The COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation. Food shortages. Floods, droughts, fires. Political polarization. War. Decades of economic and social progress wiped away. The world’s headlines are frightening.
I know I am not alone in sometimes feeling helpless; too small to make a difference.
But as I settle into my new role at the helm of the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), I have a renewed sense of optimism, inspired by our work and how we, as a small group of technologists, advocates, and activists, can do our part in finding ways for technology to accelerate progress against these seemingly intractable challenges.
I’m optimistic because technology is already helping improve the lives of people and communities around the world in so many tangible ways.
In India, a nationwide technology stack is giving individuals greater control over their medical and financial data, allowing them to decide who can access their private details and under what terms. This is a big step towards ensuring that individuals can ultimately manage and benefit from their own personal data.
In Ukraine, years of investments in digital government services mean that those who have been forced to flee their homes can stay connected to their families and access their essential digital documents which will help them rebuild their lives. Throughout these immensely difficult times, the Ukrainian people continue to show the world the meaning of resilience.
In Sierra Leone, civil society groups and innovators were invited to join the government to design the country’s first digital strategy. By incorporating their needs and concerns – particularly around data – the government is much more likely to foster trust about how sensitive, personal information is being shared. At a time when trust in institutions is precarious worldwide, this way of creating inclusive policies is the only way to come together to create a shared vision of a positive digital society.
At the Digital Impact Alliance, we know that when digital infrastructure is designed right, everyone, everywhere can participate – and trust – in the digital economy around them. We can learn, connect, and stay productive. We can create content and be heard. We can feel safe in our online interactions.
But getting the right digital infrastructure in place is not easy or obvious. Funding constraints, vested interests, and limited capacity are only some of the factors which get in the way of progress.
As we collectively face extraordinary and unprecedented challenges, we need technology to work for us in advancing, not undermining, our goals. As the Digital Impact Alliance, we are committed to bringing practical digital solutions to light which enable governments to maximize inclusion, to advancing data governance that puts individuals at the center of the data economy, and to fostering collective action knowing that no one organization can solve it all.
With the great work we see already happening in India, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, and beyond, I am optimistic about the year to come and what we can do together to create a positive digital future for everyone, everywhere.