Technologists shouldn't just think about how they can build for ROI but how they can provide 'Return on Humanity' as well.
By Kim Box (Founder, CEO & President, Kamere, Inc.)
We are at a very exciting time in this technological age. I’m sure that 100 years ago people could not have imagined that we would be talking on a device that is not connected by a cord or that we would have interactive maps guiding us as we drive. And I’m sure that it would be difficult for us to imagine what technology will be available 100 years from now. Yet my hope is that in the future we become dedicated to not only ‘Return on Investment’ for technology, but we also focused on ‘Return on Humanity.’ Technology for social good is beginning to play an important role, but it needs greater focus.
Are You My Purpose?
Six years ago I began to ponder my life purpose. It was a little bit like the children’s book ‘Are you my Mother?’ Everywhere I went, everything I read I would explore the question, ‘Are you my purpose?’ What I didn’t know six years ago is that discovering my purpose and my background in technology would collide. It has led me to my current endeavor as the Founder, CEO and President of Kamere, a technology startup that is amplifying the power of inspiration to have a positive impact on humanity.
During my last several years at HP I had traveled extensively as the VP of a global support operation that spanned over 100 locations around the world. After I left my long time technology career, I decided to take some time to recharge and reflect on what I would focus on next. I decided to spend three weeks in India learning to cook Indian food, take an Indian art class and spend time at an ashram meditating and reflecting. I wrote about my journey in a blog so my family and friends could follow along. I called the blog Some Day Has Come.
Something very interesting happened. I had sent the link to only a handful of people at the beginning of my trip but by the end of my three week journey I had over 1,000 people reading my blog. There were quite a few people from India reading my blog. It is a small example of technology helping connect cultures for better understanding. I was sharing India with my family back home and at the same time connecting with folks from India in a cross-cultural understanding.
Tech for Social Impact
There are many technologies that are helping create positive social impact. Sometimes it isn’t obvious at first what a simple application can do to help people. For instance, a mobile app called Jambandit allows you to create and play music with the touch of a finger. A person with very limited mobility in their hands can use a finger to easily create and record musical sounds. A man who has Parkinson’s disease with very limited motor skills in his hands was introduced to Jambandit. He was a musician but had slowly lost the ability to play his beloved instruments. This new app gave him the ability to create music in a different way and bring joy into his life.
We have also seen where micro-financing applications have helped people in under developed parts of the world improve their basic living. One example is a story of a women in Kenya who has a floral business. She would have a customer place an order for flowers then she would use her mobile phone to access a micro loan, buy the flowers, deliver to the customer and get their payment for the flowers then pay the loan back all within the same day. This is a way that technology is helping people create businesses when they lack the resources to do it on their own.
There are many technologies that are accelerating scientific discoveries. One in particular that is fascinating is called Foldit. It is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. Gamers do not need any background in science to play. The way the game works is the player does pattern recognition and puzzle-solving tasks. They are using game technology and gamers to help improve health and cure disease.
These are powerful technologies to enable social good on both a big and small scale. But we need much more. Our world is evolving and changing at faster rates every day. Technology is doing the same. We need to apply technology to social good. We need to ensure that we have a return on humanity along with a return on investment.
I challenge you to find what you feel is purposeful, something that can make a difference in the world and explore how technology can play a part in that journey.
What's the Return on Humanity of what you're building?
About the guest blogger: Kim Box (@kimboxinspires) is the founder, CEO and President of Kamere, Inc. a technology company with the mission to ‘Amplify the power of inspiration to uplift humanity.’ She is a former VP at Hewlett-Packard, an international speaker and author of Woven Leadership. Kim is a Director on the American River Bank Board of Directors. Image credit: Viewminder via Flickr.