by Priya Bapat, Humanitas Global Development
Today was the kickoff of the 3rd Annual Social Good Summit hosted by Mashable, the UN Foundation, Ericcson, the United Nations Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The opening day featured a number of presentations from both established and emerging leaders in global development and technology, including an opening address from Secretary Hillary Clinton. Throughout the day, panelists discussed how mobile technology and social media have made significant contributions to fields such as global health, environmental conservation and public diplomacy.
Beyond showcasing how technological innovations have helped advance social, economic and political development, the Social Good Summit also highlighted how technology has changed and continues to change the way the world, including the development sector, works:
As Secretary Clinton stated during her opening address, "We're living at a time when everyone can be a diplomat. All you have to do is hit send." She may have been talking specifically about diplomacy, but her words apply to development as well. Social media has made development more personal and grassroots than ever before. Twitter has given individuals platforms that reach beyond their friends and enables them to promote an organization or advocate a humanitarian cause to a global audience. Social media and technology have also changed how money is raised for development, as demonstrated by sites such as Kiva, Watsi and Kickstarter.
Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable, said that the Social Good Summit was created in response to the closed-off nature of United Nations events. The summit is purposely designed to be as open with information and public as possible. Social media and technology have made our society far more demanding of open communications, accountability and data from all organizations and governments, including in development. The World Bank's Open Data Initiative is an example of how technology has changed the ways of even the most established organizations. Development has also become a more inclusive space, seeking the input and involvement of the private sector, technology experts and other non-traditional partners.
Age and Status
"Take young people seriously," advised Jill Sheffield of Women Deliver. Her statement was greeted with cheers from the audience filled mostly with 20-something year olds (myself included). Development has traditionally been a field where influence is determined by seniority. The importance of technology for development has given young entrepreneurs a slight advantage and the rise of social media has enabled young development workers to have a platform to voice their ideas.
The Social Media Summit is a fascinating representation of how social media and technology have changed and continue to change the way the world approaches development. We look forward to seeing what new innovations and ideas are brought forward at next year's conference.