It’s become a truism that technology is the most powerful lever that we have to change the world. As with any powerful lever, it’s up to us to actually use that power to make the world a better place. Moreover, we should aim to do the most good we can, rather than just some good.
Technology has great potential for good, both in and out of the for-profit sector. Widespread access to novel technologies can cheaply give whole populations access to capabilities that they previously did not have, or increase the efficiency of common processes.
The effects can be quite significant indeed. M-pesa, a mobile banking enterprise formed by Vodafone and Safaricom, has not only been a wildly successful business, but has radically reduced corruption and waste in Kenya’s banking system. M-pesa was only possible because of its use of mobile technology, and we should expect many more such opportunities as novel technologies spread.
However, if you decide that you do want to start a technology project for good, there are very few resources available to help you evaluate the social impact of your ideas, or to provide suggestions. As a result, a great deal of effort is wasted and many opportunities are neglected. Lacking the information and tools to make these decisions well, founders and firms may end up backing projects that have unknown or limited impact, or not even attempting to quantify impact at all.
At a high level, our goal is to answer the question “How can we do as much good as possible with technology?”. Concretely, we plan to attack the problem by providing resources for individuals and firms trying to evaluate the impact of technology projects. This will help altruistic founders trying to pick good target areas, as well as existing enterprises that want to measure and refine their efforts.
Concretely, we’ll be starting by interviewing experts and creating case studies of existing high-impact technology projects, and in the long term we hope to provide a guide to assessing the impact of your own projects.
What do we mean by “technology”?
By “technology” we mean to include both software and more directly “physical” technology, as well as business and enterprises that make large use of technologies that have become recently available.
We’re likely to be focussing on software in the short term, as that is our area of expertise, but in principle we’d like to include other areas of technical innovation.
Why should you care?
If you’re working in technology and interested in doing the most good that you can with your work, then we hope that we may be able to help you make achieve that goal in the future.
If you’re already working on a project that you think has a positive social impact, then please contact us, as we’d love to talk to you.