As we approach the end of the year, reflecting on 2019 has begun. Recently, I was asked “What new form of technology has most helped the people you work with in the last year?”
This is hard question to answer. I don’t think there is any ‘new‘ technology in the past 12 months that has helped those we work with. I think there is a lot of ‘old’ technology that continues to help them. Radio, SMS, mobile money, and ‘simple/dumb phones’ are still likely the aspects of technology that help those we work with the most.
I suspected those asking the question were seeking out shiny toys, trendy things to drive clicks and attention. Things like biometrics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital identity and so on. However, none of those come anywhere close to helping the most vulnerable like radio, SMS and mobile money. And quite frankly, I’m not convinced that any of these ‘shiny toys’ have helped the people we seek to serve. Potentially, in the future, they will, but not now.
And then to move even further from the shiny toys. In the past 12 months, due to some unfortunate events, I think there is a greater awareness of the potential ‘harm’ our use of technology and data brings to those we work with.
Therefore, I think there is a growing awareness of the rights of those we work with, of the bias that all technology inherently comes with, of challenges of the 4 types of illiteracy (linguistic, digital, data, and identity) that many of our own staff and those within the communities have. While this is not technology per se, it is the human side of technology. It is the single most important and impactful thing we can do to help those we work with.
How would you answer the question?