I was lucky enough to attend the Digital Agenda Impact awards recently, which celebrate digital products and services that make a positive social impact.

We were honoured to recognise the 36 finalists who are using their skills in tech to make a real difference to the everyday lives of people across the UK, and beyond. Aside from learning about exciting new initiatives, we were keen to go along to hear about something positive and progressive – a welcome change from a lot of the topics in the news at the moment!

The awards

A recurring theme that was mentioned throughout, was the recent backlash about technology and the dangers it poses. While some welcome a tech-driven future, this technology brings many valid concerns – data breaches, job security, alleged election interference, and not to mention safety concerns for young people.

The awards were a great antidote to this negative press, to showcase how we can balance profit and purpose, and harness technology to improve our quality of life. It did a fantastic job or celebrating the strides being taken by new businesses and initiatives to make our world more accessible, fair and overall easier to navigate.

The awards, hosted by BBC Breakfasts’ Naga Munchetty, were split into 12 categories, covering products and services which positively impacted people, society and business in various ways. Some of these included positive impacts made in education, health, sustainable living and the sharing economy, to name just a few.

Although there could be only twelve winners, the awards showcased the brilliant work of all finalists, who we will no doubt be hearing more about over the next few years.

You can find out more about the finalists here.

Reasons to be positive about the future of tech

Here are just a few of the positive takeaways we had from the event, which included a number of panel conversations, and keynote speeches from the headline sponsor Eleanor Bradley at Nominet, and Margot James MP, and Cabinet Minister.

  • Food waste was a big topic – we were joined by Tessa Clarke, the CEO of OLIO and 2018 winner, whose app combats food waste in the home. Dawn Austwick of the National Lottery Community Fund talked about the Community Fridge, which helps to combat food waste and poverty in local communities and has garnered a lot of attention in the local news.
  • UCL Grand Challengers were the Content Partners for the awards, and Naga Munchetty was joined on stage by Dr Catherine Holloway and Professor Kate Jones to discuss some of the strides the outstanding research facility are currently making with the launch of the Global Disability Innovation Hub and exploring how technology can engage with nature to get more people to care about the environment.
  • Mental Health was also brought up a few times, with Young Digital Leader Ben Towers talking about to combine this with physical health to reduce problems in future generations, and many products combatting online bullying, and mental wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Diversity was still as relevant as ever, with a category dedicated to celebrating how technology is combating this. Leigh Smyth of Lloyds Banking Group gave an overview of the fantastic work she has done for inclusion and diversity at Lloyds, including supporting a new academy for digital skills, and using tech and data for good. The finalists in this category explored disability access, and gender imbalances in tech.

After what has been a year of negative press for technology businesses, it was a great afternoon to get a good understanding of what is happening in 2019 and beyond. I look forward to seeing what the winners and nominees achieve in the years to come, and hopefully, it will inspire a new generation of tech-for good products.

If you'd like to find out more about Digital Agenda, or chat about tech-for-good, say hello at emily@wearefutureheads.co.uk.


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