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Impact tech and the importance of purpose in innovation

10 days ago

On a clear Friday morning the Auckland Women in Tech Trailblazer community hosted Tech with a Purpose, where representatives from large corporates and startups alike gathered to discuss impact technology. What might the new face of technology be and how can it be good for the world? Priti Ambani, Director of Innovation at Tech Futures Lab, took us through some of her research and ideas on the topic.

Image: Javier Yébenes

Priti Ambani is an engineer, researcher, entrepreneur, and educator. The focus of her work has been leveraging technology and emerging disruptive technologies for good – specifically, to create shared value and thriving societies. She kicked off this morning by talking about technological risks, citing a lack of diversity in STEM, unfit tech governance, and economic incentives hindering positive outcomes for humanity. A recurring theme emerged; namely that it is crucial for our society to have diverse perspectives, and for decision makers to understand the impact of technological developments on society.

Ambani's career began in civil (environmental) engineering and design, but she soon found the 'one-dimensional' nature of her work to be unsatisfying. A thought leader on networked business models and the future of work, she spoke about leaving to work in startups and initiatives that pursued sustainability and social impact. 

She spoke at length about the importance of not to losing our existing connections with human-centric infrastructure and replacing them with technology (think meditation apps and waste-free shopping programmes like Loop). The answer could be as simple as buying your vegetables from a farmers market or organising a clothes swap for your community – all very low-tech solutions! Ambani does, of course, embrace tech innovation and everything that comes with but cautions against innovating for the sake of it. Instead, think about the global challenges we're trying to solve, and create holistic solutions for them.

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There are plenty of impactful technologies and phenomena already in existence that "improve lives, create jobs, restore the environment, enhance security, generate resilience, and advance human health" – including women and girls! 

Source: Drawdown

During question time, attendees shared ideas about corporate frameworks to measure social impact globally, educating the people around us, and taking individual actions to send positive messages. One of the best takeaways? That we need to think about "how we can design things that enhance human nature." 

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