ICT is enabling innovators around the world to create solutions and address some of the biggest development challenges of our time. The growing ecosystem of start-ups worldwide has significantly contributed to the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). The workshop featured various tech start-up founders as panellists to talk about how they have leveraged ICTs in order to address development issues and advance social good and was moderated by Mr Lorenzo Niola (Head of Ecosystem Development, Hatch CoLab).
Mr Ted Chen (Founder and CEO, EverComm Singapore) who work with large enterprises and analyse their data for them and provide solutions to reduce energy consumption and gradually switch to renewable energy. They also undertake government level projects.
Mr Stephen Wilks (Founder & CEO, Seneca Learning) - presented his ICT enabled an online education tool for students.
Ms Stephenie Rodriguez (Founder & CEO, Jozu for Women) talked of her app - which makes safety available for everyone - Wander Safe a free for all app to make safety universal and make SDG.
Mr Alain Nkurikiye (Founder & CEO, Wajenzi) talked of his crowdfunding platform to democratise access to finance in the Netherlands.
Ms Tatyana Kanzaveli (Founder & CEO, Open Health Network) talked of her healthcare data exchange platform which enables people to control health data and even monetise them.
Challenges of start-ups were also mentioned. A lot of the new age tech start-ups are dependent on data and hence the security of this data is integral. The panellists also pointed out the need to collaborate data specially with credible sources like police, law enforcement agencies, etc. Kanzaveli also pointed that specially with health, data is generated right since birth but healthcare is contained in silos and if this data is open, collected and part of a collective repository; a global healthcare database would help us all meet SDG goals better. Hence, tech start-ups need more secure data resources.
Singapore is blessed with good ICT infrastructure and hence start-ups may not face access issues but there is too much information which confuses start-ups about where to start form. But Singapore is a small country and data sources are available and accurate but when Singaporean start-ups move overseas they may not enjoy the same data availability.
Start-ups actually end up spending more time filtering data. Although UK enjoys high speed Internet, Wilks pointed that they face the challenge of expensive cost of acquiring data and managing it. The opportunity is really when they expand internationally but there they may be facing access issues.
Wander Safe address several SGDs: preventing violence, access to education, refugees, aligned with NGOs and corporates, and women’s empowerment. Hence, they have now come up with #billionlivesby2020 as their mission. Rodriguez also described SGD-led social impact start-ups like hers as zebras’ opposed to the ‘unicorns’ in the start-up world. Other initiatives address SDGs in energy conservation, job creation, SME development, helping governments and societies manage water, climate action, access to good health and well being.
By Mili Semiani