[Editorial] Why Technology Can Be a Catalyst for Social Good

on June 19, 2015 by Sang Woo Kim
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Technology is changing our world at a speed never seen before. And, it does so for the better: making our lives easier, safer and giving us experiences that until recently we could have only dreamed of.

 

If technology can deliver all that, it’s obvious that it also can be a catalyst for social good. And, driving it will be connectivity and connected devices. Yet, we have only seen a few glimpses of what technology can do for humankind. Thanks to our industry leadership across the whole spectrum of consumer-facing technologies – from digital appliances and smart mobile devices to healthcare solutions and semiconductors – we at Samsung are uniquely positioned to see technology’s full potential.

 

So let me focus on four big trends, where I believe technology is set to be an immediate catalyst for social good.

 

Better education, everywhere

 

Technology has the power to improve education of young people all around the world. When we think about smart, connected classrooms, it’s not just about integrating tablets into the school environment to give children better digital skills; it’s really about giving them a new way of learning – that’s more collaborative, more interactive and draws on a richer mix of content.

 

Technology also has the potential to level the playing field for children in disadvantaged communities, by giving them access to quality educational material and developing their digital skills. That’s why, since 2013, Samsung has opened more than 1,000 Smart Schools, tailored for 6-16 year olds, in 92 countries. So far, more than 270,000 students have benefited from our Smart School initiatives, and experienced the power of digital learning.

 

Another example is the Samsung Digital Academy; state-of-the-art learning centers for 16-24 year olds with digital classrooms, and research zones for practical and vocational education. They give young people the digital skills they need for the jobs of the future. So far, we have set up more than 120 academies, and trained 17,000 people.

 

Extending healthcare to where it’s needed

 

Another area that smart technology will transform is healthcare. Technology has the potential to take healthcare to areas that until now have had no or little access to first-class medical support. Take Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60% of the population live in remote areas; providing healthcare there is a huge challenge. Our solar-powered mobile health centers have made a real difference; during the past two years more than 82,000 patients in remote communities have been helped by our mobile healthcare units.

 

Adding connectivity to medical and smart mobile devices helps patients everywhere to assess their own health and share the results with their doctor. Or, think of medical emergencies, where the results of tests done by paramedics can arrive at the hospital well before the patient, to ensure instant and accurate treatment.

 

Spreading access to smarts

 

For decades, digital technology was relatively cumbersome to use, and people with impairments often found it difficult or impossible to enjoy its benefits. Thankfully, that’s changing. New technology can now accelerate discoveries and possibilities for everyone. Our flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, has many accessibility features. Visually impaired people, for example, can access a contextual menu just by flicking or swiping the screen, and enable a speech control function.

 

Samsung’s EYECAN+ is another example. It’s a mouse that helps people browse the web through simple eye movement, opening up the internet to people who can’t use a traditional mouse. The EYECAN+ costs only $50 to manufacture and is powered by open source software. These are just a couple of examples that show how technology can truly be a catalyst for social good.

 

Making all of our world digital and smarter

 

But there’s another technology trend that will truly change our world for the better. You may have heard of the Internet of Things, or IoT for short. It’s bringing together our physical and digital worlds, by giving everyday objects sensors, connectivity and computing power, and intelligently connecting them all, so that they can make our lives more efficient and convenient. IoT will be centered on humans, which is why we at Samsung prefer to call it the “Internet for You.”

 

For example, let’s assume you have to go to work, and your home wakes you up early, because it knows that there’s a construction site on your route to work, and you will need extra time. As you leave the house, your home automatically locks the doors and windows, and switches off the air conditioning or heating, because it knows you don’t want to waste the energy while you’re at work. Your car’s navigation system tells your house to turn on the heating, because you’re on your way back. Cars talk to each other, to distribute the traffic evenly across the roads. And, at home, the music you’ve been listening to in your car transfers seamlessly to your audio system.

 

Already, we have TV’s that sense your movements and pause or resume playing a movie as you leave and re-enter the room; there are washing machines that you can monitor and control through your smartphone, and there are many more ideas and technologies that will enrich people’s lives by turning everyday moments into enjoyable experiences.

 

IoT can transform our world, by taking the pain out of urban living or, for example, by helping regions suffering from drought to conserve water.

 

What’s so exciting is that this is not a vision of some distant future – this technology exists now, and the IoT ecosystem is getting ever richer. Samsung has made a commitment that 90% of all our products will be IoT-ready by 2017. That’s a lot of IoT devices, when you consider that last year alone, we made 665 million products.

 

We have reached a watershed moment in the history of our relationship with technology; it’s not about things or the machines anymore, it’s about people. At Samsung, we have always innovated based on a deep understanding of what people want. That’s why I believe that Samsung – with its more than 300,000 employees in 84 countries around the world – is perfectly positioned to help turn technology into a catalyst for social good. We want to connect and partner with people everywhere to learn and share knowledge. And, we want to use our global network and huge investment in innovation – of more than $40 million a day – to unleash technology’s possibilities for social good around the world.

by Sang Woo Kim

Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs Europe, Samsung Electronics

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