Community+Technology=Positive Social Change | Ellen Ward & Máirín Murray | TEDxUniversityofLimerick



[Applause] raise your hands if you believe the technology is taking us in the wrong direction okay and keep your hands in the air if you wish this wasn't the case okay grace it looks like a lot of you are in the right place because today we're going to be talking about turning the tides around and using technology as a force for good I come from outside a tiny village in County dying called Bali Guyon there are Bali gongs all over Ireland Bali gone means Bali and Gowan the time of the blacksmith blacksmiths used what is arguably the first technology ever invented which was iron they were the techies the tool makers of their day and they did make weapons of war they made Spears and and daggers and swords but here's the thing they also made applies to help your crops they made vassals to carry water they made grits to keep our homes warm they need the tools to sustain life that was the Iron Age and here we are now in the digital age and the same principles apply technology can be used for good or for bad it's up to us to shape it and make sure that it has a positive impact some blacksmith could have been considered the tech for good pioneers of their day and way back in the Iron Age the big issues of the time we're sustaining the life of the local village the local community whereas my or challenges are on a global scale they're complicated and it's easy to get overwhelmed I take your pick C's filling up with plastic a shortage of doctors globally climate crisis but big problems are also really motivating as you asked president John F Kennedy said they wanted to go to the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard so big challenges they're exciting they're scary even and they'd give us an opportunity for incredible innovation and learning as the protesters science as the fees are rising and so are we people are waking up we get at my this widespread acceptance of the problems that we're facing and the language is also catching up The Guardian is now calling climate change a climate emergency Greta fin Berg says that we need to get angry and to transform that anger into action make no mistake we are living in revolutionary times the status quo is not an option but but there needs to be more than taking to the streets how do we harness this energy this revolutionary zeal into something practical living today it's not hard to find a purpose to find a way and people we are natural problem solvers what makes us human is our ability to make tools and fix things this is where technology comes in technology gives us a practical way to have positive impact digital technology is so powerful in terms of its ability to connect us globally to scale and to automate there is so much potential the planet is literally a wash with techies in Ireland there are a hundred thousand people working for tech companies globally we have millions of software engineers imagine if we could focus these technical skills this knowledge to work on and to address the problems and issues that really matter Steve Jobs said that were here to put a dent in the universe why else even be here he got it but it's a basic human need to want to have impact and the tech enables this a few years ago we thought of the finders of tech companies we thought of him like rock stars they were like gods and they did have a really big impact but they've also had a very negative impact we've all seen the news stories it's not enough to have a stated positive purpose for a tech product we need to be alert and wise to unintended negative consequences and to address these as a priority not everybody needs to be a coder it is important though to be tech literate to be tech aware to know the potential of technology so that we can tap into it even if we're not hands-on making the tools ourselves I come from Carradine it's near Strangford law it's a really really beautiful part of the world near my home are the remains of the ancient monastery of saint mahi on the island of nand hram the monks there were world innovators in the seventh century they find a way to harness the power of tides and currents archeologists have confirmed that NAND room is the site of the first water tidal mill in the world we can use this as a clue in terms of how we can harness technology for good monasteries were collectives they were communities of learning and doing and sometimes brewing as well and they were focused on local solutions and they shared the knowledge through global networks their focus was on the social good today in a similar way there tech4good communities popping up all over the world tech4good it's more than a hashtag it's a global grassroots movement there's no rulebook or manual to follow we don't have all the answers but we do know that it's about working and learning from each other in community it's by building a collective intelligence myself and Alan we and find a tech4good in Dublin over two years ago and we're really pride to be part of this movement tech4good and Dublin has over 1500 members for activists techies non-techies people from every different walk of life well seeing is believing so Elam is going to show you some powerful examples of tech4good and in action thank you so before I share our examples today I just wanted to tell you very briefly how Maureen and I ended up here today we met little over two years ago on Twitter we shared an interest in using technology to solve social problems but we come from different backgrounds ourselves I work in international development and Maureen works in digital media so we met for a coffee and had a chat and decided that we felt Dublin had all the perfect ingredients to explore tech4good so we began by running free events showcasing projects with purpose and sharing digital skills our own enthusiasm was shared by the people who came along in their hundreds to learn share their own ideas and get involved so here are three examples of some of the projects happening in Dublin today we've probably all borrowed some clothes from someone at some point in their lives a suit for a wedding a jumper if we're cold or in costume for a school play but we might not realize the power of that simple act to help save the planet until recently I didn't know what fast fashion was I didn't realize that fashion contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions or that it takes two thousand seven hundred gallons of water to produce the cotton needed for one t-shirt and yet clothes are sold so cheaply that we buy them and throw them away just as easily the average American throws away 36 kilograms of clothes per year and 80% of textiles will end up incinerated or in landfill treating clothes as disposable is damaging our planet to people who came up with a great solution to this Aisling in Aoife they love fashion but didn't want to feel guilty every time they bought something new as students they survived on a tight budget but wanted to look fabulous their parties and formal events so they began with an idea to have swap shops in the university but soon realized people actually wanted to lend and return items to each other so that became the plan and technology allowed them to do this in a simple and scalable way over the next few years they built the new wardrobe an app which allows you to find the perfect outfit and borrow it with agreed terms by recirculating clothes we can reduce our reliance on fast fashion and we can live a little bit more consciously by buying less and sharing more back to those big problems we talked about Dublin is currently in the middle of a homelessness crisis we have more than 10,000 people homeless and many families among them with more than 3,700 children while we wait for new homes to be built in the suburbs there are many empty buildings in Dublin and those opportunities still need to be explored to people who tackled this problem are Philip and Aoife of space engages they came up with a map based app called reusing Dublin which allows people to find vacant or empty buildings near them and plot them on the map you simply take a photograph and add it to the app with any information you have and importantly this starts a process to discover which of those buildings can be renovated and turned back into living accommodation by a partner charity towns and cities are living things and by being involved in projects like this we can all have an impact on our doorstep it can also turn us into active citizens and active citizens can get an awful lot done when we focus on solving problems together not all technology is on our phones these days and my third example uses the Internet of Things which in non-technical terms is adding data to everyday objects it is also an example of how active citizens in this case cyclists can contribute to positive change census data shows us that 8% of Dublin commuters cycle to work and that number is increasing but a target of 25% is still a long way off like many cities Dublin was not built with cyclists in mind we have narrow streets big buses tram lines waterways and one-way systems to deal with not to mention very dark winters and lots of rain making cycling safer and easier is essential for our city to thrive in the future to people who are tackling this problem are Philip and Irene of C sense and they came up with this very small object which is an intelligent bike light it has multiple features but the main feature is when it's attached to your bike will collect data from cyclists who are moving around a city it uses sensor technology to collect information about road surface quality speed and unsafe routes it will shine more brightly when you're cycling through an unsafe route it would send you a notification if the battery is low or if your bike has moved it will even notify an emergency contact if you need help the data captured is aggregated and anonymized and shared with city planners who are working to improve cycling infrastructure and safety is one very simple but practical contribution and I think it's one of it's a very clever little gadget that we can all get behind so those are three examples there sorry there's the picture of the data moving around Dublin and the maps that can be built from the sensor data so what do all three of these ideas and all of the changemakers involved have in common well we think they share a very clear sense of purpose they understood the problem they were trying to solve their own knowledge and experience allowed them to stay focused even when the journey took them in an unexpected direction they maintained that clarity of purpose secondly they were all connected to other people they were already part of a community of cyclists or students and other people who also wanted to make a change and that was going to be important because they would be asking those communities to get involved in their projects lastly they all saw technology as a tool they could use to reach their goal they may not have been computer programmers themselves but they found help to build tools which would scale to reach many more peoples and they could ever meet in person the impact they had would not have been possible without technology active citizens are an incredible force for good when they harness the power of technology this changes what is possible ultimately for these solutions to succeed people need to care about the issues being addressed and our work with tech4good has shown us that many many people do care and want to help these were just a few examples but there are so many more projects already happening and many more still forming as ideas in people's minds tech4good is the movement for our times the big opportunity we have is to harness the power not of the water and tides like medieval Irish monks but to harness our collective intelligence our abilities or voices and to use digital technology for social good I'd ask all of you today to sign up and join the tech4good movement like modern day blacksmiths we can work together and create tools and shape tools to serve and empower our communities like together we can change our world for the better and make a positive dent on the universe thank you thank you [Applause]

2 thoughts on “Community+Technology=Positive Social Change | Ellen Ward & Máirín Murray | TEDxUniversityofLimerick”

  1. "The big opportunity we have is to harness the power…of our collective intelligence, our abilities, our voices and to use digital technology for social good." Mairin Murray. Well said and Well done ladies! Together we WILL change the world for good! <3

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