In the 21st century, you have to use technology as one of the tools in the toolkit to bring out social change!Beth Simone Noveck, New York University Professor
Keeping up with technology
For decades, technology has excited the human race and our imagination, as we have witnessed extraordinary opportunities present itself when people and devices connect. It has become an integral part of our daily lives, perhaps even to the point where it has taken over our lives. Take a step back, reflect on this moment and look around you, what do you observe? Notice how we are constantly surrounded by a wave of technology? This is one aspect of our lives that will constantly evolve, it began with a simple gadget for people to connect from miles away to this moment where we are witnessing cars that drive themselves, classrooms that utilise digital tech to teach students, and algorithms that respond to customer-service inquiries. On the business front, organisations are pushed to stay nimble in the face of technological change. Leading companies may not sustain in the coming decade if they are unable to support innovation and adapt quickly to new processes. Those that are aligned with change will thrive and prosper in the marketplace.
Social impact in Southeast Asia has been disrupted in a positive way through technology. We explore the startups making waves in this industry.
However, as technology becomes more sophisticated and larger than life, complicated issues come into play which often leads to a heated debate focused on these questions:
Is technology being used for a greater good? Are we making a positive impact? Were we able to innovate solutions for crises that threaten mankind every day?
Today, we and our world are fighting against a crisis that has unpenned the way we were living. While everything was uncertain, the good emerged as technology allowed us to witness the situation out there and do our best to protect one another. Who would have thought that a virus would bind mankind together, allowing us to realise that humanity is at the core of our existence?
Despite all the positive impact, did this pandemic increase our dependency on technology? Have we forgotten how to connect with one another beyond the screen of our devices? More so, did we forget about the battles that have been a major part of our society for decades?
Uncertain & unresolved
There are some whose entire lives are spent facing challenges and uncertainties, thus this is not unfamiliar to them. At present, there are over 70 million displaced people around the world and thousands of people a day flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. Millions of people who are denied access to basic rights such as clean and safe water, sufficient food, education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. As an example, we’re all heeding the advice of healthcare experts to maintain good hand sanitation and hygiene as it is believed that washing hands for at least 20 seconds will prevent virus outbreaks. Yet, approximately 3 billion people, 40% of the world’s population lack access to clean water and soap in their homes.
The simple task of cleaning hands at the right time and in the right way – can save lives but is that applicable for everyone? The inequality in water access extends to deeply impact healthcare, education and stable income for millions of people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by improving access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), the overall global disease burden by 9% and reduce the number of deaths by more than 6%. This cannot be achieved when more than millions of people worldwide currently lack basic supply. The World Economic Forum has highlighted that as of 2020, more people have mobile phones than electricity or running water in their homes or villages. In our own backyard, there are people who are vulnerable and victims to this reality. According to the Asian Development Bank, across Asia and the Pacific region; we are home to nearly 900 million of the world’s poorest people, where 1 in 3 people lack access to clean and safe drinking water and 1 in 2 people lack adequate sanitation and hygiene.
Technology for social good
Realising that this is an issue faced by those around us, a Malaysian home-grown water tech company set out to eradicate water poverty worldwide. H2GO Global systems utilises the latest and most advanced British nanotechnology, which is the science of working with atoms and molecules. By using NanoCarb filter cartridges, water is filtered down to a microscopic 15 nanometres, a significant point to note as the size of the smallest virus is 20 nanometres. The H2GO technology stops bacteria and viruses from passing through, leaving behind clean and safe drinking water. Products are designed to function without electricity for a “plug in and flow” solution. A simple yet effective solution that works even in the most remote areas.
The nanotechnology does not use chemical additives or UV ray treatment, as water is safe to consume directly from the tap. H2GO solutions are equipped with 4 stages of pre-filtration systems to ensure water that goes in the tank is free from contaminants and residue that could clog the NanoCarb filters. It has a built-in Anti-bacterial Properties within the tank which is corrosion proof, chemical resistant and prevents growth of microbes in the tank. The nanotechnology is incorporated into 3 products to address all types of water woes; H2GO R1 is a communal solution for a village of 150 residents or more; the H2GO Carry Can for household or military use, suitable for a family/team of 5; and the H2GO Bottle for disaster relief and/or individual use. In the past decade, through public-private partnerships, they have enabled access to clean drinking water to over 2 million people in marginalised communities worldwide. While this is positive progress, 1/6th of the world’s population is still trapped in water poverty thus H2GO journey has barely begun.
Truth be told, technology is neither good nor bad; it is the way we utilise it, which makes the difference. It has the potential to do immense good across a wide range of spectrum from healthcare to education. We are able to diagnose and treat diseases much faster in comparison to what it was a decade ago. Today, children in schools across the global have access to real-time information and keep up to date with happenings from across the world. Especially, in the past couple of months, schools and universities were able to continue with classes as usual with the aid of digital technology.
We strong believe that social entrepreneurship isn’t dead in Southeast Asia
In the coming years, we need to establish guardrails that keep technological innovations on track to benefit all of humanity. Individually, all of us have a direct role in shaping our future, and creating economic opportunity for millions of people by investing our time and resources in helping others.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution can compromise humanity’s traditional sources of meaning – work, community, family, and identity – or it can lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a sense of shared destiny. The choice is ours.”Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
This was contributed by Dr Rajiv Bhanot from H2GO Global
About the author
A medical practitioner by profession, Dr Rajiv Bhanot moved on to pursue the path of entrepreneurship after having spent some years working at a government hospital.
He is currently the CEO of H2GO Global, a water tech company, providing cutting-edge nano filtration solution to tackle the global humanitarian crisis of water poverty. He is also the co-founder of Meditech Integrated Solutions – a healthcare platform that runs a chain of medical aesthetics clinics, hair transplant clinics and blood diagnostic labs in various locations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr Rajiv has also ventured into the agriculture industry as the Executive Director of Agrotech Integrated Solutions, a company that consists of professionals with 30-years of accumulative experience in Agronomy Advisory, UAV Imagery as well as Designing, Building, Managing and Operating Compost sites for Palm Oil Mills in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Besides his involvement in the corporate sector, he is also active in various NGOs, that works on tackling issues related to education and poverty faced by numerous Malaysian communities.