Exploring what the concept of “Tech for Good” means for tech firms and candidates
By Dan MacNeill, Director – Deep Tech Practice
Tech for Good is a relatively new concept in the technology sector that is fast gaining momentum. It’s already having an impact on the talent market, and this is only likely to grow. But what is “Tech for Good”? How should we define it? How is impacting the talent market – and what does this mean for companies and candidates in the tech sector?
It’s about more than just money
It was a candidate who got me thinking more about Tech for Good as a concept. He was a digitalisation specialist who had worked on digitalisation in factories using Internet of Things (IoT) devices to measure and monitor production remotely via the cloud.
With his experience and technical know-how, this candidate was an excellent fit for many jobs. In the end, he decided to take the role of Chief Technology Officer at a company that specialised in reducing CO2 emissions in construction.
The positive climate impact was the major reason he chose to work for that company. As he explained it to me at the time, he wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the future for his children.
This idea of choosing to work at a company not for the salary or benefits, but specifically because of its potential to do good, really opened my eyes. I did some research and spoke with some of the people in my network of clients and candidates and soon discovered more about Tech for Good.
What is Tech for Good?
Put simply, it is when tech companies use their technologies to deliver a positive impact on the world above and beyond simply growing a business and generating profits. It usually manifests as companies actively tackling social or environmental problems by developing products and services that help protect the planet or meet people’s needs.
Looked at this way, technology can have positive impacts on health, education, well-being, biodiversity, climate, equality, work, and ethics. Given the rise of climate and social movements in recent years such as Black Lives Matter and Insulate Britain, and the increasing inter-governmental focus on social equality and climate change, it makes sense that the tech industry would begin to mirror these concerns.
Once I looked around, I found several companies in my network who embody this principle.
Examples of Tech or Good Companies
CoMind is one such example. This is a London-based company developing non-invasive brain-computer interfaces. These interfaces can be used both for medical purposes – to scan brains and monitor brain activity – and for day-to-day interactions with technology.
CoMind’s stated aim is to “positively change how humans interact with technology”. At the same time, they hope their technology will improve our understanding of the human brain, particularly neurological disorders.
As CoMind puts it on their website: “Traditional technologies have often been built at the expense of humans, without a thought for the negative impact they can potentially have. At CoMind we stay close to our values and ensure that we carefully think about the huge impact our technologies can have on society – we responsibly build ethics into our technologies from the bottom up, enabling us to fulfil our mission of improving the way humans interact with machines.”
The company also emphasises the rigorous testing and safety of their technology, as well as aiming to ensure that their tech “will be accessible and affordable to all”.
Another example of a Tech for Good company is ICEYE, a satellite data company whose stated goal is to empower better decision making in government and the private sector “by providing access to timely and reliable satellite imagery”.
One of the main areas of potential growth for the company is in the insurance sector. ICEYE’s SAR imagery and near real-time data analysis enables insurers to anticipate flooding, leading to more accurate pricing and more efficient claims processing. A major element of this is providing the essential data required for emergency response to catastrophes like hurricanes and volcanos as their technology can see through darkness, ash, and cloud to ground level.
Yet the emphasis on the ICEYE website is on how leveraging this data will enable insurers to pay claims faster and “proactively encourage claims”. In other words, it focuses more on the societal benefits of speedier and easier claims resolution for customers effected by flooding than on increasing margins for the insurers themselves.
Another exciting Tech for Good example is Ambisense. This company leverages IoT data to improve environmental risk assessment “for a safer and more sustainable world”. It has several practical rea-world applications that are potentially beneficial to the environment and to society.
One of these is in monitoring air quality in work environments, which benefits employee health and safety. Companies – and even schools – have used the technology to mitigate the risks of Covid. Ambisense is also able to monitor and help improve outdoor air quality – by helping to monitor and reduce pollution in the urban environment. Using this data, cities can adapt their transport and infrastructure systems and planning. Construction firms can also use data to reduce their potential negative impact on air quality.
Throughout its website, Ambisense emphasises the individual and public health benefits of its technology, and in particular how it can help improve quality of life.
How will this affect the talent market?
With most of the world returning to growth post-pandemic, competition for top quality talent is fierce, and likely to increase even further. Leading candidates have more choice about where to work, and increasingly can do so on their terms.
With the rise of environmental and social movements during the pandemic, these concerns are more top of mind than ever before. As you’ve already read, it was a candidate who got me thinking more about the Tech for Good trend when he chose a role based on its positive environmental impact.
For tech firms, it’s clear that social and environmental concerns will become more important deciding factors for top candidates. We are likely to see more and more companies in the sector either develop new Tech for Good propositions, or shift how they position themselves to emphasise those elements. Those who lag behind are likely to struggle to attract top talent.
For candidates, it is becoming clearer that they now have the freedom to choose roles based on ethical concerns as much as more traditional aspects such as salary and benefits. For now, in such a competitive market for skilled talent, candidates are likely to influence the market. In that sense, if social and environmental concerns really are important to them, they will make choices that will accelerate the shift towards Tech for Good.
Right now, it is too soon to say for sure just how influential the Tech for Good concept will become. However, it is almost certain to grow, and to change the way candidates choose roles, as well as how companies position themselves.