Today, I attended the first day of the Social Good Summit (September 27 – 28, 2015), joining global leaders and grassroots activists (including 14 other Atlas Corps fellows) in a conversation examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Coinciding with the launch of the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs), discussions follow the theme #2030NOW, asking the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” At the center of this vision is the power of technology to unlock the potential of all of us as global citizens to shape the future we wish to see.
The inclusive process by which the United Nations and various partners have engaged the world in the development and future implementation of the SDGs is a great example of how significantly our development agenda has evolved since the Millennium Development Goals were developed. We see how technology has offered a new paradigm for social change, providing inclusive global platforms for civic engagement, amplifying people’s voices and enabling social initiatives to have a more immediate impact on the ground. Technology has broadened avenues for discourse on critical social issues, democratizing our ability to engage and mobilize others. It also offers new avenues to provide creative and efficient solutions to chronic social and economic problems — huddled around the 17 SDGs and beyond.
As Atlas Corps enabled my participation in this Summit, I have been reflecting upon what I learned about technology for social change as an Atlas Corps fellow in Bogota, Colombia from 2009-2010. During my time serving with the non-profit Give to Colombia, I remember marveling at how the use of mobile devises enabled small shopkeepers to gain access to financial tools and track and control their business—building the local economy. More recently, as Program Officer with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, I observed the power of global advocacy as women peacebuilders from India to Uganda united online to raise their voices together around urgent issues. This included everything from demanding women’s participation in the South Sudanese peace process to raising funds to aid victims of the earthquake in Nepal. Today, as an Atlas Corps executive board member, I am encouraged by how our fellows and alumni are leveraging social media to exchange ideas, resources and support to our shared causes in every way possible. The possibilities for the social impact we can collectively create is only as limited by our imagination, so I encourage us all to dream bigger!
Not only is access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) key to fostering innovative social solutions; it is also a basic human right, and key to the women’s rights movement. With only 40% of the world’s population having access to the Internet—a majority of them women, a serious gender divide exists when it comes to technological access, literacy, and influence. Ensuring women’s access to and competencies with ICTs will not only protect women’s rights, but also maximize the impact of the global technology revolution through their meaningful participation. People are joking now that internet connectivity should be a the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Considering that the internet is the prime source of access to people, ideas, information and resources, there’s a great deal of truth in that statement.
At Day 1 of the Social Good Summit, I learned that within the next five years, 5 billion new people will come on-line. We can only imagine the disruptive impact (hopefully more good than bad), that will take place as more people than ever have access to online platforms to engage in social and political activism. As we envision #2030NOW, it really is up to all of us to help shape the direction of this massive movement—using our voices to raise the issues that matter most to us. It’s also up to us to help amplify the voices of others in all corners of the world.The Social Good Summit, with 91 countries participating to discuss implementation of the SDGs over the next 15 years, is a great platform and model to do just that.