With the proliferation of the internet and mobile phones, technology and social networks have evolved to become an all consuming part of our lives. Because of this mass adoption, our communities and our world are more connected than ever before.
This has both positive and negative implications. Social networks are blamed for loss of privacy, video games for encouraging violent behavior, and the internet as a whole for being a distraction from real world interactions. On the other hand, there are an increasing number of internet-based companies and organizations that are using technology for social good. Social media has been used to organize demonstrations and even revolutions around the world, crowdfunding is being used to raised funds for a variety of impactful causes, while several other sites allow us to more effective communicate with corporations and government.
In December of 2010, as events that led to the Arab Spring were underway, activists turned to social media to not only spread news, but to organize demonstrations. While there is much debate on the actual impact of social media or whether these revolutions would have had the same outcomes without Facebook and Twitter, it’s clear that the proliferation of these networks allowed for the rapid exchange of information and ideas. Even just last month, #ArabSpring was used over 10,000 times on Twitter. The Occupy Wall Street movement maintained a huge social media presence as a key tool in getting their message to people. In particular, they cite the virality of videos taken during the movement as key to getting a diverse and broad group of supporters interested and involved.
Other technologies have made it so anyone can communicate and influence governments and corporations. Change.org is able to organize people to sign online petitions with the hopes of ultimately prompting action. A recent petition on Change.org aimed to get Delta Airlines to end transporting of animal trophies in an effort to decrease poaching of endangered animals. Three months after starting, the petition garnered nearly 400,000 signatures, enough get Delta to change their policy. Other successful causes on the platform include a petition to end fines for those who give food the homeless in Denver, and a petition attempting to lower medical fees for cancer treatments. Change.org has proven to be a great resource for communities to elicit real action and impact.
Crowdfunding, a concept near and dear to our hearts here at CrowdDefend, is being used in many ways to help society. A number of organizations are using crowdfunding to not only change the way individuals discover and fund projects they care about, but also to fund critical yet underfunded sectors. For example, Experiment.com uses crowdfunding to raise funds and awareness for a variety of scientific research projects. Another company, Patreon, is using crowdfunding to help artists sustain their crafts. At CrowdDefend, we use crowdfunding to help fund access to justice. Lastly, Watsi, which has seen an immense amount of success in the past few years, is a crowdfunding site that raises money for medical procedures for people across the globe. Watsi has already been able to provide life changing (and saving) healthcare to nearly 5,000 people. These sites, among many other, are able to impact society at many different levels by galvanizing far-flung, yet like minded individuals towards a single goal.
As we continue to grow as a society and technology continues to change and evolve, it’s great to see an ever increasing effort to use tech for good to make a positive, lasting impact on the world. As more and more of the world and daily activity moves online, I can’t help but think of what great innovations are yet to come.