In the last 60 seconds, we exchanged 250 million emails and instant messages, watched 4 million YouTube videos, 700,000 hours of Netflix, and even swiped 1.4 million times in Tinder searching for love. Cloud technology powered by artificial intelligence has advanced our lives in ways we never imagined possible. However, other things happen in one minute in the US. It is this “other” minute we do not talk about enough and that we want to bring to the forefront of the debate on tech innovation, making a case for Tech for Public Interest.
60 seconds in the US – the other minuteIn the US, every minute, 43 million people — 13 million of them children, experience hunger. In that same minute, we throw away over $300,000 worth of food. We created tech to match 4,000 Lyft drivers with riders per minute, yet we cannot match this food that will be wasted, with people that face hunger? Every 60 seconds, twenty individuals experience violence; furthermore, 1.3 children are sexually abused, and beyond the unimaginable trauma, our economy suffers $15,000 per minute in losses related to this problem. We mastered how to connect via social networks in real-time, but connecting these victims with help is far from instantaneous. In one minute, ten people visit an emergency room for problems related to substance abuse. Substance abuse generates economic losses of $800,000 every single minute of every single day. We have perfected online advertising, using AI to accurately target people 24/7 based on their behavior, yet we struggle to match these individuals with the support network that can help them. Every 60 seconds our society suffers the pain and the economic loss associated with mental health-related issues, hunger, addiction, depression, lack of mentoring or lack of better tools to help our children with cognitive development challenges to thrive. We have managed to perfect the matching for buying things online but not for feeding, healing, and protecting ourselves.
We can do better.We have over one million public charities in the US trying to be of help but are not thoroughly enjoying the benefits of modern technology and Artificial Intelligence. How can entrepreneurs partner with them and become social innovators? It is as intellectually stimulating to create an artificial intelligence powered solution to match riders with drivers, as it is creating one to match the parents of a child with cognitive disabilities with the resources needed to thrive. Or creating technology to help mitigate food waste or to offer a helping hand to our youth suffering from the consequences of depression or anxiety.
It is both intellectually stimulating and financially feasible to create sustainable tech for the public interest when every minute there are over $1.6 million in economic losses associated with some of our most pressing social issues.However, this is a team effort. Moreover, it is not something that the technology sector can solve only with well-intended volunteering activities or donations that create systems that work for a while and later suffer from lack of maintenance or continuous updates and improvements.
Fragmented interventions are not productive, and capacity building is required.It requires a collective approach of subject matter experts, Nonprofit Organizations, and Government. It also needs mathematicians, AI Scientists, and software developers. Furthermore, it requires experts in economics, behavioral sciences, storytelling, public health, philosophy, anthropology, and complementary areas. It requires as much focus on creating technology as on creating sustainability models and building lasting operating capacity. The time is ripe for a renaissance of tech, arts, and philosophy, in a symphony of empathy, compassion, generosity, innovation, and growth.
“Someday after mastering the winds and the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness the energies of love and then, for the second time in the history of the world, humans will have discovered fire.” – Teilhard de ChardinSo let’s harness the energy of mobile technologies and AI to rediscover Tech and reinvent VC and PE models for financing social innovation.