Tech4Good: Seize the Moment – If Not Now, When?

In 2023, Founder and CEO of Zerodha and one of the youngest billionaires in  India, repeated on quite a few forums that “…the world’s first trillionaire will be someone who  solves the climate change problems…”. He actively invests in impact startups along with his  brother through their Rainmatter Foundation. 

This should inspire most people who have aspirations of becoming wealthy. That’s how most  entrepreneurs function, when the need arises, they rise up and solve for that need.

But then, what is our  civilisation’s need today? Is it fighting amongst ourselves to prove who’s better? Or is it to create  a world where every human and every other living being has an equal chance to thrive?

The  United Nations envisioned the Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs in 2015 which lays  down a very clear set of goals for the entire world to achieve, if we are to live in a clean, green and  equal world full of creative opportunities for everyone. To that effect, countries are reshaping and  reimagining their policies and work.  

So who will these ‘new’ type of entrepreneurs be? Let me try and paint a picture here. All those  smart young people who have realised that the world we live in is unsustainable – pollution,  inequality, mental health pandemic and so much more – can and must come out of the woodwork  and start doing this. Since late 2022, India’s shining beacon of prosperity, the IT industry has  reduced their hiring by thousands and the trend is going to continue.

Top IIMs including IIM Lucknow have  found it difficult to match their 100% placement record in the first quarter of 2024. And this  trend is not limited to India, globally tech giants like Microsoft and Google has to give up hundreds of  workers in Jan 2024 and in the same month, tech unicorns like Twitch and Discord let go 33%  and 17% of their workforce respectively.

So the money and opportunity has been moving on from  the traditional success pathways of ‘IIT-IIM’ or ‘engineering plus MBA’. On the other hand, the  Global Impact Investments had surpassed USD 1 Trillion in 2022. Impact investors make investments  towards achieving the SDGs. The money, global political will and international corporate  incentives are moving towards sustainability. It’s not just philanthropy anymore and now is your  chance to switch as well.  

The Solution  

One of the most effective ways to achieve the SDGs is by using technology for social good, often  termed “tech4good”. This phenomenon signifies the integration of technology into initiatives  aimed at addressing societal challenges and creating a positive impact on a global scale.  Tech4Good represents a paradigm shift in the way we perceive the role of technology in our lives  and careers. It goes beyond mere profit-driven objectives and focuses on leveraging technology  to address societal challenges. From climate change and healthcare to education and poverty  alleviation, Tech4Good initiatives are tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time. 

The future of work isn’t just about automation or digitalisation; it’s about fostering a culture of  empathy, inclusivity, and purpose-driven endeavours. Tech4good is at the core of this  transformation, offering innovative solutions that transcend traditional boundaries. By leveraging  technology, we are already witnessing a shift towards more Accessible Education and Skills  Development.

Tech-driven platforms are democratising education and skill acquisition, breaking  barriers that hindered access in the past. Online learning, powered by AI and machine learning  algorithms, personalises education, making it adaptable to individual needs. This opens avenues  for individuals worldwide, empowering them with the necessary skills to thrive in the digital  economy. The global pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, demonstrating the  potential for a more flexible and inclusive work environment. Technology facilitated seamless  communication and collaboration, enabling teams to work across geographical boundaries. 

So it is possible to learn newer skills practically for free at your convenience from anywhere. More  importantly, it is possible to use these newly developed skills in tech to solve the problems that  you face locally. Who else is better suited at solving those problems fast enough than you?

On the enterprise level, Tech4good is instrumental in driving sustainability efforts across  industries. From renewable energy solutions to data-driven conservation initiatives, technology is  catalysing positive environmental change. Companies are integrating eco-friendly practices into  their operations, recognising the importance of sustainability in shaping the future of work and  society.

As AI continues to permeate various aspects of work, the focus on ethical AI becomes  imperative. Tech4good advocates for the responsible development and deployment of AI,  emphasising transparency, fairness, and accountability. Integrating ethics into technological  innovations safeguards against biases and ensures that technology serves humanity ethically and  equitably. 

For more you can also ready my interview on The Think PotHow Tech-for-Good is Transforming India’s Business Landscapes 

The Challenges

While the potential of tech4good in shaping the future of work is vast, challenges persist. Issues  related to data privacy, digital equity, and cybersecurity require concerted efforts and ethical  considerations. Additionally, the rapid pace of technological advancements demands continuous  upskilling and adaptation to prevent marginalisation in an evolving job market as mentioned in the  introduction. However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation and  collaboration. Initiatives focused on bridging the digital divide, ensuring data privacy, and  fostering a culture of continuous learning are vital in harnessing the full potential of tech4good. 

My lectures as a tech4good mentor often  focus on the use cases for using AI for SDGs and as a technologist, where can you fit in the AI  ecosystem (hardware, networks, data systems, foundational AI, enterprise and user applications,  and business aspects). But mostly, I have been disappointed with the lack of creativity from the participants so far.  

But the problem isn’t Indian only. The conversations always start the same, across the globe – the students don’t know how to  leverage tech to create impact. Some solutions that my mentees have been able to work on after  just a few days of mentorship are

1. AI solutions for learning for Dyslexic and Autistic students

2.  AI,  IoT and 5G solutions for improving farm productivity and irrigation efficiency

3. AI for customised  learning, and then multiple solutions towards waste management, better healthcare and  diagnosis, reducing food waste, career mentorship and so many more.

A lot of my mentees have  confessed to have started looking for more impactful jobs away from the MAANG companies (MAANG stands for Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) and  other tech startups. One of the finalists of a tech4good competition where I was a mentor,  a team from Germany developed a water testing technology that helps to monitor  and improve your water quality by providing simple water analyses via Smartphone. They based  their social business model on India because close to a 100 million Indians do not have access to  safe drinking water. Why aren’t our youth solving for such massive problems? 

What is Needed?  

Our work with the rural youth across North India is creating  more awareness. A few volunteers and ex-mentees of mine have initiated a forum called “Open  Source Mentorship” where we frequently break-down large societal challenges with an expert and  find opportunities for young entrepreneurs to solve them using technology. We have already  discussed challenges such as Media Literacy, Human Trafficking, Youth Mental Health, Rural  School Education, Government School Education among others. But these solutions are smaller drops in the ocean that is needed. 

We need to bring in tech4good curriculum in all schools and universities across India. The earlier  the students get exposed to Complex Problem Solving around social problems using technology,  the sooner we have more change makers, entrepreneurs, trainers. Such a wave of innovators will  tackle unemployment, sustainability and economic growth challenges. We already have a good  basis for this with the frequent advocacy of entrepreneurship, AI, coding, ecology and design in  our curricula. We need to bring it all together toward a joint push for tech4good. 

For people trying to figure out their career paths, embracing the Tech4Good movement offers many opportunities. There’s a growing need for professionals who understand both technology and social issues. I’ll highlight how important it is to keep learning and adapting in this rapidly changing field. As young people explore these new career paths, the balance between technology and human values will shape the future of work. It’s urgent that we support them on this journey.

About the Author Saurabh Nanda
Saurabh Nanda, Founder of SN Mentoring, leads a career guidance organization focusing on personalised services. He pioneered career decision-making models, copyrighted frameworks, and AI chatbots for career and mental health. Since 2012, he’s impacted 20,000+ individuals globally, mentoring for sustainability and tech4good projects. Engaged with Atal Innovation Mission, Huawei CSR, and more, he’s recognized for cyberbullying awareness with the Jagran Josh Education Award. Saurabh aims to prepare India for career guidance by 2030, contributing through media, podcasts, and TEDx talks, showcasing his commitment to education, mentorship, and societal well-being

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above article are the personal opinions of the Author for which The Think Pot is not liable in any manner.

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