28/7/2016 - 11:00 am

Eye on Earth | Using Data for Social Impact

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What if data was open-sourced? What if data could be used for good? How can we create a better world through sharing knowledge and information? Can data be used for lifting people out of poverty, helping communities prepare for natural disasters or simply enhancing our ability to make day-to-day choices? There are many changemakers, social innovators, designers, technology experts, civil scientists and global citizens all over the world who are asking these questions.

Shared Awareness

Wearable and mobile devices are creating a shared awareness. They are able to capture and broadcast contextually relevant information at key moments to enable a seamless flow of communication between people. A great example of this is Mimo Baby

The Mimo Baby Monitor is a devise designed to put parents at ease by providing them with a constant stream of data about their child. It works via a series of sensors embedded in an infant bodysuit, called the Kimono. The bodysuit monitors the baby’s respiration, skin temperature, body position and activity pattern. All of this information is then relayed to the parents via mobile device and a wifi connected mug.

The Mimo Baby Monitor is giving parents an easy and intuitive way to track their baby’s health. It provides a simple and accessible way for parents to regularly monitor the condition of their children.

What if the Mimo Baby Monitor could be given to mothers in communities that suffer from abnormally high rates of infant death syndrome, like my own?

Technology and innovation are crucial to the development of the social impact sector.

As the market for wearable technology grows, it is expanding beyond devices aimed at wealthy consumers, to supporting the needs and aspirations of the nearly one billion people around the world living in poverty.

Social Impact

Technology is primed to drive the next wave of development for social impact by opening up new channels for connecting the hardest to reach services, new ways for citizens to have their voices heard and new opportunities for civic engagement in government processes. We now have an opportunity to explore the potential applications of technology, wearables and open source data in the developing world. 

There is an untapped market in creating innovations for people in developing countries why truly need access to information, opportunity and choice. Makers, engineers, do-gooders, computer scientists and innovators all over the world are creating things that are not only nice o have, but that people need. 

Technology and innovation are crucial to the development of the social impact sector. Imagine a world where wearable devices could transmit data about public water safety transportation logistics or personal health. If we can use a fitbit to track our daily fitness levels, the same data could also be sent to health professionals in developing countries where people don’t regularly have access to medical care.

Having access to important data could potential solve a number of social problems in the areas of health, poverty, transportation and disaster relief. Technology can be used to fuel social innovation. 

Sustainability

Technology has opened up whole new worlds for humanity. It has drastically changed the way we live our everyday lives. It has changed the way we connect with one another, the way we work, the way we learn and the way we buy things.

Digital technology is even changing the way that we interact with food. This Future of Food investigates how data can change the way that we eat.

To keep up with the pace of technological advancements, the Carlo Ratti Associati firm has created the supermarket of the future, a six-month exhibition at Expo Milano. The Future Food District. It explores how technology, innovation and creativity relate to food and diet.

This project turns the supermarket into a learning space. It educates consumers about the origins and characteristics of their food while promoting better, healthier and more informed shopping habits.

Every product has a precise story to tell,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati. “Today, this information reaches the consumer in a fragmented way. But in the near future, we will be able to discover everything there is to know about the apple we are looking at: the tree it grew on, the CO2 it produced, the chemical treatments it received, and its journey to the supermarket shelf.” 

This project is just one of many ways innovators are using technology change the way that people make choices. Having access to relevant information can influence our buying choices and dramatically impact what people consume. This has the potential to promote healthier lifestyles and increase the sales of eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable products. 

Having open access to data and technology within the social innovation sector can drastically impact our lives, our environment, and the human rights of all people.

We are all crucial to shaping a sustainable future. Just as the economy needs knowledge to grow, society needs knowledge to learn and the environment needs knowledge to survive. Together, we can give sustainability a voice.

Read 1403 times Last modified on 3/8/2016 - 1:58 pm
Joi M Sears

Joi M. Sears is a creative strategist, freelance journalist and social entrepreneur. She is the founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in designing sustainable products, creative platforms and innovative experiences for the greater social good.

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