Urgent challenges like poverty, climate change, and disease cross borders and boundaries, affecting us all. Solving these global problems requires global cooperation — and in today’s connected world, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to expand cooperation beyond governments to include the ideas of people from around the world.
The simple truth is that change on the scale that we need can’t just come from the top down; it has to come from the bottom up as well.
In this spirit, in advance of the G8 Summit, the UN Foundation, Mashable, 92nd Street Y, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ashoka launched “G-Everyone,” a day of online and in-person dialogue that invited everyone to share ideas about how technology and innovation can address global problems.
Building off of the G8’s focus on “open economies, open governments, and open societies to support enterprise and deliver economic growth,” conversations focused on three questions:
1. How can innovation stimulate your local economy?
2. How can technology make your government more open?
3. How can online communities help build healthier societies?
While the G8 represents about 14 percent of the world’s population, it was clear that people around the world were eager to participate and make their voices heard.
From farmers in Tanzania to entrepreneurs in Canada, people from 73 countries participated in G-Everyone. The conversation reached more than 64 million people worldwide and touched on topics ranging from the environment to women’s empowerment to technology’s ability to connect people across geographies.
Prominent themes from the day included:
• Technology for open governments and engaged citizens. Throughout the day, participants highlighted how technology and social media can and must promote transparency, facilitate dialogue between governments and citizens, and provide citizens with information to hold governments accountable.
For example, one organization suggested that elected officials hold virtual town halls with constituents. In an interview, social entrepreneur Emma Jane Cross pointed out that Brazil publishes government budgets online. A UNDP representative in Rwanda mentioned that a group of developers are working on a way for citizens to report corruption anonymously through SMS. And the UN’s My World 2015 survey was highlighted as an example of world leaders gathering people’s views on the post-2015 development agenda.
• Technology for educational and job opportunities. Participants mentioned the economic challenges we face today, including poverty and high youth unemployment. Discussions emphasized the huge potential for technology to revolutionize education, teach skills, and create job and economic opportunities.
As one participant put it, “Without innovation our economy and quality of life would remain stagnant. Innovation raises expectations.” During Google+ Hangouts, one speaker noted how mobile phones are connecting people to markets. Another mentioned the potential of online learning tools to transform education.
• Expand broadband access, harness mobile technology. Given technology’s ability to engage citizens, foster collaboration, promote accountability, increase economic opportunities, and more, participants noted that it’s vital to expand broadband access to the billions of people without it.
At the same time, there are 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, and participants emphasized the value of this technology to deliver health information, facilitate business opportunities, and connect people around the world.
• Don’t overlook local innovation. The G-Everyone conversation stressed the importance of innovation and change at the local level. Participants called for tapping into the talent, resources, and innovation of local communities while also making sure innovation meets local needs.
The major take-away for me is that people are hungry to be heard. Technology and innovation are making it easier for people to speak to leaders, and now leaders must seize the opportunity to listen and engage. By recognizing the needs and ideas of the world’s 7 billion people, we can create a better future for all of us.
You can continue the conversation on how technology, social media, and innovation drive change at plussocialgood.org.