I was lucky enough to be part of the recent BITC Annual Responsible Business Gala at the O2 Arena in London, and one theme absolutely shone out of the event: human-centric innovation.
As Duncan Tait said in his opening speech at the awards ceremony, digital technology is a powerful force for good. But only if we – technologists and businesspeople alike – approach it responsibly.
It’s about winning the right way. You can’t ignore tomorrow’s problems while making today’s profits, and the buzz and enthusiasm I saw from the future leaders who attended the event made me confident that message has well and truly caught on.
Here are some of the most exciting things I saw throughout the day…
The Innovation Zone
Our Megatrends set out six global challenges that need to be addressed in order to sustain life on planet Earth, all of which will be hugely impacted by technology.
That is what our innovation zone was about: showing how digital technology can address broader social and environmental challenges such as a population that is both growing and ageing, scarce resources and climate change.
Take food production, for example, and our now-famous ‘connected cow’, which uses sensors to monitor bovine behaviour in real time and helps farmers boost the efficiency of livestock farming through analytical insight.
And what about wearable tech? Real-time monitoring devices that can reduce the risk of car accidents or help the elderly gain greater independence by monitoring health in real time.
This technology can also support people who are working in the field, using augmented reality and remote video assistance to share expert knowledge more effectively. Particularly when it comes to building and maintaining critical infrastructure such as energy, water or communications, these innovations will be crucial to keeping our society running.
Then there’s the Internet of Things (IOT), and its ability to provide early insight into elements like water temperature and air quality, enabling a faster and better-informed reaction to impending challenges.
All of this technology displayed in our Innovation Zone has the power to help overcome the challenges I mentioned above.
What was most inspiring for me, however, was seeing the excitement of the young attendees as they went from stand to stand and experienced each of these ideas. It was inspirational to get their views on the technology and how it could be used to address the global Megatrends.
If the future leaders of our businesses already understand and appreciate the good technology can achieve in the world beyond simply turning a profit, I think we have a good chance of tackling these issues.
Inspired by technology
As day progressed to night, the theme of human-centric innovation as a force for good certainly showed no signs of slowing.
If you haven’t seen Jason Bradbury ride onto a stage on a hoverboard then frankly you haven’t lived (he also began his presenting duties as an iPad on a stick – yes, you read that right).
On a serious note, though, one of the presenters, Sophie Morgan, a paraplegic, actually walked on stage to present an award with the help of a pair of bionic legs. Jason Bradbury described her as ‘a walking example of technology changing our lives’. I couldn’t agree more.
We also saw a powerful 360-degree virtual reality experience, which showed the audience the destruction of the world’s rainforests and how quickly and completely it’s happening. I thought this was a great example of technology being used to bring an issue to life in a more powerful way than would otherwise be possible.
Here’s to a responsible future
A huge congratulations to the winners in every category, and also the highly commended entries. You are all living proof that companies can, and are, taking responsible business seriously and have the power to change our world for the better. So thank you.
But the ultimate prize of the night went to Veolia, a company that has invested £1m on training apprentices and will have invested £1bn total in the UK by 2018, indirectly creating around 28,000 jobs and £2.8bn in economic activity.
Not to mention 30% of its board are women and it delivers 300 apprenticeships every year (10% of which are to marginalised groups).
And with that, I’ll leave you once again with the words of Duncan Tait:
“Our aim is to inspire the next generation of responsible business leadership, grow this movement, and define responsible business in a digital age.”
From what I saw at this year’s gala, it’s fair to say that aim was achieved.
Check out the live blog for much more insight from the night.
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