From increasing broadband access to the proliferation of mobile, connected technologies, digitization has revolutionized the global economy. For those with access to the world’s latest digital tools, a world of opportunity awaits. But while millions of people have seen technology transform many facets of their lives for the better, millions of others have been excluded from this revolution. Inadvertently, technological progress has become a driver of global inequality.
Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets. Yet 6 billion have access to mobile phones. As the number of devices and digital services grows, so too does the gap between those who are able to tap into the benefits of advanced technology and those who are not. This gap is a critical impediment to social progress, manifesting itself across all levels of society and all sectors of industry.
Nevertheless, the new digital economy also holds great potential to break down this barrier to progress. Channeled correctly, technology can lift 580 million people out of poverty and reshape the delivery of everything from education and healthcare to social services, financial services and employment opportunities.
Bridging this gap is a task of global scale that will require collaboration and extensive resources—a challenge for the public sector and NGOs, to say the least. So the private sector is stepping up, creating a variety of initiatives that will bring the benefits of the digital economy to disadvantaged communities.
One such example is Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Living Progress Challenge, a global competition designed to crowdsource ideas for software applications and digital services that can help improve the lives of one million people by 2020.
On August 3, 2016, the 10 Living Progress Challenge finalists pitched their ideas in front of a live audience at New Lab, a center for new technology at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. Winning teams get to develop their ideas and technology with help from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
The finalists traveled from across the globe to pitch solutions ranging from an app that gives Guatemalan farmers access to weather information, to a service that provides digital work opportunities to impoverished populations in East Africa, Haiti, and India. By showing us how smart technology can change lives for the better, they provide a hopeful counterpoint to the familiar story of global inequality.
Watch the live pitch event and celebration of digital technologies that accelerate social good #LivingProgress.
This article was produced on behalf of Hewlett Packard Enterprise by Quartz creative services and not by the Quartz editorial staff.