Tech ‘must show it is force for good’

A major disparity now exists between industry and public perceptions of technology, with the tech sector needing to do far more to demonstrate its positive impact, a new survey by Tech London Advocates says.

russshawThe survey – released by Tech London Advocates for its fifth anniversary – finds that more than half of London’s tech sector believes public trust in the industry is at an all-time low, following the recent Cambridge Analytica/Facebook revelations.

But nearly nine in 10 tech leaders polled believe tech companies are having a positive social impact, and increasing equality. Tech professionals cited job creation (35%) and economic contribution (30%) as the most important ways the industry has a positive impact on London.

The 250-strong TLA survey shows a wide disparity between professional and public opinion. Polling by Demos last year showed a major trust deficit for tech firms, with fewer than one in 10 comfortable sharing their information with social media businesses.

That survey was conducted back in October, so long pre-dates last month’s Cambridge Analytica revelations, which are certain to take public trust in tech to new depths.

The TLA call reflects earlier comments from the government’s director general, Matthew Gould, who has called for the tech industry to show that it can be a force for good.

TLA was founded by entrepreneur Russ Shaw (pictured) in 2013 as a campaign and networking body for the London tech sector. Helped by a series of high-profile thought leadership events, it has grown into a global network of over 6,000 members with nine international advocate groups, as part of what is now Global Tech Advocates.

Commenting on the findings, Shaw said: “There is a clear disparity between the positive potential of technology and public perceptions in the industry. I want to galvanise the private sector in London tech and beyond to celebrate the positive impact tech companies have on the city’s people, society and economy.”

Earlier this month, the organisers of London Tech Week – which also turns five this year – confirmed a new emphasis on tech for good, with a list of 30 ’change makers’ drawn heavily from ventures with a social impact mission.

TLA marked its fifth birthday in a celebration for 800 tech leaders at Here East on London’s Olympic Park.

At the event, TeenTech founder Maggie Philbin, a veteran advocate for UK tech for good, led a panel on ‘the positive power of tech’, featuring Rioch Edwards-Brown of So You Wanna Be in Tech? and Lucy Yu of FiveAI.

A new TLA report released for the event sets targets for London tech to achieve by 2023, after its next five years of work. These include tech companies committing 1% of their profits to social initiatives and local communities.

Among the other objectives set out in the report are:

  • creating a new secretary of state for digital
  • attracting $6bn into London-based tech firms annually
  • trebling London’s capacity to produce computer science graduates
  • ensuring 33% gender diversity in the workforce.

“Over the last five years, Tech London Advocates has given a voice to the tech sector around some of the biggest challenges facing the industry,” Shaw said. “Today’s report shows how we maintain London’s position as a global tech hub and outlines what we need to achieve to continue our success.”

Global Tech Advocates networks

Tech London Advocates
Tech Nordic Advocates
Tech North Advocates
Tech Belfast Advocates
Tech Bay Area Advocates
Tech Singapore Advocates
Tech Spain Advocates
Tech Shanghai Advocates
Tech Bogotá Advocates.