Through the lens of sustainability, digital technology certainly has the power to transform the way we live, for the better, writes Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark™, sponsor of last month's DigitalAgenda Impact Awards.
It was entirely fitting that our good friend and supporter, Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, should speak at the inaugural DigitalAgenda Impact Awards. Digital technology, alongside science and our ever closer understanding that we are "part of nature, not apart from nature", as Sir Tim said, will have the power to transform our lives for the better.
You may find it difficult to believe that embracing digital technology will deliver far-reaching and fundamental positive change in our society and the environment. On a day-to-day basis, parental experience of digital technology can often include the running battle with our children to prise them from Xbox, their phones and social media and into the garden, outside into nature or simply into a conversation with someone in the same room.
And from a wider perspective, following fake news, spying and the use of social media to spread "nasty, mean ideas", Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has asked for a "complete change of strategy" in our use of the internet and social media. “Look at Twitter,” he said. “Is this really a net good for the planet?”
Through the lens of sustainability, digital technology certainly has the power to transform the way we live, for the better. The re-think that Sir Tim describes can help us manage and maximise what it can do for society and the environment.
As Julian Blake, director of DigitalAgenda said: “In a world where technology is not always seen as a force for good – and often the opposite – we want to help tell the other side of the story."
The awards were an eye-opening (and sometimes emotional) showcase of how innovation and practical implementation of technology is having a real, tangible and exciting positive impact on our society. Around each award there was time to tell that story.
I found so much optimism in Emma Lawton, a graphic designer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at 29 and her experience of technology. She took part in BBC2’s _Big Life Fix _where she worked with Haiyan Zheng, an innovation director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, to produce a prototype ‘watch’ that vibrates to mentally counteract the effect of the disease and enable Emma to sketch and write her own name again.
The on-stage interview was truly uplifting, the video of the development of the technology has gone viral with 53 million views (it’s wonderful, I really recommend viewing) and Emma has written a book Dropping the Bomb about her experiences.
“It’s a basic human right to be able to write your name and make your mark on a piece of paper and say that’s me,” Emma said.
Through technology she has regained that right. The team are now exploring how the ‘watch’ can be scaled to offer to more people.
The Planet Mark™ sponsored the Climate Award and we saw many outstanding entries that help consumers, businesses and governments. These technologies help people manage and understand environmental change better. The eventual winner was Bulb, an outstanding technology-led renewable energy supplier that gives UK homes and businesses a choice of renewable energy at prices 20% below ‘the big six’ and other renewable energy suppliers.
Bulb is a business that proves that sustainability can save you money and provide a better outcome for society and the environment. And like so many digital technologies, it is scalable – a critical factor in the transformation to low carbon, more sustainable living.
In our own way, this is what we are achieving at The Planet Mark™. We bring technology and nature together in a sustainability programme that is good for business.
Technology helps simplify and improve processes for every business, and we integrate our work with the Eden Project and Cool Earth to provide a closer connection with nature.
At the DigitalAgenda Impact Awards, Sir Tim Smit said that we are living in exciting times. We are similarly optimistic.