Digital technology has already transformed how we communicate, how we work, how we learn, how we shop. At a time of accelerating climate change, a growing ageing population, persistent unemployment and increasing social inequalities, we urgently need to realise the potential of technology for social innovation. This is not simply about adding digital to existing services but making imaginative use of digital technology to fundamentally re-think - and radically reform - how we address significant social challenges.
As part of its ongoing open consultation, Nominet Trust brought together a group of experts this past week to think about how technology might be used to realise new opportunities - and address the persistent challenges such as social isolation, access to adequate care and pensioner poverty – facing people in later life. We weren’t looking at how adding digital might make existing services more cost-effective or efficient; nor were we seeking specific solutions. Instead we were hoping to define some areas that would benefit from social innovation with technology.
In the autumn of 2009, I was lucky enough to work with Rodrigo Baggio on a global education programme that I was developing. For those who aren’t familiar with him, Rodrigo is one of the world’s most respected social entrepreneurs with a passion for using technology as a tool for positive social change. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Digital Inclusion (CDI), the first non-profit organisation to tackle the digital divide in Latin America.
I remember the glint in Rodrigo’s eye when I asked him about his plans to bring CDI’s vision and ingenuity to Europe. ‘Just wait’, he said, ‘it’s going to be great.’ Shortly afterwards, he introduced me to Iris Lapinsky and I knew that he was right: CDI Europe was going to be great.