Can we harness the transformational power of emerging technology for good?

Can we harness the transformational power of emerging technology for good?



Much has been said on the harms that emerging technologies can and do bring. And rightly so — we have seen many instances where poorly designed or maliciously used technologies have caused harm, undermined values such as democracy and deepened inequalities, vulnerability and marginalisation.

More often than not, we might feel that we are not in control when it comes to the technology around us. Technology might feel like a tool shaped by and for the intentions of its designers, be they government or private companies, at the expense of users.

But what if we could explore new and different ways to better engage with and harness the power of technology for good? What if there were other ways for us to have a better relationship with emerging technologies?

These are some of the questions we are exploring at Humanitech, a global think + do tank that seeks to progress humanitarian and social outcomes through the use of new and emerging technology such as blockchain, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics. An initiative of the Australian Red Cross, Humanitech proposes a new approach to harnessing the power of technology for good — by placing humanity at the centre and in control. We are also excited to be partnering with Telstra Foundation on this initiative, under our shared vision of ethical and sustainable technological design.

We believe that emerging technologies can help us tackle some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. We have already seen examples of the transformational power of technology — better access to help when it’s needed, increased civic and social participation, greater self-agency for those who are vulnerable, amplifying the voices of under-represented communities, documenting the undocumented, to name a few.

Working across our three streams of work; Humanitech Lab, Research & Insights and Advocacy & Influence, we are creating an innovative and entrepreneurial environment in which to collaborate in order to develop and amplify solutions with the greatest potential for social impact, develop unique insights into the social implications of frontier technologies, and influence so that technology serves humanity by putting the needs of people at the centre.

Humanitech’s mission is to make sure that people and communities have the opportunity to inform and form new technologies. We also know this is not easy and will require new ways of thinking and working because technology can only be better and more equitable if there are radically different approaches to who designs it, builds it, invests in it and ultimately uses it. Our values which include, placing humanity at the centre, elevating lived experiences, knowledge-sharing, bringing on diverse perspectives and deep collaboration across sectors, are central to exploring these new approaches, because this means that our tech work is actually focused on people and communities, and their lived experiences and values.

At Humanitech, we value experimenting and continuously learning by doing. We will explore and implement new ways of being, engaging and working with technology. We will aim to share knowledge, insights and findings along the way with the intention that our work will create opportunities to stir ecosystems and influence and advocate for better outcomes for humanity.

As society, we are at a crossroads and what we have before us is an opportunity to put the needs of humanity first and to ensure that human dignity, safety and trust are not only prioritised and firmly embedded at the heart of how we design, create and use technological solutions. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. People and institutions today can still use technology to solve hard problems and change the world for the better. Technology by itself will not save us but hopefully humanity will.

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