As I think about the last couple of years, hundreds of examples come to mind on the connection between technology and its potential to change lives.
My favorite example is of a girl that I have known for several years. She lived in a small village in Pakistan that was invaded by the Taliban, and at age 11 she utilized a cell phone to call a BBC reporter who wrote up a blog that would bring awareness to unknown atrocities being committed in her area, the Swat Valley. Through the Internet and social media, that blog told the world her views on girls needing to go to school but being shut in and abused. It got so much attention that a Taliban gunman shot her in October 2012.
A great mind, a phone and a blog were her weapons. She was shot for utilizing technology to encourage the world to allow girls to go to school. Now a triumphant 18 year old and a Nobel prize winner, Malala Yousafzai is changing the world through the Malala Fund, utilizing technology, social media and her will to bring peace and education to all.
My history sits at the intersection of humanitarian aid, entrepreneurship, technology and being a mom. I guess that makes me a “humanitarian, mompreneur, technologist.” Because of this, I think a lot about how technology will impact people. How will it help my children? What will be the innovations that change humanity?
Think about how technology is changing your life. Is it bringing efficiency and betterment to you, or is it leaving you in the dark? Technology is not only allowing entrepreneurs to chase the bottom line -- it is allowing them to chase a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
These days, every company, no matter what industry, is a technology company. This generation of tech entrepreneurs doesn’t think about legacy at the end -- they think about the future now. Their business plans embody the triple bottom line.
I am proud that entrepreneurs no longer run up to me and boast about the millions they are making -- they brag about the lives they are changing. If we put technology into the hands of these entrepreneurs and into other great minds, what could we be capable of achieving?
There are up to 100 billion devices in the world today. With them, we are moving information faster, which allows us to problem-solve and save lives. We are utilizing less physical infrastructure, which is better for the environment.
And it all comes back to the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. How are we utilizing technology with and for people?
A great example of this is a health-care organization called TGEN, which is focused on developing ways to diagnose cancer earlier and provide smarter treatments for patients. It is optimizing a high-performance computing infrastructure to enable researchers to analyze genetic data 370 percent faster and reduce diagnosis from 10 days to six hours, a critical time saver for children with cancer.
But I worry about those great minds we need to enable with technology. How do we ensure digital dexterity between those that do not have access or were not born in the digital age?
This month, I took my mother to buy her first tablet. She is 65 years old and a retired rancher. She made a decision that she wanted to be “more connected.” She also worries that things are getting to a point where you have to utilize technology to purchase items, pay bills and engage in normal life. A bold woman, I was surprised that she was anxious about this endeavor. Mind you, she has stared down a car dealer and bought a one-ton pickup for 30 percent less than sticker price. So we headed out to create mom 2.0.
After working with my mother for almost an hour explaining everything about her new product at rapid speed, the store employee politely turned to her and said, “Do you have any questions?” My mom simply replied, “How do you turn it on?”
This really made me think about the people who are not getting the technology they need to move into the future and embrace the triple bottom line. Who are those with great minds without access to technology?
There are 50 million refugees in the world without consistent access to technology. I have been in refugee camps and seen hundreds of kids lined up to use one computer. They visited Facebook, not to connect with their friends but to find their parents. What about those individuals living in the developing world without electricity -- the 1.5 billion people who can’t turn on a light switch much less charge a device? It is important to pause and think about these people.
As we turn to our planet, it is technology that is creating less need for physical infrastructure, opening up opportunities for cleaner energy and new ways to reduce waste.
Take for instance the groundbreaking organization, CropMobster, located in Sonoma County, Calif. Forty percent of food in the U.S goes uneaten every year. By leveraging social media, CropMobster spreads the word quickly about local food excess from any supplier, which in turn, gets healthy food to those in need, helps local businesses recover costs and prevent food waste.
Even cows are becoming high tech. Chitale Dairy in India has built a high-speed network that supports massive growth in operations. Now even milk production achieves efficiencies through network virtualization. All of these technologies are making the world a safer, more environmentally friendly place, while also monetizing sustainability.
The profit part of the plan might seem obvious, but I believe technology has taken us from job seekers to job creators. If you a have smartphone and broadband, you are in business. There are now more cell phones in the world than people, and the entire financial economy is moving onto mobile platforms. In the developing world, entrepreneurs are skipping generations of existing technology and building their entire business platforms on phones.
Using technology to be profitable is the now, but using technology to put purpose in profit is the future. How could you utilize technology for progress? Can it enable you to help your fellow man? Maybe it will remove environmental hazards from your life. Can it make you a job creator instead of a job seeker?
It is time we all look at the technology around us in a different way and think about how it can help achieve the triple bottom line.