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How Technology Has Changed Lives for the Better

Henrietta Fore is Executive Director, UNICEF and Simon Segars is CEO, Arm

Investments in technology solutions to social challenges in emerging urban centers have the potential to improve the lives of 2 billion people and generate up to $2 trillion in revenue by 2022 according to research released by Arm and UNICEF.

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2018 (IPS) - Rose lives in Nairobi. Getting safe, reliable drinking water for her six daughters in the slum where they live used to involve risking disease from an illegally tapped water supply.

But a year ago, a metered water pump was installed that provided clean and affordable water using an electronic key loaded with credit.

Moving East; Ica lives in Jakarta. With no degree, she was trapped in an entry-level corporate communications job. Her prospects were poor.

That was until she began an e-learning degree programme with a European university. The chance to access a world-class education in another continent has changed her life and her ability to improve her career opportunities.

On the other side of the world, Anna lives in Mexico City where she holds down two jobs at a store near her home and at a packaging facility. But even with a double income, the rapidly increasing living costs in Mexico City meant her weekly wage still wasn’t enough to make ends meet.

Again, technology offered a solution and she now finds extra cleaning work with an online home and business cleaning service that digitally connects her to clients.

Three real people, three very different stories but with a single thread that connects them all. That thread is in how technology has changed their lives for the better.

100 billion reasons to engage

The companies that provide these technological innovations have to sustain themselves and cannot take action solely to improve lives. There has to be commercial viability.

For companies looking beyond established markets, tapping into the commercial potential of emerging markets and their new customers represents real, often uncontested, commercial opportunity.

This is the message that we want to send on behalf of our organizations – UNICEF and Arm. You don’t have to only think about the world’s poorer regions as places for corporate philanthropy.

They are also commercially viable markets representing new consumer groups that are predicted to become some of the largest and most important over the next few decades.

By 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities – approximately 1.8 billion of them under the age of 24, and the majority in Africa and Asia.

Instinctively, these rapidly growing urban centres feel like huge opportunity zones for business. But until now, the value of that opportunity has not been fully quantified.

Now, new research co-commissioned by UNICEF and Arm reveals the scale of what is possible. It sets out to chart the scale of unrealized potential in cities through a ground-breaking piece of research: Tech Bets for an Urban World.

In the research we see that businesses investing in emergent technology solutions across emerging world markets can not only potentially improve the lives of four billion people but they could also generate up to $100 billion in profits by 2022.

The Tech Bets

UNICEF and Arm have long shared the view that although the technology sector has the potential to change lives profoundly, it is currently not serving the people with the greatest need.

To catalyse change, we needed to explore the potential financial and social opportunity available to companies who choose to invest in unrealised markets.

As a result, we jointly commissioned Dalberg to produce the new Tech Bets market research. This focused on three urban cities: Nairobi, Jakarta and Mexico City and identified six ‘tech bets’: Digital Learning, Multi-Modal Skilling, Smart Recruitment, Water Metering, Emergency Response and Commuter Ride-Sharing.

The first three tech bets highlight the growing market for job sector preparation for some of the 1.8 billion future students, interns, mentees and job applicants. With Digital Learning, teachers can use online lessons to engage and inspire 500-600 million young people.

Multi-Modal Skilling, combining online education with in-person mentoring, could equip 120 million young people with important skills. And to assist people looking for work, Smart Recruitment quickly connects individuals and employers in the informal economy. All these strategies start with companies selling their technology services.

Our research indicates technological innovations for infrastructure investments could also pay significant dividends. Smart Water Solutions – like IoT networks of sensors and meters – are a great example.

As well as generating revenues for hardware and services operators, there are huge economic benefits to giving at-risk individuals, such as Rose, access to affordable and clean water.

Looking beyond health, Ride Sharing platforms could offer a safer, more efficient way to travel for the 350 million people living in cities, whose commuting time can often take up to three hours each way.

This would help take the pressure off traditional transport services and put more flexible transport options at the centre of reinvigorated city economies.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Real progress in dramatically improving lives means looking beyond philanthropy and working with businesses to identify and meet market needs.

The Arm and UNICEF partnership was founded on the desire to do just that, innovating and accelerating the development of new technology to overcome the barriers that prevent millions of people across the world from accessing basic health, education and support services.

Changing minds is about big partnerships and so we are also beginning to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partners to identify and support new technology that can improve lives. Our first initiative is a smart water challenge that will start to turn the Tech Bets for an Urban World research into action.

We want to go further too. The 2030Vision initiative launched by Arm in partnership with the UN system, NGOs and others in the tech industry is all about collaborating to drive the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The aim is to improve a billion people’s lives by 2030.

Together, UNICEF and Arm are calling on the tech sector to develop new partnerships that can unleash the potential of technology and answer the needs of these new urban markets.

With a chance to invest in six tech bets, create up to $100 billion in profit, and improve the lives of billions of people like Rose, Ica and Anna, it’s clear that it’s possible to both do good and do good business. You just need to place your tech bet. We’re placing ours now.

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