I want to talk today about technology as a source of hope and a force for good The reason I think this is so important is that making technology work for everyone is critical to building a vision of the future that feels inclusive, moving us beyond some of the polarisation we see today.
Without question, two of the biggest macro-economic forces of the last 20 years have been globalisation and digitisation
And of course, the two are intertwined. We could not sustain a global economy without a digital economy.
Yet globalisation-once seen as a trend that would grow inevitably and indefinitely is under threat
We are seeing a tension play out between those who seek a more open and connected world and those who seek the comfort of something more closed and contained
Because that bright, connected future doesn’t feel like it benefits them or their families
We talk a lot about progressive values and a progressive agenda-its important to remember it’s only progressive if it feels like progress to you
Smarter people than I will continue to debate how and whether globalisation can be made to benefit the many but something we can all think about as an industry is how we make technology benefit the many, not only the young, urban or digitally literate
It’s easy to conclude that the internet is inherently democratic and empowering
Data from Professor Jacob Groshek from Iowa State University back in 2009 showed that “increased Internet diffusion was a meaningful predictor of more democratic regimes” although more recent surveys have showed that, of course, it depends what users use the internet *for*
And of course there are inspiring stories from the developing world in particular about the power of mobile in particular to fuel micro loans, to enable the unbanked
Even provide text books to children in need-this is TXTBKS, an initiative which converted old mobile phones into basic e-readers, providing text books for children who might otherwise not be able to afford them, or who found the walk to school laden with books too onerous
School in the Cloud is another example, educating children remotely using the power of the “Granny Cloud”-retired individuals who have time to spend educating children over video link ups
MPesa in Kenya enables users without bank accounts to save and transfer money, reducing their reliance on a cash economy and giving users the ability to immediately send or withdraw money at times of need
So there are many great examples around the world of where the simples and most accessible technologies have made a very real difference, yet we seem to have been slower in our own society to tackle the everyday challenges and frustrations that arise in our most underprivileged communities
These challenges are all too real, yet there has been limited investment or imagination in technological solutions to the challenge
Indeed, technology currently looks more foe than friend to those in low income populations
The robots are coming
And the impact of the robots is predicted to be felt most acutely in lower income professions
So significant is the threat, that Bill Gates has proposed that these job grabbing robots must pay tax
While Elon Musk has proposed a universal basic income
So somehow, in this climate, we must make technology a force for hope, not simply a force for change
We talk a lot about disruption. Most people dislike change, never mind disruption.
But rather than scoff at the luddites, it is important we build a more inclusive technological future
Not simply because it’s a nice thing to do
Or because we fear a backlash against technology and a return to the days of the abacus-although certainly we have seen significant backlash against the tech giants in recent months
But because believing in technology means believing in the future, not a return to the past
Dynamic mobile credit is available elsewhere in the world-fruit and vegetable sellers in Kenya are able to borrow money, trade and repay their loans in real time, using only their phones. Surely we should be able to build the same flexibility around critical benefits or emergency payments.
The rise of the marketplace has been one of the dominant tech trends of recent years
There are all kinds of questions about the ethics and sustainability of the gig economy-Rachel Botsman, one of the biggest champions of the sharing economy gave an excellent and thought provoking interview recently where she challenged the rise of centralisation, or virtual monopolies in these sectors
But at their heart, these marketplace businesses have some characteristics in common which should help us solve more pressing problems
This is something my friends at Made by Many put together-it’s called Pitch Deck and essentially you shuffle the deck and match a start up with a sector to see what product or service ideas it triggers-it might throw up a Netflix for shoes or an AirBNB for cars.
So how can we apply a similar approach to public sector or societal problems?
What would happen if we developed an Uber for healthcare?
It might look a bit like Heal-an app available in the US which summons a doctor much as we summon a cab today. Clearly that wouldn’t work within our NHS system but how about a system that pooled appointments across local surgeries and enable users to identify the soonest appointment close to them using an app that dynamically updated to reflect cancellations?
What would happen if we took the Task Rabbit principle and applied it to education?
The result might be something like School in the Cloud, a service that leverages the “Granny Cloud” to provide remote education
How about if we crossed Tinder with something like the NCT?
The Mush app-or Peanut, a US equivalent-does just that, matching new mums with other local mums with children of a similar age
In a bid to service our on demand economy, there is a danger we progressively strip away worker’s rights in the interest of instant gratification.
Instead perhaps we might ask ourselves how traditional infrastructure and traditional roles can be repurposed- meeting the needs of the on demand economy in a different way. Pass my Parcel, a venture from Smiths News, works with independent local stores to facilitate same day delivery on behalf of Amazon. Retailers receive a small fee for each parcel collected, and increased footfall in store while Amazon receive an increased footprint for same day delivery services. New technology leveraging traditional infrastructure.
It’s also worth thinking about how new economy skills will be repositioned for the future-in a provocative piece Wired magazine question whether coding is in fact the next blue collar industry
Simplicity is of course key
The Money box app and Chime account are two nice examples; both try to automate saving and investment by rounding purchases up and investing the differential
But simplicity alone is not enough
To drive adoption we need not just simple and functional experiences but experiences than connect emotionally
We have known for a long times that emotional campaigns are more likely to drive responses. Les Binet and Peter Field’s seminal 2007 report (“Marketing in the Age of Accountability”) demonstrated significantly higher business restlts from emotionally-driven campaigns over the longer term.
And the failure of facts alone to convince has never been more apparent.
So it’s clear we need to engage emotionally not just rationally
In the past its been tempting to use telly to deliver the big emotional promise and assume other aspects of the brand can be relatively functional
But as more time is spent online, and as we seek to convince people that technology is a force for hope, I believe we need to start to think about Emotional Experience Design.
It is no longer enough to ask ourselves “Does it work?” we must ask ourselves “How does it feel?” Brand values and emotions must infuse every aspect of how a digital service behaves, taps and swipes
There are three key aspects to Emotional Experience design for me
Context Community Craft
One of the early victims of automation-via adtech-has been context, the ability to know when and where our advertising is being displayed. The irony is that used correctly adtech should offer us a greater and more sophisticated ability to understand and respond to context than ever before, not simply knowing where our messages are placed but understanding how our users are feeling and which messages are most relevant in that moment.
There is nothing more human or more emotionally powerful than feeling heard and understood. This is what a true understanding of context can achieve. Online a host of real time data signals-mood, weather, location-enable us to design for serendipity, to ensure we are delivering the right message at the right moment. This is the opportunity adtech should offer us, of precision targeting delivered at scale. Not targeting a niche but targeting a moment in time or space when we are particularly responsive to a particular message-hungry, happy, sad or bored.
Community-the influence of the crowd has been one of the dominant themes in marketing theory for the last decade, sparked by the advent of social media. Much has been written on the extent to which our actions are shaped by social learning, or as Mark Earls and team put it, our tendency to “have what she’s having”. Social learning is of course at the heart of many of the all consuming online platforms we use today, from Amazon’s recommendation engine to Ebay’s seller ratings system. Facebook have built an entire revenue model on delivering social proof at scale. As consumers, we have developed an ability to read and process these social cues in an almost unconscious (or low level) way online as well as offline.
Craft is in part about the micro interactions that make using an service delightful not simply functional
Air BNB story-changed stars to hearts and deliver +30% uplift in engagement
But it also about a new kind of craft that understands how to infuse the new technologies at our disposal with warmth and humanity
Technology is becoming increasingly human and intuitive as interfaces change and adapt beyond screen and type based interactions
The challenge is to make these more human interfaces serve the populations most in need
This is a robot lawyer designed to help refugees seek asylum-a bot designed by the same Stanford student whose Do Not Pay bot overturned more than 160,000 parking fines
Flattr is a virtual tip jar powered by Bitcoin-bringing simple offline behaviour into the online space
In summary-my plea is that we make technology a force for good, for all
This isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s an imperative if we want to move towards a less polarised society
When we feel included we feel hopeful
When we feel hopeful we feel able to include others
So it’s time we all remembered this really is for everyone
The Imperative of Hope: Technology as a force for good
The imperative of hope:
Technology as a force for good
22nd March 2017
+16 million Britons have > £100 in savings
+1 million needed an emergency food bank referral in 2016
2.1 million were hit with large, late energy bills in the year 2015-2016
14.2 million waited a week for a GP appointment or did not
get an appointment at all
1.5 million are “unbanked”
“47% of US jobs could be automated within
the next two decades”
University of Oxford
“15m UK jobs could be automated”
Andy Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England
1 2 3 4
1. Systems Engineering
+1 million Britons needed an
emergency food bank referral in 2016
At least 30% of those cases arise due
to systems or payment failures:
Benefit delays 29.54%
Delayed wages 1.14%
Source: Trussell Trust
Payment should not be a barrier in 2017
Mobile micro credit widely available in developing economies
Fintech companies and social platforms offering payment by text or messenger app
Bitcoin enabling micro transfers without charges
Up to 1/3 of mobile credit loans in Kenya are made between 3 and 5 am
Most are paid back with 24 hours
This peak in traffic is driven by fruit and vegetable sellers who
use the loan to buy wholesale, trade all day, then repay the loan at night
Dynamic mobile credit
3. Embrace legacy skills (and reframe new
“What if the next big blue-collar job category is
already here—and it’s programming? What if
we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy
affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a
Source: Clive Thompson, Wired magazine,
The Next Big Blue Collar Job is Coding
4. Infuse services with Emotion
We are all familiar with the imperative to build effortless, frictionless
This is of course particularly important in building services for those who
might feel excluded by today’s technological landscape
Source: The Guardian
Rational claims are limited in their appeal
And can even backfire
In a 2011 study parents anxious about the link between vaccines
and autism were shown information debunking the myth
Despite this, parents already vary of vaccines were less likely, not
more, to vaccinate their children after being exposed to the facts
This is known as the “backfire effect”
Source: Professors Brenda Nyhan and Jason Reifler, University of Dartmouth