and collaborations or us as individuals - the Big Lemon crew regularly discusses what this means, and encourages others to consider how they may incorporate it in their next project.
What is tech for good?
Tech for good is best described as when an organisation uses technology to take on big social and environmental problems, with the aim of improving communities and lives.
That means it can span a wide range of themes, including environment, education, inequality, sustainability, global warming and of course, real issues in the local community.
The emphasis is about how technology can be an enabler for positive social impact. Nissa Ramsay, who runs Think Social Tech, describes its essence beautifully here:
“It’s a community of people, projects, organisations and funders promoting the role of technology to improve social, environmental and economic outcomes”.
The case for tech for good
Okay, let’s first address the elephant in the room; tech hasn’t always had the best reputation. It’s a term cloaked with many connotations, unfortunately some of which are negative.
Privacy issues, the promotion of a sedentary lifestyle, mental health, impact on children are just a few examples of how it can be used or manipulated in the wrong way.
The tech for good movement seeks to address this head-on.
There’s a growing public consciousness about tech and the debate around business in general, in fact.
According to B Lab UK and ReGenerate, the public’s perception and attitude towards business is that it can and should be a force for good.
The majority of the UK public would favour brands that are doing good in the world.
76% of the UK public think business has a responsibility to protect the natural environment.
Added to this, there appears to be an increasing number of businesses, especially in Europe, looking to create tech innovations that are both profitable and good for society.
It’s not just businesses who are showing interest. There is a growing number of accelerators and funding capital businesses, such as Bethnal Green Venues (BGV), all focused on creating and supporting an ecosystem and ensuring tech is used for good.
“We’re looking for business models where impact is baked into what the proposition is, but also the commercial and social value that business created”.
Melanie Hayes, managing partner, BGV
Other examples of investment routes that positively impact society whilst providing market rate returns, include Big Society Capital, Big Issue, Triodos, Impact Hub and Mustard Seed. Source Tech Nation.
Where did the term come from?
Pencils out, please. It’s time for a quick history lesson.
Tech for good, as a concept, was first introduced by Paul Miller, CEO of Bethnal Green Venues (BGV).
(TL;DR: its roots are from hack weekends when developers worked with the public sector to create a solution that would solve a social problem.)
In 2006, Miller launched a series of hack weekends for people interested in using tech for social good.
Developers, coders, designers, user experience people… all came together to see how they could solve the world’s biggest challenges, before going back to their day jobs on a Monday morning. (All the while wondering how they could make the move into a professional role doing this very thing).
BVG gained momentum, setting up its first incubator accelerator in 2013 and supported by the likes of Nesta and Google. To this day, some of the startups that joined it are still going strong, as the public consciousness catches up and demands these tech businesses seek to do better in the world.
You only need to search for #techforgood to see there’s a growing popularity around both the movement and the bigger picture driving the need to do good.
There are events, local meetups and hackathons all aimed at one thing: trying to deliver a bit of good in the world.
Types of business that fall under this category
Leading the charge: finding a balance between purpose and profit
There’s much conversation about what constitutes tech for good or as it’s also known, impact tech, Sifted suggests.
For us, we see two camps of thought:
Tech for good organisations: those that create a tech solution to help address social or environment problems and drive positive change.
Socially-responsible organisations: whilst their product may not sit under the ‘tech for good’ remit per say, they still ensure the way they operate positively contributes to society. This could involve creating their own social impact model, co-producing projects, reimbursing their profits into community projects or becoming B-Corp registered.
We really don’t think it needs to be any more complicated than this.
Are you going to seek to positively impact society in some way? Yes? You’re in.
Why we’re invested in tech for good
We’ve intentionally made the decision to align ourselves with tech for good for a number of reasons.
As a business, at the core of what Big Lemon does is building tech with purpose. We work on projects that make the world a better place in some way. We build life-changing software that enables our clients to make a positive difference to the world.
And, if we have the opportunity to align ourselves with, or partner with that person with a great idea but who needs some help with tech we jump at the chance.
Or, if there’s an organisation who is really concentrated on reflecting their business model to benefit the wider community - then, come on in, friend. Take a seat.
Really cool examples of tech for good companies
There are many organisations gaining real traction within the tech for good space.
Here are just a handful of examples that we feel embodies what it’s all about and are doing great things.
The Student Energy Project
A platform that allows students to view valuable insight into their energy usage at halls. As consumption is reduced, the end user will earn points that can be exchanged in a give-back programme.
Agile Kinetic’s tool MobilityHub, supports, monitors and manages patient recovery, remotely. The idea being that patients don’t need to see their healthcare professional face to face, and instead, can use the app to help manage their postoperative recovery.
Power to Connect
Launched in April 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Power to Connect initiative helped to tackle the issue of digital poverty by making sure that families were digitally connected through lockdown and beyond.
A virtual healthcare software platform that breaks down information silos, connects services and puts the patient at the centre.
An app that helps you find the right revision content from AQA, Edexcel, OCR. It includes 1000s of free A-level & GCSE lessons.
The world’s first on-demand employee volunteering solution.
A bicycle sharing company dedicated to improving sustainable transportation.
Other projects to watch out for
Word Web - a digital support tool for children with or at risk of a Language Disorder. Exhibit C - a platform for communities to evidence the carbon savings they make through everyday activities and monetise them.
Get involved in the tech for good space
Like every great movement, the tech for good space has a fantastic community with many resources available.
If you’re interested in learning more about it, we’ve put together a list of our favourite resources.
Tech for Good - a resource fuelling the movement. Includes jobs, events and meetups.
TechForGood - a programme that helps scale the user of impact-generating tech.
B Corp - a certification that assesses the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it. B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
Nesta - the UK’s innovation agency for social good.
Tech London Advocates - a network of over 10,000 tech leaders, entrepreneurs and experts in London, across the UK and in over 50 countries worldwide
Good for Nothing - brings creative energy, ideas and skills to those innovating on social issues but with very limited resources.
Hubbub - helping to make actions that are good for the environment, second nature.
Mozilla Fest - part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world.
So there we have it, a beginner’s guide to what tech for good is, how it is gaining momentum, and how you can get involved.
We honestly believe that tech shouldn’t need to be a barrier to creating change in the world and have successfully helped launch a number of projects.
All you need is the idea, the passion and we’ll bring the tech. Get in touch.