“Tech4Good” at Tech Open Air Berlin 2018
23 June 2018 - Impact Hub Berlin

On the 20th and 21st of June 2018, 150+ thought-leaders from tech, art, and science met at Funkhaus Berlin and shared their vision on how they see the world evolving, diving deep into the tech ecosystem with inspirational storytelling, interactive panels, workshops, art installations, live music, and so much more… Our team member Maddie visited this years’ Tech Open Air fair (TOA) and wrote us a little report about all the inspiring things she saw and heard.

Since all of the above sounded in fact very promising, I decided I couldn’t miss out. But I needed a focus amidst all the talks, workshops, pitches, etc. – so, since at Impact Hub Berlin we’ve turned our attention more and more to the potentials of marrying impact with technology, my goal for the two days at TOA was to scout the conference in search for all things 
Tech For Good.

While the term Tech for Good is often used to describe any technology with a social purpose, it actually covers a broad range of concepts and ideas. The most obvious ones are of course technologies (and organizations) that actively work in the field of education, health, sustainability, welfare, community, inclusion and so on. The less obvious ones are companies like Twitter, that went from being a “simple” communication platform to becoming one of the main instruments that allowed e.g. movements like the Arab Spring in 2011 (see article).

After attending a total of 15 talks over two days, plus strolling around the different booths and stands, I drew the following conclusion: Tech for Good (at least, at TOA) can be divided into three categories:

  • The first one is what we would refer to as the “first world problems” type – where tech is aimed at making our everyday-life easier.
  • The second kind is the “let’s save the environment” type (quite self-explanatory, I’d say).
  • The third one is tech concerned with “improving disadvantaged people’s lives” – aimed at providing assistance to aid any plaguing problem that prevents people from leading a dignified, decent and fulfilling life.

The first two types of tech were the most commonly found, with wonderful examples coming from companies like Ecoalf, which uses plastic recycled from waste found in the oceans to produce clothing, or The Ocean Cleanup, a company that develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans from plastic, both of which were present through their CEOs, who gave inspiring presentations about the future opportunities of recycling and ocean cleanup.

As for the third type, however, my impression was that while many technologies and ideas presented could be used for all sort of good purposes, only a handful of cases really preached their application for the actual good of society. One example came from Mobisol, whose CEO gave insight on how they are using technology to empower millions of people globally while providing sustainable and decentralized off-grid electrification.

Blockchain for Good, held by Google for Entrepreneurs, is another happy case of the application of tech for social purposes, where the talk focused on the possibility of applying Blockchain technology to improve trade standards, focusing particularly on fishermen and subsistence farmers: in this scenario, for instance, blockchain could be used to track products back to their origins, to see whether a company was using child labor or slavery, whether the raw materials were extracted in a sustainable manner, etc.

An additional lesson was brought to us by Joachim Hedenius, Co-Founder of KRY, an app that allows users to meet doctors on video call. Joachim discussed the possible applications of technology to healthcare, arguing that tech could help breach barriers and make quality healthcare available worldwide, just one call away.

All in all, while Tech for Good may not have been the unconditional center of attention at TOA, I was regardless happy to see that our corner of the world, is not forgetting about the rest of it. For future editions, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more stages and a few more events dedicated specifically to the issue of technology and how it can be applied for the good of (the whole of) society.