Using technology to do good in the world is vital and the best use of the digital knowledge we now hold, government digital minister Matt Hancock told a London audience this week. His comments come as the government releases a green paper on internet safety proposing to tackle ‘tech for bad’ through a new code of practice and social media levy.
Using tech innovation for the greater good is vital to us all, the government’s digital minister Matt Hancock told a London audience this week, arguing that more effort should go into using digital to improve people’s lives.
“We can use these amazing technologies, which bring with them big challenges, to do good in the world,” the minister told a gathering of senior audience of founders, investors and more. “Many startups and private sector businesses are using technology to do good in the world and I salute them.”
Hancock was speaking at the London launch of Zinc.vc, a new for-good tech business programme led by Seedcamp and Index Ventures co-founder Saul Klein. Zinc has been created to build impactful ventures from the ground up, with a first cohort of 55 entrepreneurs addressing the challenges of women’s mental health through digital innovation.
“Zinc’s founding purpose is to use technology to do good in the world and if there is anything better than that I don’t know what it is,” the minister said. “The technology revolution that we are going through is the biggest change that’s going on. It’s even bigger than Brexit. Harnessing that change for the power of good is something that is vital to all of us.”
He added: “We need to make sure that everybody understands new technology, knows that your purpose is not just to use it for what it can do but to use it for what it should do and what we should use it for is to make life better for citizens right across the world.”
The government wants business-driven and funded initiatives like Zinc to create solutions to social challenges through digital innovation, though many of the products that emerge could end up being deployed by the public sector to improve services like the NHS.
The minister’s comments on tech for good follow Hancock’s announcement late last month of more thinking around the government’s emerging ‘digital charter’, which look to address some of the far thornier ‘tech for bad’ downsides of digital change – including extremist material online, indecent images of children, under-age access to porn and more.
This week, Hancock’s boss, culture secretary Karen Bradley, launched the government’s internet safety strategy green paper, which proposes a new internet ombudsman to deal with abuse complaints and a voluntary levy on social media firms that would help pay to police online offences. Under the proposals, firms would also have to produce an annual ‘internet safety transparency report’ to show progress on these issues.
The new code of practice would offer guidance to social media providers on what to do in relation to conduct on their platforms. The charter and code fall short of binding legislation that many believe is necessary, though the proposed levy is more than others expected.
In his speech last month, Hancock said the new charter would provide a “framework for how businesses, individuals and our wider society should act in the digital world, based on an agreed set of principles”. Promising to develop the charter with input from business, experts and public, he said “our starting point is that the delicate and careful limits we have honed over generations to govern life offline should apply online too.”