How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
Technological advancement is a constant and connectivity is growing fast. At 7.2 billion, there are more mobile connections than people on the planet and 30 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet. This offers a huge opportunity to use digital as a tool to address long-standing issues in inequality and disadvantage. Through consulting, speaking and writing, I advise governments, international organisations and industry on how technology can be harnessed to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In November 2019, we convened the first “Digital Impact Summit” in London. The event brought together people from technology, government, industry, NGOs, start ups, investors, academics and students into a highly engaged opportunity to learn, network and be inspired about the opportunity for digital transformation and social impact. This event brought disparate ecosystems together to discuss how to achieve social transformation. The Summit covered a wide range of sectors including health care, humanitarian, financial inclusion, and the climate crisis.
A key theme of the Summit was the need to rethink the economic system – our economic system is not designed to value society and environment; it values economic growth. However, millennial investors are now demanding change. 67 percent of millennials believe investments “are a way to express social, political and environmental value” and 90 percent of millennials want to direct their allocations to responsible investments in the next five years.
Other key themes were the need to rethink models – new business models, new development models, new health models, new management models; and rethink transformation: no longer simply business transformation or digital transformation. Instead, transformation is for profit with purpose, and must include a social purpose element; and build Inclusiveness, ethics and good practice ‘by design’ – consumers and investors demand these.
Finally, the need to rethink global governance models for technologies that span multiple jurisdictions. It was clear from this exciting and engaging discussion that much more needs to be done to build a new ecosystem and to share the stories.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
If we are to be successful in envisioning people on the power of technology for social benefit, we need to be able to tell the stories. Today’s audience is looking to relate and engage via storytelling.
In November at the Digital Impact Summit, we announced a partnership with the New York-based Digital Asset Report to launch The Impact television and social media platform. The Impact will be global and focus on bringing stories on how digital technologies and digital assets are creating social impact and accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals globally. It is a new initiative that responds to the demands of millennial investors to ensure that their investments are having an impact on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG).
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
I have been incredibly fortunate in my career and I believe in giving back. The two things that give me the greatest satisfaction are doing something tangible that improves people’s lives, like supporting impact focussed start-ups in emerging economies, and mentoring young people and helping them through their career trajectories and to achieve their dreams. I am especially passionate about helping young women negotiate careers and families and be successful at both.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to fail, be bold and do it now.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?
Internet philanthropy really interests me. The increase in mobile and internet connectivity brings immense opportunities for peer to peer giving. The penetration growth of all key and emerging social media platforms creates opportunities for greater reach and awareness; greater engagement; funding of projects; and conversions towards calls to action. Social Ventures can utilize their network and community to develop the platform for a global effort to purposefully curate and shape a digital influencing strategy as a driver of good.
Internet philanthropy in China is particularly fascinating in this regard. China is looking at how to tap into its economic development to expand its non-profit sector and philanthropic sector. Levels of personal and corporate wealth in China are rising fast and many of the new wealthy are setting up private foundations.
Corporate and individual donations to philanthropic causes is growing annually. A prime example is Tencent Charity, the company’s mobile and desktop donation site, which has become one of the world’s busiest of its kind. To date, some 100 million users have donated 1.7 billion yuan (US $250 million) an average of only 17 yuan (US $2.50) each. Much of that was raised last September during Tencent’s online charity event, during which 6.8 million users donated 300 million yuan (US $44 million). The internet allows giving markets to emerge, where individual consumers can choose to donate minuscule amounts of money, or rewards points to the beneficiary of their choice.
What are your priorities for 2020?
Continue to be a communication channel and a bridge for the power of digital technologies to advance social impact; and build the digital impact ecosystem; and influence capital into environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
To find the real stories – in poor and disadvantaged communities, and difficult settings where technology is solving real problems – and bring them to a wider audience, so that we can increase government and private sector and investor support into projects that benefit people and the planet.
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
A young woman, who had attended our London social impact Hackathon in July 2018, came back to our Women in Blockchain Meetup in November 2019, just to tell us that the experience of participating in the hackathon had changed her life, and that her team had gone on and won competitions and raised capital. She had come to say thank you. That was very gratifying.