Thursday 23 January 2020

Irish firms follow the 'tech for good' trend

'Social media incumbents face scrutiny over the spread of fake news, hate speech and political interference on their platforms, with 'deep fake' technology adding further sophistication to these threats' (stock photo)
'Social media incumbents face scrutiny over the spread of fake news, hate speech and political interference on their platforms, with 'deep fake' technology adding further sophistication to these threats' (stock photo)

Oran Bambrick

If you attend any tech event in the Silicon Valley, you won't last 10 minutes without hearing an entrepreneur claiming their technology is 'changing the world through reduced thread switching latency' or 'making the world a better place through seamless fabless semiconductors'. No pitch is complete without making bold claims, reflecting a holistic Californian mindset that 'we are making the world a better place', no matter how tenuous the case may be.

While there is no debate that technology has been a locomotive of change in every aspect of our lives, the question that has become more prominent in recent years remains: is tech changing our lives for the better?

This is the existential quagmire that the tech industry is currently facing and cannot ignore any longer.

A growing millennial and Gen Z employee and consumer base are holding it to a higher standard of ethical accountability than ever before.

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And for good reason. Albeit unintentional and unforeseen, there have been catastrophic by-products of some of Silicon Valley's giants on our society.

Social media incumbents face scrutiny over the spread of fake news, hate speech and political interference on their platforms, with 'deep fake' technology adding further sophistication to these threats.

Inclusion and diversity are also hurdles for an industry that has been historically 'male and pale', as employees and consumers seek action to add diverse voices and backgrounds into tech, trying to ensure that AI doesn't mimic the unconscious biases of a homogeneous industry.

But technology itself has a neutral valence. It isn't trying to undermine our democracies, nor is it actively trying to create a catalyst for societal inclusion.

For all the bad press tech gets, there are many innovating for a better society, and there is a group of Irish tech companies at the forefront of using tech for good.

NewsWhip works with some of the world's biggest brands and media outlets to help them track the spread and impact of a news story.

The Dublin-founded company also uses this tech to support NGOs and news organisations to identify the spread of fake news.

In a similar vein, Logograb has reimagined how its AI tool, which identifies logos in images online, can help clamp down on goods uploaded to reseller sites that feature hate symbols like swastikas. Aid:Tech is leveraging blockchain technology to improve transparency and dissemination of humanitarian aid, while Umba is driving financial inclusion to those marginalised in east Africa. The Irish startup is partnering with MyDawa in Kenya, allowing patients without formal bank accounts to access affordable medicine on credit.

SoapBox Labs is a leader in voice technology for kids and has partnered with Microsoft, in an effort to combat the growing children's literacy crisis.

Change Donations is changing the world with pocket change; its easy-to-use tech rounds up your everyday credit or debit purchases to the next euro and donates your spare change to a charity partner.

Firms like Connect the Dots, Poppulo and WorkHuman offer solutions at the intersection of innovation and inclusion.

Connect the Dots' platform is helping organisations to co-design impactful events with their stakeholders, and enable inclusive decision-making, from public spaces to internal company programming.

The likes of Nestle and Honda are using Poppulo's internal communication tools to ensure that their employees are part of the companies' conversations across departments.

WorkHuman does just that - make work human. The firm's social recognition and continuous performance management platform is being used by the likes of LinkedIn and P&G, energising their culture and celebrating people.

Recently, Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with Deloitte Digital, hosted its first-ever Tech for Good event in New York, featuring panellists from tech leaders such as Samsung, Facebook and many of these Irish companies mentioned.

From stopping the spread of fake news and hate speech, to using innovation as a catalyst for inclusion, Irish tech is leading the charge in an emerging and conscious trend of building 'tech for good'.

Oran Bambrick is senior market adviser for Enterprise Ireland in North America

Sunday Indo Business

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