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01st Nov 2019

‘Tech for Good’, the global campaign working for positive social change

Taryn de Vere

Tech for Good

A global movement called Tech For Good is bringing people together to look at how technology can create positive change in the world.

Co-founder of Dublin’s Tech For Good chapter, Máirín Murray spoke with Her about why Ireland needs Tech For Good.

“Digital‌ ‌technology‌ ‌is‌ ‌so‌ ‌powerful‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌ignore‌ ‌it‌ ‌or‌ ‌wish‌ ‌it‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌exist,‌ ‌‘Tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good’‌ ‌is‌ ‌about‌ ‌finding‌ ‌ways‌ ‌to‌ ‌use‌ ‌it‌ ‌to‌ ‌improve‌ ‌our‌ ‌world.‌

‌”It’s‌ ‌so‌ ‌powerful‌ ‌in‌ ‌terms‌ ‌of‌ ‌its‌ ‌ability‌ ‌to‌ ‌connect‌ ‌us‌ ‌globally,‌ ‌to‌ ‌scale,‌ ‌to‌ ‌automate‌, ‌to‌ ‌share,‌ ‌I‌ ‌believe‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌harness‌ ‌it.‌”

Máirín acknowledges that people have legitimate concerns about the impact of technology in today’s world, “whether‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌social‌ ‌media‌ ‌being‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌promote‌ ‌extreme‌ ‌views‌ ‌and‌‌ ‌democracy‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌invasion‌ ‌of‌ ‌privacy‌ ‌caused‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌use‌ ‌of‌ ‌facial‌ ‌recognition‌ ‌cameras‌ ‌in‌ ‌our‌ ‌cities.‌”

However, technology has so many positive elements and can be used to further social change, as demonstrated by three American cities in the fight against homelessness.

Máirín describes Tech For Good as being about people‌ ‌sharing‌ ‌ideas and learning‌ ‌together‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌focus‌ ‌on‌ ‌positive‌ ‌social‌ ‌impact‌, instead of profit.‌

Explaining the origin of “Tech for Good”, Máirín said:

“We‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌need‌ ‌a‌ ‌‘Libraries‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good’‌ ‌or‌ ‌‘‌ ‌Books‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good’‌ ‌movement‌ ‌as‌ ‌these‌ don’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌the‌ ‌negative‌ ‌connotation‌ ‌of‌ ‌technology.‌”

After working as a BBC producer in London and Belfast, Máirín returned‌ ‌to‌ ‌Dublin,‌ ‌where she set up a tech company‌, Digital‌ ‌Doddle‌.

“I‌ ‌was‌ ‌keen‌ ‌to‌ ‌contribute‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌tech‌ ‌community‌ ‌here‌ ‌and‌ ‌also‌ ‌to‌ find‌ ‌my‌ ‌tribe‌ ‌-‌ ‌other‌ ‌people‌ ‌enthusiastic‌ ‌and‌ ‌committed‌ ‌to‌ ‌use‌ ‌technology‌ ‌to‌ ‌support‌ ‌social‌ ‌change.‌ ‌

“On‌ ‌Twitter,‌ ‌I‌ ‌discovered‌ ‌that‌ ‌‘tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌good’‌ ‌meetups‌ ‌were‌ ‌taking‌ ‌place‌ ‌globally‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌met‌ ‌my‌ ‌Tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good‌ ‌Dublin‌ ‌co-founder‌ ‌Ellen‌ ‌Ward.‌”

Now Dublin Tech For Good is‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌of‌ ‌over‌ ‌1,500‌ ‌makers,‌ ‌activists‌ ‌and‌ ‌techies‌. Máirín says her role these days is, “connecting,‌ ‌hosting and‌ ‌cheer‌-leading.‌”

“We‌ ‌host‌ events‌ ‌and‌ ‌workshops‌ ‌which‌ ‌offer‌ ‌a‌ ‌platform‌ ‌to‌ ‌demo‌ ‌and‌showcase‌ ‌‘tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌good’‌ ‌products‌ ‌but‌ ‌really‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌important‌ ‌thing‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌nurture‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌of‌ ‌support‌ ‌and‌ ‌solidarity.‌”

One of the projects created by some of the Dublin Tech For Good group is a Language App,‌ ‌created‌ ‌by‌ the ‌Inboarding‌ start-up‌ ‌team.‌

“This‌ ‌is‌ ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌fantastic‌ ‌example‌ ‌of‌ Tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good‌ ‌in‌ ‌action‌ ‌and promotes‌ ‌inclusion‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌really‌ ‌practical‌ ‌way‌ ‌by‌ ‌helping‌ ‌us‌ ‌to‌ start‌ ‌conversations‌ ‌using‌ ‌Irish‌ ‌Sign‌ ‌Language.‌”

Máirín recently helped organise the Limerick Climathon‌ ‌which‌ ‌bought people together ‌to‌ ‌‌find‌ solutions‌ ‌for‌ ‌climate‌ ‌challenges.‌

“Many‌ ‌people‌ ‌are‌ ‌now‌ ‌waking‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌for‌ ‌example‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌climate‌ emergency‌ ‌‌but‌ ‌there‌ ‌needs‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌taking‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌street.‌ ‌This‌ ‌is‌ ‌where‌ ‌technology‌ comes‌ ‌in.‌ ‌It‌ ‌provides‌ ‌us‌ ‌with‌ ‌practical‌ ‌ways‌ ‌to‌ ‌make a‌ ‌positive‌ ‌impact.‌”

Recently, Máirín and Tech For Good co-founder Ellen‌ ‌Ward delivered a TED talk on Tech For Good, explaining their plans for the Dublin contingent.

One of the success stories they talked about was The Nu Wardrobe, an app that aims to solve the problem of fast fashion, which causes ten percent of all global carbon emissions.

The app allows people to borrow clothes from each other described as, “a social network to share clothes with people in your local community and extend the life cycle of our wardrobes.”

The Nu Wardrobe went from Trinity students sharing ball gowns in 2014 to securing £215k in pre-seed funding in 2019. It’s now established in several countries.

Máirín and Ellen are delighted with the success of the various Dublin Tech For Good ventures and they are keen to support people hoping to set up their own regional groups.

Tech For Good is open to all, says Máirín.

“Everyone‌ ‌can‌ ‌get‌ ‌involved‌ ‌with‌ ‌‘Tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌Good’‌ ‌-‌ ‌you‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ be ‌a‌ ‌techie.‌ We‌ ‌need‌ ‌everyone’s‌ ‌voices‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌table‌ ‌and‌ ‌people‌ ‌who‌ ‌have‌ ‌experience‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌real‌ ‌issue‌ ‌or‌ ‌challenge‌ ‌can‌ ‌provide‌ ‌valuable‌ ‌insights‌ ‌and‌ ‌keep‌ ‌it‌ ‌real.‌”‌

To find out more or attend the next Tech for Good Dublin meet-up, you can contact Máirín here.