Can technology change lives for the better? (Part 1)

  • Posted on May 28, 2013

Can technology change lives for the better?  Or is it “all about the money?” Is IT used to positively influence our society? Or is its role primarily to help businesses increase revenue and lower costs? Or perhaps, on the 10-year anniversary of Nicholas G. Carr’s infamous HBR article, “IT Doesn’t Matter,” is IT just ubiquitous?

These were thoughts going through my head during a recent dinner party with a few friends when the discussion turned philosophical. Most of us are parents to young children and the lighthearted yet serious dinner chat was about how one’s profession helps make the world a better place for our children to grow up in.  To my left I had a medical doctor who also does allergy research.  To my right sat an architect who was working on green city planning. They had plenty of inspiring stories to tell. Now, I’m quite proud of my work, but I’ve not often thought of my work as aiding mankind. Helping a telco operator offer better customer service via big data? Yes! Supporting a government agency connect and communicate to citizens via social computing? Check! Enabling a utility company to make the work for their field force easier through a mobile solution? Absolutely! But changing the world??

I love working with disruptive technology and I asked myself, where have we used innovation and technology creativity to really make a difference in the community? Eventually, I remembered our team in France working with Paris hospitals on a solution to be used in reimaging patient care at home (pregnancy, elderly care) with a Windows 8 solution which really focuses on making the nurse/patient relationship natural and “human.” I remembered our work with a global mobile device and services manufacturer on mission-critical public safety, used for example during fires or traffic pileups, where keeping connected and having situational awareness can save lives.  I remembered our collaboration with a children’s pediatric oncology research center to fight cancer by using Azure to automate pattern recognition and early detection by improving upload, conversion, analysis, storage and access of medical images. I remembered Osakidetza using a solution for rehabilitation of chronic patients with Kinect as a key device for the interaction between doctors and patients. Technology is used to provide continual care throughout a person’s life, and potentially prevent unnecessary hospitalization, not to mention increase patient autonomy.

I don’t mean to compare the work of a business systems integrator with that of a medical doctor or a police officer, but I fundamentally believe that technology is underpinning more and more of our society and that it has the potential to make for a better society. I’m particularly excited about the transformational potential of the Internet of Things, where “things” have identities and virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within social, environmental, and user contexts. More about this in my next blog post.

You might ask, “What about the rest of the dinner conversation?” By the time I remembered my stories, the discussion had moved onto the latest Star Trek movie, which I’ve not yet had a chance to see….so I took comfort in the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero: “Silence is one of the greatest arts of conversation.”

Pragati Katiyar

One major impacting area where actually our society can see impact of technology in day to day life is communication. Initially we used to wait for post man to receive a message from any friend/relative but now a days quick 2 sec and a mail is send and received. Not only text message even one can send voice message, can chat real time or can use video chat seems like taking face to face. so the distance has become zero and world has become really small.

December 18, 2013

Maryellen Skelton

Speaking to "...I don''t mean to compare the work of a business systems integrator with that of a medical doctor or a police officer.." Hmmm.  Here''s how I see it - anyone who works in a corporate environment knows that getting anything to actually "change" just within a single company is ridiculously hard.  The larger the company, the harder it is.  Why?  Because corporate culture is born decisionmaker by decisionmaker as the company moves forward in time.  To buck that or change that takes an enormous push and effort on the part of a lot of people.  And that''s within a single company.  How much more muscle is needed to make a shift in this ideological and physical corpus that is "society" ? And, in my experience, especially for the betterment of same.   Change of such magnitude, one which encompasses virtually EVERYTHING, as a series of gears....large gears of wide influence, the largest being those of global influence like technological innovation on a globally deliverable scale, and the smallest being the "in the trenches" gears of influence such as those of the brilliant doctor or the brave and honest policeman - their gears of influence are smaller not because their contributions are less, but because regardless what their brilliance or their epiphany...what would their influence BE without their ideas riding up and along the great and rapidly turning gear of technological innovation?  How would their ideas ever come to touch the thing that is "society"?   Man I hope this makes sense.  Broad and open communication and collaboration brings change for the better in my mind.  And those who make it better, faster and more "real" globally are the absolute key to change.  So can you compare your role to that of a doctor or policement....meh......not really - too many points of fundamental and unrelated difference, but it''s certainly not a lessor one. Just ''amember that man!  And very well done on the post.  I enjoyed it very much.  Gonna read the next one now.

August 10, 2013

Florin Rotar

Thanks for the reply Ben.  Interesting point about definition of "technology". By the way, what''s your best example?

May 31, 2013


Great post, Florin! I have also found myself, at times, talking about how ''technology'' has made the world better. One point I often find interesting is what people think ''technology'' is. It tends to change over time, and probably generation to generation. Generally, I think it usually refers to the leading edge of technological progress, not technology as a whole. Agriculture is technology, dentistry is technology, electricity is technology, yet these are usually assumed to be outside the scope of the conversation because they are so ubiquitous and clearly beneficial.

I think we''re finally past the point of questions whether computers or the internet in general have a net-positive effect; which is a conversation I was getting sick of. :) We can finally focus more on the specific services and experiences enabled by them.

May 28, 2013

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