The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Andrii Shtadler

Today you’ll understand why meeting accessibility demands is so important for websites, and not only.

Andrii Shtadler

At KeenEthics, we’re always happy to meet people who make a difference in their environment. These people depart from outdated work philosophy, bring innovation, and show others how the work should be done. One of such people is Andrii Shtadler, our new guest in the Tech4Good rubric. Andrii is an experienced developer who speaks publicly about accessibility. Today, we’ll have the chance to learn a bit more about accessibility in software and look deeper at why accessibility matters. 

Who is Andrii Shtadler?

Andrii Shtadler is an accessibility expert. He is a software engineer with more than 6 years of experience. Andrii likes to call himself an agnostic developer. For the last 3 years, he works as a Team Lead, and during this time, his view of software has changed a lot. Andrii’s no longer interested only in feature implementation or launching new products. Now, he deeply studies the internal processes of how business is done, what impact a product has on the world. As Andrii states, each project involves the input that’s passed to a client and the output that’s passed to the world.

Andrii Shtadler Tech4Good

How did you choose your career path?

After graduating from school, I choose Finances as my target area. I went to college and was going to become a tax officer. I thought that my future career would be connected to the tax sphere. However, after graduating from college, I realized that my passion is to create something and see the instant results of my work. I wanted to follow my passion. I had two paths to choose: to become an engineer or to become a developer. In fact, developing software is similar to engineering. Engineers create buildings, and developers create code. The only difference is that engineers work in the open air, and developers work in a room. I chose to become a developer because of the progressive work environment. In software development, everything is changing rapidly. It does not allow you to stay in one place. This is how I took my first programming courses and decided to move in this direction. 

As I know, you are based in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. How’s the situation with the software field in this city? Are there many software companies in Vinnytsia, or most developers work for the Kyiv-based firms?

When it comes to the software market, Vinnytsia is a pretty developed city. We have a lot of software companies here. The only drawback is that there is a problem with finding space for new offices. I’ve heard about many software firms that wanted to open offices in Vinnytsia but failed to find free buildings. However, in the time of the pandemic, the situation gets better since most people work remotely and do not need offices.

Yeah, safety today is a number one priority. Okay, let’s move to a kind of “philosophical” side of your job. What are the key principles that you follow in your professional life? 

Five years ago, one person told me the following: write code as if the one who will read it knows where you live. From that time, I prioritize quality. In daily work, my aim is not just to write code and finish a task ASAP. My aim is to bring value to a client and the end user. When I work with a customer and I see that there are ways to improve their business, I always share my ideas. Sometimes my suggestions help, sometimes no. And that’s okay. What matters is the genuine interest of my team to help clients grow. For me, programming is one of the instruments to drive this growth. 

Write code as if the one who will read it knows where you live.

You’ve said that you aim to bring value. And how do you define the product’s “value”? How can we understand whether a product brings value or not?

It depends on my attitude towards a project If I like the idea, no matter how many chances for success it currently has I will fight for this project. It doesn’t matter if the idea is already well-known and widely implemented. It doesn’t matter if the product doesn’t look user-friendly in the beginning. If I like it, I will put maximum effort to turn this idea into success. The main criterion of value for me is the product’s relevance.

Relevance matters. I also know that you are an avid public speaker: you regularly give speeches on various topics. One of such topics is accessibility. Could you please tell our readers more about it?

Yes, I usually give two kinds of speeches. Speeches of the first type are devoted to my technical experience. The second type is speeches about soft skills. My last speech was all about soft skills. I discussed impostor syndrome and the ways to turn this problem into a source of motivation and inspiration. But accessibility is the topic that relates to both types. On the one hand, I discuss the programming side of accessibility. I explain what should be done to adjust the product’s features to the requirements of accessibility. On the other hand, I tell people more about why it is an important topic. 

We don’t have the right to limit the opportunities of people who already have limited opportunities. It’s the main idea of accessibility. When a person having vision problems uses our app or website — it’s already a great achievement for me and a reason to feel proud.

We don’t have the right to limit the opportunities of people who already have limited opportunities.

That’s so interesting! And what inspired you to look deeper into such topic as accessibility?

I’ve always known that it’s a very important topic, but there was one situation when I realized that it’s high time to implement it in practice. Once I went on a business trip to London, where our client was based. We spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for his product. In one of our team’s meetings, I met a guy who had vision problems — his retina was very sensitive to bright colors. This guy was wearing goggles that protected his eyes from bright light. The goggles consisted of two dark lenses with little holes in each. And this guy saw the world only through these holes. He was a developer, and he had to work with a bright screen. I was impressed by the way this guy worked on the PC: he tried not to look at the screen at all, he just listened to how the code should be written and wrote it. When we talked with him, he said that he had 15 years of programming experience. 10 years ago, his problems with vision started. From that time, this guy tries to adapt to a new lifestyle and work as a normal person. 

Analyzing his case, I realized that there are so many people like him around the world. If people in the software world struggle a lot, what about those outside the software field? I’ll give an example. People with vision problems find it difficult to use websites that have no accessibility implementation. While it takes 1 minute for us to make an order on a website, for a person with low vision it might take half an hour. This is why we should aim to reduce their pain and introduce equality into the software world. 

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Alex Pletnov Max Savonin CEO

Yes, such situations make it clear why we should care about accessibility. And what about clients? How to encourage them to care about it, too? How to show that spending money on accessibility is a good idea? 

First, the main argument in favor of accessibility is that it helps your business stand out from the competition. It helps form a positive brand image and tell a memorable story. 

Second, clients benefit from accessibility in a monetary sense. Once I googled statistics on people suffering from vision problems globally. As it turns out, nearly 2 billion people on our planet have problems with eyesight. It means that by adapting your products to the needs of these people, you expand your audience and earn more users. And if only 1 website out of 10 has accessibility functionality, these people will eagerly use it. 

Accessibility helps your business stand out from the competition.

Third, accessibility gives you the advantage because of how Google’s algorithms work. Google better indexes websites that have the so-called semantics. Accessibility is the first sign of proper website semantics for Google. The more you care about accessibility, the better Google indexes your website.

Fourth, many countries support accessibility on the legal level. And I think that it is the most effective way of encouraging and promoting accessibility among clients. In some states of the US, for example, people can sue companies that do not follow the demands of accessibility. It means that if a person cannot make an order on some website because of their eyesight problems, they can sue the website’s owner. Accessibility is not only a necessity but also demand.

Wow, interesting! And if we compare the situation on the Western market with Ukraine, for instance, is there a huge difference in the way people treat accessibility? Is the Western software market more progressive in terms of the accessibility question? 

To be honest, in Ukraine, developers neglect this question because we lack role models of how accessibility can be achieved. The situation in Ukraine is quite disturbing. We have no accessibility system developed in real life, not to mention the Internet. A lot of multi-floor houses across Ukraine have no elevators and wheelchair ramps. People with disabilities cannot reach their homes or go outside without someone’s help. On the Internet, the situation is quite the same. Our developers don’t perceive accessibility as an ultimate need. They see it as an extra task on their task management board. 

As compared to Ukraine, the Western countries care about accessibility more. Take the example of the law in the US that allows people with disabilities to sue companies for neglecting accessibility. They have accessibility employed on the level of mentality. In Ukraine, we still have room for improvement. 

But how to encourage developers to change their mind and start working in this direction? 

One of the ways is to be proactive. We should share knowledge, create useful sources, conduct seminars, webinars on the topic. However, it seems that developers start looking for useful sources only when they are pressured by deadlines. Or when implementing accessibility is one of their final tasks on the project. In this case, the features are built just “for the record.” And developers still do not see the global value of this subject.

Even if a developer has no task to implement accessibility, they still should bear it in mind. If a developer knows that building a particular attribute will allow any screen reader to read the website, they should build such. Yes, it will take them more time. But they will make people’s experience on this website more pleasant and comfortable, and it’s worth it. 

How to make these ideas a reality? The most effective way is to implement the change on the level of state and law. Lections, webinars help a lot. But when accessibility is required on the state level, then everyone treats this issue seriously. 

The most effective way is to implement the change on the level of state and law.

I agree. By the way, I see more and more people supporting the trend of sustainability and sustainable fashion. And what about accessibility? Like sustainability in fashion, can accessibility be named a trend in software development? 

To make it a worldwide trend, we should get the support of our state. As I said, a change on the legal level will be a great step forward. The same concerns global accessibility. As soon as 5 most powerful countries make accessibility an obligatory condition for software development, we will see how it is turning into a huge trend. I’ve heard that China was already discussing the need for accessibility on the Internet. As soon as the most powerful countries make it obligatory, all other countries will follow their example and start caring about it, too. 

And in what ways can software products be adapted to the requirements of accessibility? 

There are three levels of accessibility. The first level presupposes that buttons pressed by a user have another backlight color.  It helps make the functionality more user-friendly. The second level presupposes that screen readers can read the chosen functionality for a user. The third level involves the creation of a different website version for people with disabilities. It allows them to use the website with the help of automation technologies, screen readers, and so on. On Apple, for example, the third-level accessibility is realized by the VoiceOver function that can read the whole website for a user. 

I’ve also made my own typology of accessibility. The first type is formal accessibility. It comprises formal accessibility obligations or rules imposed on software product owners. These obligations make it compulsory for software owners to adapt their products to the needs of users with disabilities. For example, there can be 5 rules that should be followed by companies if they want to pass the Accessibility Certification. But it frequently happens that these rules are met just for the record and are implemented so awfully that it’s impossible to use such products. It’s the same situation as when wheelchair ramps are set at 90 degrees. Yes, formally, they are set, the requirement is met. No, they do not help people with disabilities at all. They make it even more difficult for them to get home. 

Another type of accessibility is practical. This type is more important because it shows how accessibility features work in reality and whether they are helpful. It might happen that a website doesn’t meet the formal requirements of accessibility but is perfectly adjusted for the needs of people with poor vision, for example. Companies should not care about accessibility just for the record. They should aim to reproduce the main business logic of their software while meeting accessibility demands at the same time. And for sure, the best decision is to apply both types of accessibility in your development practice. 

Companies should aim to reproduce the main business logic of their software while meeting accessibility demands at the same time.

The last question for you. What ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world? 

The most important thing is to be open-minded and flexible. I can’t stand when people shield themselves from the rest of the world. The business of software is changing rapidly. It’s important to stay open-minded and be ready to learn something new. For sure, it may be hard to keep pace with all these advances: today you work under certain rules, and tomorrow, these rules are changing. But you should stay flexible and understand that growth is impossible without being open to change. 

In the end, I would like to add that accessibility is not only about people with eyesight problems. Today we talked mainly about them, but there are many other categories of people whose needs should be considered. If we have such an opportunity, I would like to talk about other aspects of accessibility, too. There are still so many questions to discuss and so many ideas to promote!

That’s great! We will be happy to continue this discussion in our new articles! Our readers should stay tuned 🙂 

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Alex Pletnov Ilona Shvahla Head of Partner Engagement

The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Georg Lozinski

We shed light on hot topics and main challenges in sustainability and ethics

This is our first “The Leaders of Tech4Good” interview in 2021, and today, we would like you to meet our Sustainability & Ethics Specialist — Georg Lozinski. Together with him, we will look into why and how companies should implement sustainability strategy. Sustainability is a topical issue nowadays, a necessity rather than a possibility, so let’s have a look.

Who is Georg Lozinski?

Georg Lozinski is a sustainability and ethics specialist at Keenethics. For the last 12 years, Georg has worked in more than 10 countries on various sustainability initiatives and projects with a focus on environmental and climate change issues. Lastly, he has been working for several consulting companies in Germany developing and implementing sustainability strategies for a number of big corporate clients. He also conducted more than 15 trainings on developing and monitoring climate change mitigation projects in several developing countries.

Why have you decided to choose sustainability as your career path?

Since childhood, I was excited to learn how our world is developing and what we can do to maintain our resources and our planet for future generations. This drove me to learn geography and ecology and later to proceed with my professional career working on various climate and sustainability topics. While the time passed, I also understood that sustainability could be not only interesting for individuals, governments, or NGOs but also profitable and very useful for private business. This includes, for example, the possibility to reduce energy consumption, achieve sustainable sourcing of products and materials, assure continuity of business, make customers happy, reach new markets, improve the company’s image, and retain the best people in the company.

Sustainability is such a broad term. How do you define it?

Yes, indeed, sustainability is a very broad term with a number of definitions. From the environmental perspective, I personally like this definition by the 1987 Bruntland Commission Report:

Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Based on this, corporate sustainability is the approach aimed to create long-term stakeholder value through the implementation of a business strategy that focuses on the ethical, social, environmental, cultural, and economic dimensions of doing business. Research shows that organizations that engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts tend to have stronger financial performance.

Most commonly, there are three pillars that form a multi-disciplinary point of view at sustainability — Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) focus areas. On the corporate level, a good practice is to develop a set of KPIs and policies for each focus area and to relate these to 17 UN SDGs (United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals) defined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

A good overview of the topics can be found in the extract from the Sustainability Report below: 

Many companies have already developed and implemented their sustainability strategy, which has a positive impact on their business. Lets take for example a German producer Henkel. Henkel was the first company in Germany and within its sector to conclude a 1.5 billion-euro agreement on a “Green Loan” as early as 2018. Its interest rates are linked to the fulfillment of fixed sustainability criteria in the form of sustainability ratings. The key factor in the adjustment to the interest rates is a change in the ratings supplied by three recognized sustainability ranking agencies: Sustainalytics, EcoVadis, and ISS-oekom. The involvement of these different sustainability rating agencies ensures that Henkel’s sustainability performance is assessed in a balanced, objective, and comprehensive way.

At the same time, still there are companies that do not address sustainability properly yet. Let’s take a look at the example of the biggest international retailer Amazon, which has got bad press coverage about the unfair treatment of their warehouse workers and the disparity in earnings between CEO Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, and the armies of workers toiling in their e-fulfillment centers.

Eventually, Amazon finally did appoint a head of sustainability in 2014. They have made advances in the areas of reducing waste from excess packaging and investing in Wind Farms. But it is in transportation where Amazon is creating the biggest adverse impacts on the environment. They have done next to nothing in this area. Amazon in 2018 purchased 20,000 delivery vans for last-mile deliveries, which were powered by internal combustion engines — not a single electric vehicle in the bunch. Amazon, a company with the most innovative supply chain in the world, puts so little emphasis on working to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chain.

One impressive story about Amazon’s unsustainability was told by a customer who bought nine rolls of window film to make her home more energy-efficient. She was surprised when the rolls arrived at her door in nine separate boxes. Despite being small enough to fit in a single box, the staff at the Amazon fulfillment center opted to pack them individually.

The same story happened to me recently in Germany. I bought 4 pairs of jeans from another online retailer Zalando, and they were delivered to me in 4 separate packages at different times. 

Are there any sustainability topics specific to the IT sphere?

For the IT sphere, in addition to the three ESG dimensions, we can add a number of issues around other topics. For example, we should consider quality management systems (ISO 9001), Business-Continuity-Management-System (e.g. according to ISO 22301), which includes a high degree of digitalization. Also, it is important to consider Best-Practice-Governance-processes, Incident-Response-Teams, and, of course, information management systems ISO 27000 with Best Practices for the safety management and safety controls. 

Let’s have a closer look at each aspect — Environment sustainability, Social sustainability, and Governance. First of all, what are your recommendations in terms of environmental sustainability? 

To start developing the environmental sustainability policy, you should begin with establishing the Sustainability Steering Committee or other management body at the highest level of top management and appoint people responsible for the development and implementation of the sustainability strategy. 

The next step is stakeholder and materiality mapping. The company should identify the most important topics for itself, such as carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, waste, ecosystems improvement, or any other environmental issue. The company should consult with relevant stakeholders such as Contractors, Consultants and Suppliers, Customers, Employees, Local Community, Regulators, and NGOs in order to narrow down and prioritize the most material and important sustainability topics for the stakeholders and for itself. This Materiality Assessment will help to integrate sustainability into the business operations and practices and regularly review and assess the relevance of the material topics. 

Last but not least, the company shall establish realistic and measurable sustainability goals from the short-term (2-5 years), medium-term (5-10 years), and long-term (10-30 years) perspective. Here are the examples of such goals:

  • to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,
  • to reduce the amount of used plastic by X% in 7 years,
  • to reduce water consumption by X% in 3 years.

Also, the company should monitor these goals on an ongoing basis. 

Environmental sustainability should be implemented carefully. Let’s take the example of Volkswagen, a famous German car producer. Volkswagen admitted it had equipped 11 million of its diesel cars with software that could be used to cheat on emissions tests, all while merrily marketing the vehicles as “clean diesel.” When the scandal came out, the carmaker was hauled through the courts and ordered to refund eco-minded consumers more than $11 billion.

How can IT businesses contribute to environmental sustainability?

For developing environmental sustainability, we can start with implementing the Environmental Management System according to ISO14001. Also, the IT environmental sustainability might include Green IT measures for energy efficiency — sourcing or even production of renewable electricity. 

On the energy management side, such measures might include:

  • optimizing the usage of computers, 
  • purchasing laptops with low energy consumption and efficient cooling, 
  • ensuring optimal temperature in server rooms, 
  • installing LED lamps, 
  • installing movement sensors, 
  • using waste heat from the servers, 
  • upgrading building technology, e.g. efficient windows,
  • offsetting greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon certificates,
  • purchasing and using electric cars as company cars,
  • promoting remote work to avoid unnecessary commute and associated carbon emissions.

On the waste side, we might employ waste sorting, appropriate waste utilization, use of recyclable materials in daily operations, and so on. 

Let’s look at a different example here — production company Uniliver and its sustainable brand Dove. One of the ways Dove tries to contribute to solving social and environmental problems is by reducing waste. Since 2013, Dove deodorants come in smaller, compressed cans. Besides that, Unilever wants to bridge the gender inequality gap, to help each woman celebrate herself. Dove advertisements feature women of different body types, skin and hair colors — to exemplify the actual female beauty. In fact, Unilever aimed to boost the self-esteem of 15 million women worldwide before 2020. Surprisingly enough, they reached this milestone as early as 2014.

Coming back to your question “what can IT businesses do for environmental sustainability,” I can tell you about another example: the American software group Autodesk, which came fifth in the 2020 Corporate Knights sustainability ranking. Autodesk rose 43 places from its 2019 ranking due to its use of 99% renewable energy to run its cloud platforms — platforms that help build green buildings, reduce materials in manufacturing life cycles, and support better designs for the circular economy. In addition, I would suggest to the companies striving for sustainability to participate in various international initiatives such as Science Based Targets for climate and in international sustainability rankings such as Sustainalytics or Carbon Disclosure Project. 

Alright, how about social sustainability? What are the policies that you believe all companies have to follow? 

Typically, social sustainability focuses on employees, communities, and customers. It can pursue a broad range of goals — from assuring access to sanitation for a certain amount of people to reaching equal female representation in senior management. An important point here is to link business operations and sustainability activities to strengthen the effect of corporate sustainability. For example:

Through the implementation of the software X, the life of Y amount of people (ill, disabled, etc) can be improved, a number X of trainings can be performed, and Y number of people could be reached and trained.

If your customers are looking for a company focused on quality and competence, you will benefit from increasing personnel qualification through knowledge sharing sessions, trainings, workshops etc. 

To start developing social sustainability, you can take the following measures:

  • choose proper channels to communicate about company achievements, such as social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter) and media platforms (e.g. YouTube), 
  • develop sustainability report, 
  • post sustainability news on the company website, 
  • write blogs on hot topics.

Speaking about social sustainability in HR, companies often sponsor or engage employees in various initiatives, such as planting trees or teaching students. Often these activities are aimed at potential future customers to improve or strengthen brand image and promote the company products or services.  Also, the company may grant their employees certain types of external and internal trainings, promote car sharing, carpooling, or leased bikes, provide fresh fruit baskets or organic food, offer free health inspection, subsidize fitness.

When we speak about sustainability in IT, some international companies have already developed, implemented, and reported on a number of sustainability strategies. Take a look at this example of how sustainability is reported and communicated by Microsoft:

For instance, as part of its social responsibility strategy, together with LinkedIn, Microsoft has launched free trainings to help people acquire relevant skills for jobs in-demand on LinkedIn. Everybody can improve their skills for free with learning paths from LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn, then practice tech skills in the GitHub Learning Lab.

Finally, why is governance important, and what policies does it include? 

Good governance is the foundation of building trust among stakeholders. It is about maintaining the highest standards of integrity, accountability, and governance in daily business operations. It starts with establishing policies and robust internal processes, mapping specific guidance areas, and ensuring compliance at the workplace. Examples of such policies include: Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, Whistle-blowing Policy, Anti-bribery Policy, Diversity & Inclusion Policy, and Personal Data Protection Policy.

The code of ethics is a guide of principles designed to help professionals conduct business honestly and with integrity. This document may outline the mission and values of the business or organization, ethical principles, standards, and the expected ways how professionals are supposed to approach problems.

Code of Business Conduct and Ethics deals with the responsibilities of management, such as delegating authority only to responsible employees and maintaining workplace safety by following safety and health policies, such as:

  • Diversity and Respect, Sexual Harassment, Reporting and Addressing Harassment;
  • Responsibility to Competitors, Fair Competition and Antitrust; 
  • Responsibility to Governments, Compliance with Law, including Anti-Corruption; 
  • Professional Conduct — no drugs and alcohol, Conflicts of Interest — improper payments/gifts; 
  • Charitable donations;
  • Procedures for resolving ethical questions. 

Alright, and are there any Governance practices specific to the IT sphere?

Specifically for the IT sector, there is a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct developed in the USA by the Association for Computing Machinery. This document defines general ethical principles for computing professionals. 

Another important topic for IT is data protection. It is a good practice to appoint a Data Protection Officer and form a data protection team to consult the business on data protection. An integrated data protection management system (DMS) should be implemented in accordance with the requirements of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

So, to summarize all this, what are your top three sustainability recommendations for every company?

Regardless of the line of business you are in or the size of your company, I would recommend starting with the following three steps:

Firstly, in the sustainability strategy development, you should focus on the most material topics in each dimension — environmental, social, and economic — and establish ownership for these topics at the highest level of company management.

Secondly, you ought to develop a sustainability strategy with measurable, realistic, and clear KPIs, as I have explained above. 

Thirdly, you should work on the development and continuous improvement of sustainability reporting and develop and implement a communication strategy for sustainability. To improve reporting on sustainability topics, you can consult with the Framework of Global Reporting Initiative and make communication more effective, engage external influencers. 

And our traditional question, what ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world?

I cannot single out only one ethical value. I believe responsibility, integrity, honesty, respect, trust, openness, fairness, and transparency are equally important.

Honesty in communications is crucial. It is about the intent to convey the truth as we best know it and to avoid communicating in a misleading or deceiving way. Reliability and responsibility impose the responsibility of making all reasonable efforts to fulfill given commitments. Responsible people look for ways to do their work better and pursuit of excellence. They do not shift blame or claim credit for the work of others. Caring is also at the heart of ethics. It is about supporting each other and being concerned with the welfare of others.

To Wrap Up

We hope that you find this interview as informative and interesting as we do. If you are doing a Tech4Good business, you can make it even more favorable for the community if you pursue fundamental sustainability goals. If you feel like you need technical help or sustainability & ethics strategy guidance, we will be happy to help. Also, we plan to write more Sustainability & Ethics articles together with Georg Lozinski in the future. In these articles, we will have a closer look at social sustainability, environmental sustainability, and governance. Stay tuned!

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5 Reasons Why You Will Enjoy Working for a Tech4Good Startup

Here comes a list of steps to quickly configure your Node.js application server

Has the business sphere changed in the last 5 years? With the rise of the Internet, the answer can hardly be “no.” Moreover, the answer can’t be “no” when it comes to the pandemic. Thanks to the Internet and modern technologies, people have the chance to study and work during the lockdown, stay connected, and ensure that they have everything needed. 

Considering all this happening, you frequently face a situation when you have to choose. What sphere to enter, what company to focus on, what criteria to stick to? These are the questions frequently asked by developers who create a strategy for their professional path. And today, I am also going to talk about the choice. 

When you look for a job, among all the options presented on the market, you come across the category of “Tech4Good startups,” also called “social” or “ethical” startups. But before discussing the value of Tech4Good startups, let me briefly explain what the Tech4Good movement is. As you can see from its name, Tech4Good is the practice of using technology for social good. The mission of Tech4Good is to apply technology to a broader context to improve our ecosystem. 

Companies representing this movement aim not only to get personal benefits but to make the world better. Being a Tech4Good company means using the available resources and technology to address social, economic, cultural, or environmental challenges. Such companies are open to cooperation and cultivate ethical values through the use of technology. 

Why is working for Tech4Good companies considered a precious opportunity nowadays? Because of their long-term impact. Tech4Good startups make you a part of something unique and valuable — let’s look at 5 reasons why. 

1. You enjoy a sense of higher purpose.

Many of us strive to make more money, but not so many keep in mind that money alone cannot make us happy. Those who focus exclusively on profit sooner or later come to the idea that money is just a tool and not the ultimate goal. In the background of world digitization and automation, we should not forget that we are humans. We still want to feel our belongingness to a community, we still want to feel valued.

If you also aim to experience a sense of higher purpose and feel proud that your skills help someone, consider working for a Tech4Good startup. So far, numerous Tech4Good projects use technology to help people in need. And Kinderenergy is one of those. 

Source: Kinderenergy https://www.kinderenergy.org/

Kinderenergy is a water and food sustainability project aimed to encourage US students to help kids in rural areas. Currently, the project staff is looking for financial and media support to provide Tanzanian children with means of survival. If you also would like to support this noble cause, go to the Kinderenergy landing page and donate.

Although there are no open vacancies at Kinderenergy so far, you can volunteer your skills — this is an excellent way to start your career in Tech4Good. As the company states itself, “There are numerous opportunities for collaboration.” So, email them at headquarters@kinderenergy.org if you are interested.

2. Innovative startups use innovative technologies.

Let’s take AR and VR technology as an example. Augmented and Virtual Reality technology is implemented for various purposes, from entertainment to science, and is beneficial for both users and developers. Cost-effectiveness, broad applicability and functional flexibility are the features that make AR and VR relevant today. 

Many Tech4Good startups also decide to make use of AR and VR because of the advantages it offers. One of such startups is the GiveVision project, the finalist of the AbilityNet Accessibility Award 2018.

Source: VentureBeat https://venturebeat.com/2020/03/17/givevision-and-sony-promise-compact-glasses-for-visually-impaired-users/

The project sees its mission in helping people who lose their sight to regain this ability with innovative goggles. On their website, you can check dozens of people’s stories of how GiveVision goggles have become an indispensable part of their lives. 

Contact the company to ask them whether they are currently open to cooperation. And to keep track of GiveVision updates, follow the company on LinkedIn.

3. You improve your professional image.

Regardless of the sphere you aim to enter, the chances are that you will face high competition. The market is overwhelmed, so your task as a developer is to stand out from all the others. In this regard, a Tech4Good project can be a respectable and dignified addition to your portfolio. 

Being a part of a Tech4Good startup will add value to your professional image. When, apart from professional competence, your work bears some social significance, it gives you extra points while conquering the market.

4. You make a lot of social connections.

Tech4Good movement is based on people’s collaboration and mutual help. It means that, being a Tech4Good developer, you will meet a lot of influential people. Many companies known worldwide also support the Tech4Good movement in order to build a positive brand image and earn respect of their users. 

Microsoft, for example, is supporting Tech4Good entities working in India. Establishing social connections enhances the company’s success and demonstrates that they cultivate the right values. 

Moreover, by taking part in the development of the Tech4Good project, you get the chance to earn worldwide recognition. Tech4Good awards organized annually allow startup teams to become well-known. One of such awards, the Accessibility Award, is sponsored by Google. Could you imagine how many new and successful people you can meet if your company becomes a finalist?

5. Tech4Good is the future of tech. 

The Tech4Good movement is continually growing and expanding. People are no longer interested just in making their tasks easier with the help of technology. They are now willing to use the latter to serve global and more important goals. 

Solving environmental problems, looking for new solutions in medicine, increasing economic growth — these are particularly interesting areas when it comes to technological impact. Probably, you have already heard the term “industrial revolution,” but do you know that there have been four stages of this revolution so far? 

We are now living in the fourth stage, but with the rise of technology, we are going to face the fifth one. This stage is called Industry 5.0 and is aimed to step aside from one-size-fits-all solutions in the direction of one-of-a-kind solutions. And a 3D printer is a concept that already represents Industry 5.0. 

Optimus Planto is a 3D printing technology aimed to enable molecular replicators. 3D prostheses developed with Optimus Planto are made out of plastic. They are expected to replace titanium prostheses, which will reduce both production costs and patient discomfort.  Hernando Sanchez-Faddeev, the project’s founder, can tell you more about their goals and achievements.

So, if you want to keep pace with innovation and growth — choose Tech4Good as your focus. 

Wrap Up 

A Tech4Good startup is a perfect choice for progressive and ambitious professionals who are aware of world tendencies and want to contribute to global goals. Apart from pursuing a higher purpose and increasing your social significance, you will keep your professional competence at a decent level when joining the Tech4Good community. 

As Henri Nyakarundi, one of the Tech4Good leaders, said in the interview, “Tech4Good is not just the future — it’s a must and a necessity.” This is why the number ofTech4Good startups is increasing rapidly. Thus, if making money is not your ultimate goal and if you want to make a change — working for a Tech4Good startup is the best way to start!

If you are interested in Tech4Good and want to find Tech4Good companies to work for, check the Jobs Board of the Tech4Good website or look for Tech4Good startups on the Tech4Good Awards website.

Do you need a development team to support your Tech4Good idea?

Our professionals would gladly join you in your endeavor. Learn more about us to understand if we can become a match.

Tech4Good Movement Through the Eyes of KeenEthics

Today, we won’t talk about PWA development or MVP. We won’t instruct you on how to build your own mHealth solution and won’t explain how to protect your Express.js app. This article will be about something more global.

For each of us, New Year’s Eve is the time to summarize the results of the year and analyze the work we have done to make ourselves better. The end of the year is the time to think, “Who are we? What’s our mission in this life? What good things do we bring to this world?” 

As a company, KeenEthics also wants to review our achievements, share our plans, and set new goals. If you are sitting at a cozy home now, drinking a cup of warm coffee, and thinking about your vocation, we welcome you to read this article — to learn more about KeenEthics and Tech4Good values.

Tech4Good: What It Means for KeenEthics

As you know, we position ourselves as an ethical software development company. As a part of our strategy, we regularly organize interviews with the representatives of Tech4Good movement, with Tech4Good leaders. Why do we do this? Because we believe that people’s practice of using technology only to entertain themselves or make money should be left in the past. 

Just think of it: modern technology gives people the chance to survive after hard accidents. It helps spread awareness of wars or famines happening in the world. Technology even helps blind people restore their vision. Knowing about its potential, how can we still see technology that narrowly?

Tech4Good movement gives an answer to this question: we simply cannot. We cannot treat technology in the way we did 10 years ago. Tech4Good movement is aimed to change people’s attitude to technology and teach them to use it for the common good, for ethical purposes. Addressing social challenges, promoting inclusiveness, fighting for equality and accessibility — this is how we describe the central aims of Tech4Good.

Tech4Good Leaders: Behind the Scenes

Before I introduce our Tech4Good leaders, you might be interested in the background of this series. Each month, our team sets the same goal: to find an interesting Tech4Good leader, contact them, and organize an interview that will soon turn into an exciting article. Each month, we look for touching and inspirational stories, we search for Tech4Good companies on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook. 

As soon as we find our interviewee and they accept our offer, we decide upon the date and time of the interview. Our talks with Tech4Good leaders are always exhilarating and motivational. I should mention that sometimes when I listen to the stories about their childhood or family difficulties, it’s hard for me to hold back tears. But it’s definitely worth it. After hearing these stories. I always think, “Someone on the Earth helps children to get food and water, someone else fights poverty and illiteracy, why am I still lying on the sofa and doing nothing?”

Tech4Good Leaders: Who Are They and What Are They Doing?

If you have never heard about Tech4Good before, you might be really surprised by the variety of ways people use technology for the social good! We have conducted 8 interviews with Tech4Good leaders so far, and we hope that this number will grow each year. Now, I am going to tell you a little bit more about each person we had the honor to meet in 2020. I will start with Elisabeth Anne Delgado. When I talked about people helping children in need, I meant this inspirational woman.

Elisabeth Anne Delgado

Elisabeth Anne Delgado is the founder of Kinderenergy. Her project’s central idea is to motivate students who have enough resources to help children who lack them. The first step of creating Kinderenergy was made by Elisabeth Anne together with her son and daughter, who were studying in Northern California. In the interview for KeenEthics, Elisabeth Anne revealed that she sees children as the most valuable resource on Earth.

Currently, Kinderenergy is helping kids in Tanzania who have no access to clean water, food, soap, and even decent toilets. Every kid deserves to feel happy and valued, and you can also contribute to helping these children. Just go to the Kinderenergy website and donate. 

The purpose of life is to make others happy, and in the process of it, you find happiness yourself.


Debra Ruh

Dwelling upon powerful and successful women’s stories, I would like to introduce Debra Ruh. Debra is an expert in the field of accessibility, equality, sustainability, and inclusion. She is an experienced businessman and the founder of four enterprises. Debra told us that there are a lot of interesting people on her team. The woman celebrates diversity at the workplace and is open to cooperation. Go to Ruh Global to learn more about Debra’s goals.

During our interview, Debra talked about Ruh Global and the story behind it. Debra also told us about her wonderful daughter, who inspired her to promote digital inclusion, and about her career path, which made her fight for women’s rights and gender equality. For us, Debra’s story is an example of how to stay strong and optimistic. She demonstrates how to treat challenges as a source of inspiration and make a difference.

One of the ways to change the world is to give others a microphone. I want others to speak and to be heard.


Jillian Kowalchuk

The stories of Debra Ruh and Jillian Kowalchuk seem so different, but they are united by a common goal of empowering women. Our conversation with Jillian also explained how personal stories could become a driving force to making a change. 

Once, when Jillian was going to a meeting with her friend, two men blocked her way and wanted to sexually assault her. Fortunately, Jillian managed to run away. Later, she found out that one of her friends also turned out “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. This situation could not leave Jillian indifferent — the woman decided to help people facing the same problem. Today, due to her project Safe & The City, people who go home late at night can feel safe and plan their route in the best way.

Lead with your heart, and you will never go astray.


Tamara Antonchyk

Now, I am happy to tell you more about our personal contribution to Tech4Good movement — the project Let Kids Move. Initiated by KeenEthics, the project aims to develop a universal desk and encourage dynamic postures while studying. As many pieces of research show, a sedentary lifestyle adversely influences people’s health, so our goal is to teach children to take care of their posture from the early years.

In the interview with Tamara Antonchyk, you can learn more about the idea behind the project and goals set for the nearest future. Currently, our team looks for sponsors to support our mission and take care of children. If you also want to help Let Kids Move, go to the project’s website and donate.

Do a good thing. Once you do something good, you will not be able to stop.


Tey El-Rjula

Two more Tech4Good leaders whom we interviewed this year pay particular attention to the problem of poverty. These are Tey El-Rjula and Henri Nyakarundi. We were impressed by Tey El-Rjula’s idea of using Bitcoin to give people in Lebanon more economic opportunities. His story of being “invisible” motivates us to appreciate what we have more.

The man was born in Kuwait, but when the Gulf War started, his family had to flee to Lebanon to survive. The problem was that Kuwait’s birth registries were destroyed because of the war. Tey had no birth certificate, which meant that he would be deprived of many rights and become “invisible”. Fortunately, Tey figured out that he can use Bitcoin to buy things online, and not only. Now, Tey teaches others to do the same.

What we know for sure is that humans by their nature are a driver of the good force  — they are good in their nature.


Nick Gallo

One more interview worth your attention is the one with Nick Gallo. Being a dedicated father, successful entrepreneur, and business consultant, Nick became one of the founders of ComplianceLine. This company is a perfect example of how Tech4Good values work in practice: its goal is to help others build a strong and healthy corporate culture.

ComplianceLine deals with case management, license checking, and issue intake. Nick’s team uses numerous tools to encourage clients to create a compliance-powered atmosphere within their companies. But apart from providing tools, ComplianceLine also gives businesses guidelines and essential support, ensuring that they receive a fully-fledged service. To put it simply, Nick’s company turns the “Our mission” section on your company’s website from mere words to pure action.

To build a strong corporate culture, you as a leader have to get back to the foundation of trust and reestablish it in an authentic way.


Henri Nyakarundi

Being a Tech4Good leader from Africa, Henri Nyakarundi impressed us with his life path. Instead of spending the rest of his life in the US and doing business, Henri decided to bring value to his community and moved back to Africa to fight poverty and environmental problems with his company ARED.

Henri is proud of his homeland, community, and culture. At the same time, the man believes that local problems can be solved only by local people, and Africans should learn how to take care of themselves. Henri’s advice will be particularly valuable for the youth who, according to him, are the catalysts of change. Getting youth involved in solving environmental problems — this is how Henri describes his life mission.

It’s not that it’s better or worse out there. It’s just that you create your own opportunities.


Marc Sloan

Meantime, Marc Sloan has become known for his contribution to fighting the pandemic consequences. In a situation when most people care about themselves and their own safety, Marc decided to care about others. When the pandemic started, Marc realized that a lot of charities had become helpless and took action. 

Together with other people of technical background, the man built a website where charities can find support. Covid Tech Support has become a platform where volunteers offering their services and nonprofits seeking help find each other. As Marc notes, his project has reinvigorated a number of charities that would not exist today because of the pandemic.

Becoming a volunteer is a great way to differentiate yourself and show that you didn’t spend your quarantine unemployment just sitting in your home. You were out there helping people and learning things.


This is what we know about Tech4Good leaders so far: these stories are so different but equally powerful, moving, and heartwarming.

Tech4Good Values 

Charity, authenticity, honesty, empathy, respect, and fortitude are the key virtues celebrated by Tech4Good representatives. By promoting these values, people reach a higher level of self-growth, making their community evolve. Diversifying quality and giving others the chance to be heard are also the fundamental goals of Tech4Good. 

Here is what Tech4Good leaders said when we asked them about the most important values in today’s world:

  • Elisabeth Anne Delgado: charity, honesty, and fortitude.
  • Debra Ruh: authenticity, empathy, and helping others.
  • Jillian Kowalchuk: diversity and quality, transparency and accountability.
  • Tamara Antonchyk: respect for life and health.
  • Tey El-Rjula: non-aggression and privacy.
  • Nick Gallo: servanthood, empathy, integrity, respect, tenacity, and accountability.
  • Henri Nyakarundi: honesty and ethics.
  • Marc Sloan: helping others, having a sense of community, honesty, and transparency.

Our New Year’s Resolution

KeenEthics believes that technology can and should be used for global and noble purposes. We can save lives, we can make children’s fate better, we can educate others, we can prevent environmental problems — everything with the help of Tech4Good. 

In 2021, we are determined to continue fulfilling our mission and pleasing you with new interviews. We will look for new ways to reach an even broader audience. And we encourage you to read our Tech4Good series even if you have never dealt with software development — touching stories of Tech4Good leaders resonate with everyone!

Stay with us in the upcoming year, and if you know some Tech4Good leader whose story should be heard, email me at anzhela.danielkievich@keenethics.com.

And last but not least, the KeenEthics team wishes you a happy New Year and a warm celebration!

CDo you need a development team to support your Tech4Good idea?

Our professionals would gladly join you in your endeavor. Learn more about us to understand if we can become a match.

The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Henri Nyakarundi

Henri Nyakarundi reveals what challenges Africa is facing now, why Tech4Good matters today, and why it will matter in the future.

In the eighth interview of our “The Leaders of Tech4Good” blog series, we are talking with Henri Nyakarundi, the founder of ARED and the promoter of Tech4Good in Africa. Henri says, “Tech4Good is not just the future — it’s a must and a necessity, and there is no other way around.”

Who is Henri Nyakarundi?

Henri Nyakarundi is a well-respected entrepreneur, businessman, social strategist, speaker, and the representative of the Tech4Good movement. Henri is a founder of ARED and the author of the book “My African Dream: One Man’s Journey Back Home”, in which he shares his personal experience of living in the West and moving back to his homeland.

In this interview, we are talking about his life and challenges on his way, the reality of living abroad, his mission, business, and the significance of “belonging”. Henri’s success story is extraordinary, but the values he promotes and cultivates are pretty known and universal. 

Could you please tell our readers more about yourself and about what you do?

Sure. I was born in Kenya and grew up in Burundi as a refugee till the war ended in Rwanda in 1994. In 1996, I moved to the US to study Computer Science. I spent 17 years in America, but I realized that a 9-5 job is not for me and my calling lies in entrepreneurship. I dedicated the next ten years to developing business in the trucking and construction spheres. 

Also, I’ve always been concerned with green sector development and sustainability. I founded ARED and in 2013, moved back to Rwanda. Currently, I deal with entrepreneurship, sustainability, technology impact, and economic challenges that Africa faces today. 

That’s very interesting, thank you! And you said that you moved back to Africa after spending 17 years in the US. Many people who move to the US set some expectations about their career, about the so-called American dream and decide to take up permanent residence there. And not so many of them decide to move back. What motivated you to move back to Africa?

You know, when I got there, I realized that America was very different from what I had envisioned. First of all, I didn’t know that there were poor people and there was crime in America. I thought everybody had money there, but it was the country with the hardest ecosystem I have ever lived in.

America is also a very unforgiving country, compared to Africa, which is very community-based. US society is very individualistic. So, living there was very challenging. At the same time, however, it taught me a lot. It taught me to be independent, it taught me to be responsible. But as I said, I spent 17 years in America, and soon I felt like I reached a ceiling. I felt like there was nothing else there for me to prove. 

I moved back to Rwanda in 2013, but between 2008 and 2013, I was going on vacation to East Africa every year. I started seeing the changes happening on the continent. Africa was changing, laws were changing. Entrepreneurship was becoming the way to go, so entrepreneurs had a policy in place they were looking for.

There also were a lot of marketing campaigns aimed to bring back diaspora. So I thought that I’d have more value coming back and more opportunities to do something great on the continent than in the States. And that’s really what the premise for me was. Making money was no longer my focus, I wanted something more — I wanted to have an impact. 

I wanted to impact people’s lives. And Africa was the perfect place — it’s an ecosystem that I’m from, even though I’ve been gone for so long. Of course, I had to retrain and reprogram myself, but I felt very strongly that this would be my next journey, and it’s the best decision I’ve made.

Sounds really inspiring! Indeed, we shouldn’t run away from our problems, we should help change our country for the better. By the way, what was your first experience with the Tech4Good movement? How did you come to the idea that helping others is a part of your mission?

You know, I’m a very practical person. I don’t think too deep about certain things. I just always follow my heart and stay practical about it. For a long time, I thought that making money is what makes me happy (just like most young people tend to think). Because of such a vision, I almost became a slave to money. 

My trucking company was successful, but I was just not enjoying myself. Moreover, at that time, my little daughter was complaining that she had no chance to spend enough time with her daddy. So I had to sit down and ask myself what life is about. Is it just about focusing on myself and accumulating money? And what’s next? And I realized there was something wrong with that strategy. 

I realized that life is not just about making money but also about empowering someone else, empowering your community. When you become mature, it’s no longer about yourself. It’s also about others. If you truly want to fulfill your life, you need to do something for others, not just for yourself. This is how this natural decision has become my new focus.

“Each element of the framework serves a specific purpose that is essential to the overall value and results realized with Scrum. Changing the core design or ideas of Scrum, leaving out elements, or not following the rules of Scrum, covers up problems and limits the benefits of Scrum, potentially even rendering it useless.”

I should note that by listening to stories like yours, our audience will get a better understanding of how to start making a change in their communities! Please, tell our readers more about your project.

ARED is a Tech4Good company based in Rwanda. It is a HARD TECH as Service Company (HASS). As for now, we’ve been in business for seven years. We develop what we call a multi-service digital-edge platform to bridge the digital gap and the energy gap in low-income areas, rural areas, refugee camps. For those who don’t know Africa, it’s a very fragmented market, both on the micro and macro level. Even in refugee camps, people have to walk miles to get access to basic services. So helping others — this is what the premise of the company is. 

We develop two products: Solar Kiost Platform and Mini Server Platform to allow users to access connectivity via Wi-Fi on our Kiost, make use of phone charging services and digital services — all in one. We also have economic empowerment: we work with women and people with disabilities. Also, we cooperate with NGOs and telecom companies, and we provide the technology to them. We advise them on how to implement this micro infrastructure across different areas. 

At the same time, we are for-profit, and we spend a lot of time developing a very innovative business model — we call it a modular business model. We’ve built partnerships along our whole supply chain: from product development research and development software to Kiost’s development design and so forth. So, the core of our team is very small, but we work with different partners around the area to implement and develop the tech.

That’s great, thanks for the answer! And moving to one of your global aims of reducing the poverty rate. Please, name some major consequences of poverty you witness in Africa and explain how technology helps to solve them.

The consequences of poverty are the same around the world. As I said, in our space ARED, we deal with energy and connectivity. There is a huge gap between these two aspects. When I talk about connectivity, it’s not just about the Internet. It’s about access to digital services, access to digital applications that can bring value. 

And the same gap is seen between the middle class and the lower class. If you look at the statistics in Africa, you’ll find out that 70% of the population still live in rural areas. The lack of electricity in those communities is around 80%. There’s been a study by the UN and other organizations showing that bringing connectivity increases those communities’ GDP because of the access to information. Let’s take farmers, for example. Because of the access to information, they know how to farm better and how to increase their crops. Information is key now.

Also, one of the biggest problems is economic opportunities. Unemployment in some communities is upward of 40%, and more and more people move to the cities looking for jobs. Even though Africa is very rich in a lot of areas, we still don’t produce enough food for the population. We still import a lot.

Dwelling upon the poverty issue, add the problem of global warming here. So we have a huge demographic problem, we have a poverty aspect, and we have global warming that makes our resources scarce. All these aspects need to be addressed, and they’ve slowly been addressed. But they’ve not been addressed consistently, and there’s still a lack of resources. 

Thus, together with others at ARED, we make our contribution to different communities — there are a lot of big challenges and huge opportunities when it comes to each. You know, when there’s a big challenge, there is also a huge opportunity.

When there’s a big challenge, there is also a huge opportunity.

Great words! In one of your videos, you talk about international collaboration. Could you please briefly explain your opinion about how poverty should be diminished. Should Africa rely on support from the West, I mean seek international support, or maybe it is better to do everything on your own? 

There is a simple answer to your question. And it’s not only about Africans — it’s about everybody. Only Africans can solve our problems — and nobody else. When it comes to Africa, the problem is that Western countries do not put us on the same pedestals as they do each other. People look at Africans as being unable to solve their problems. It’s a mindset problem, and we see this problem in foreign entities. 

I’ll give you an example. Over the last seven years, we applied for a lot of grants. Most of their fund decisions are made outside of our continent by people that have no experience in Africa. They may have experience in the key topics, but they don’t understand the ecosystem, and there’s a lot of bias. 

When it comes to selecting companies, they choose companies from their countries or their continent. The situation’s changing a little bit, but it’s not changing that much. So I don’t believe that anybody except Africans can solve our problems. We shouldn’t blame anybody else, we need to take responsibility for our own decisions and our own mistakes — until we change our mindset.

Just think of it: Africans know more about their colonizers than they know about their own culture. It’s crazy. And I’m as guilty as anybody else. Some years ago, I could tell you more about America or France than I could tell you about Rwanda. But how can we build a country or continent when we don’t know our own culture? I started learning about my culture when I moved back here, and I still have a long way to go.

As I said, things are changing slowly. I have faith in the next generation. They’re more Pan-African. They’re more aggressive than my generation. We left Africa because we thought it was better outside than it was locally. I’ve no shame to say that, and it took me 17 years to realize: it’s not that it’s better or worse out there. It’s just that you create your own opportunities.

It’s not that it’s better or worse out there. It’s just that you create your own opportunities.

That’s true! Dwelling upon the problems we see today, in one of your tweets, you say, “When you look at how the world has been able to mobilize itself to fight this Covid pandemic, why can’t we do the same when it comes to fighting poverty or global warming?” One of the reasons probably is that people are not willing to mobilize efforts if they do not feel that the situation affects them personally. So what are the ways to spread awareness among the population?

Well, the problem is not awareness. I work in those communities, and the problem is not awareness — the problem is leadership. It starts with leadership, the right leadership of a country. I don’t know any country or any continent that developed itself based on foreign solutions and support. 

The problem starts when leaders are not paying attention to their population and their problems. We need to solve most of our problems locally by empowering local people and local communities. And these are leaders that help change the mindset of the population. So, it’s not a bottom-up approach, it’s a top-to-bottom approach. Poor people know their challenges, they are aware of their problems. But they have no resources, they have no access to information — and that’s the main concern.

I see. Leadership can really change a lot. And what ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world?

Honesty is the number-one value for me. I hate dishonesty. Sometimes, people tell you one thing today, and tomorrow, they tell another thing. That’s terrible. I hate such situations. One more value is ethics. But it’s also about being honest. 

We live in a quick society where people are just moving from one to the next so that dishonesty is becoming normal. That’s why today’s society seems very dishonest. I would say honesty is a big thing, I am a man of my word. It hurts me when I don’t do what I tell you. No, it doesn’t happen often. Because I value this trait the most. 

Me too! And as I see from your LinkedIn activity, you are a very friendly person, and you give young people a lot of useful information, encouraging them to unite efforts and change the situation in Africa. So my question is, how do the younger generation differ from others? Maybe they are more open-minded, or perhaps they are the same. What do you think?

Well, I can only compare my generation to the next generation. They live in a much more competitive world today. Now, almost everybody has a bachelor’s degree. A lot of people have a master’s degree, and quite a few people have PhDs. So it’s very competitive, right? 

Today, you have to find ways to create noise, to stand out from everybody else. Because it’s competitive, you have to work extra hard. The other difference between the youth and my generation is that they’re more aware of what’s going on around the world because of access to the Internet. At least I’ll talk about African youth in general. 

You see, what we used to know about America was from TV shows. My favorite TV show was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Everybody’s rich on that show. Like other shows we used to watch, this one did not show the reality of that country. Now on social media, you see the racism and all the crimes and all those things happening. You see the real picture. So you think twice before making a decision.

Besides, the difference is that today, youth have to be quick. You should take your time and go to high school. Then you do a four-year college, then you do the internship. You have to be quick as things are moving, and technology is changing every few years. You have to find your purpose as quickly as possible.

Also, one more thing I feel for the next generation is the environmental status. We’ve destroyed this environment, so the next generation is going to have to rebuild it. And if they don’t, they will be doomed. I’m not trying to scare people, but they will be doomed because we have polluted this world to a level we have never seen before. I want to spend the rest of my life influencing the youth to get them involved in that issue. For me, it’s the biggest fear — the fear for my kids and for the next generation.

I want to spend the rest of my life influencing the youth to get them involved in solving the environmental problem. For me, it’s the biggest fear — the fear for my kids and for the next generation.

Yes, definitely. And the last question for you. What do you think is the future of the Tech4Good movement? Do you think that we as a society are ready for it?

Tech4Good movement is the future, it’s definitely the future! Consider the concept of NGOs. It’s a short-term concept of solving social or poverty problems driven by grants. And when the grant is over, it cannot make a social impact. Unlike NGOs, Tech4Good is more of a long-term implementation of a solution to a community or communities across the world. 

Tech4Good is much more sustainable in terms of focus. I’m going to take it even further: it has to be Tech4Good on the local basis, meaning only the people from that community, country, or continent can solve their problems. Bringing organizations from the West and trying to solve global challenges is not the way out. It’s not gonna work, and it’s not working now.

We need to separate high profit and Tech4Good. There’s still a discrepancy between the funding aspect and what the funders are focusing on. They tend to focus mostly on returns instead of focusing more on the impact or the good they’re doing in their communities. And the partnership is still lacking in that space.

So for Tech4Good to really grow and increase the impact, there will be a need for more collaboration and more funding coming into. Tech4Good is not just the future — it’s a must and a necessity, and there is no other way around.

Tech4Good is not just the future — it’s a must and a necessity, and there is no other way around.

Do you need a development team to support your Tech4Good idea?

Our professionals would gladly join you in your endeavor. Learn more about us to understand if we can become a match.

The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Marc Sloan

We discuss how Covid Tech Support helps charities and nonprofits survive during the pandemic and why technology is an integral part of Covid Tech Support’s functioning.

In the sevenths interview of our “The Leaders of Tech4Good” blog series, we are talking with Marc Sloan, one of the founders of Covid Tech Support. It is a project that helps volunteers and nonprofits or charities find each other to give the latter the chance to move online. 

Who is Marc Sloan?

Marc Sloan is one of the leaders of the Tech4Good movement. He is the winner of the Digital Volunteer Award and the founder of Covid Tech Support. Having a technical background and working in the sphere of technology, Marc initiated the creation of the project that has become a platform where volunteers offer their help for charities and nonprofits looking for solutions during the pandemic.

Covid Tech Support is an example of how people can support each other by uniting efforts and promoting community values. Marc Sloan tells our readers about the story behind his project and the results achieved so far.

To start with, could you briefly introduce yourself? 

I’m Marc Sloan, one of the founders of Covid Tech Support, which was set up at the beginning of the Covid pandemic earlier this year. It is a community of tech volunteers who got together to help out charities and nonprofits. They are really struggling with technical challenges while dealing with the Covid pandemic.

Thank you! Dwelling upon the Covid situation, how has life in your country changed with the rise of the pandemic? As I know, you are based in London, Great Britain. So what do you think, what category of people have suffered the most?

These are definitely the people at the margins of society that have really suffered. People who are already suffering from isolation, poverty, food deprivation, or mental health issues. People who are already struggling with everyday life. The quarantine came, along with the Covid restrictions, and suddenly those situations became much, much worse. 

What we saw was that charities that were supporting those people were completely overwhelmed. They needed the most help, they’re the ones who needed us. We also saw that a lot of the ways that charities used to help were no longer an option because of the quarantine restrictions. 

A lot of these charities had to figure out, “Well, how do we offer our service remotely? How do we figure out video calls? We need to make sure that security is good and that people can maintain their anonymity sometimes”. So there were lots of interesting challenges that they’ve never had to deal with before and didn’t know how to solve those things and had to solve them straight away.

I see. We are facing hard times today. By the way, what role does technology play during the pandemic? Does technology positively affect the situation, and does moving online help people and organizations survive?

I’ve spoken to a lot of charities that for years have wanted to go digital. They were used to doing things in person, but they knew that at some point, they’d have to go online and offer services remotely. Everybody knew they needed to do this, but no one had because it’s such a huge undertaking and investment. And then suddenly, they were forced to because of the pandemic. So in some sense, it’s a good thing because a lot of those charities now have gone digital after talking about it for a long time.

But it presents a new problem, too. There’s now going to be greater demand from nonprofits and charities for digital helpers, whereas in the past, they’ve not really needed it. I mean, it’s more technologists than a technology that these services need.

An interesting thing is that we have so many people who have machine learning backgrounds and 10 years of experience. However, most of the projects that come to us just need someone who can put together a WordPress website or who can set up something basic. And that will now fulfill most of the requests we get. Even teaching someone how to use Google Docs can make a huge difference.

Most of the projects that come to us just need someone who can put together a WordPress website or who can set up something basic. Even teaching someone how to use Google Docs can make a huge difference.

Let’s discuss your project in more detail. What inspired you to create Covid Tech Support? Was there some particular situation after which you realized the need to help others? 

What started first was the community right at the beginning of the pandemic. I have a technical background. It means that I have some technical friends. We got together and thought, “Well, there must be something we can do. We’ve got all these skills. We can make websites and apps and all sorts of things. Let’s see if there are other people like this”. 

Our team got together and thought, “Well, there must be something we can do. We’ve got all these skills. We can make websites and apps and all sorts of things. Let’s see if there are other people like this”. 

We found a Slack Group, which was called Code4Covid. We thought, “Oh, this is great! We’ll find other people to work on projects with”. But the next question then was, “What should we work on?” In this community, everyone was coming up with ideas, but none of the ideas sounded like they were solving real problems. So, I realized, “Okay. This is what this community is missing – actual people with real problems who need people like us to help them out”.

Thus, I decided to create Covid Tech Support to be a place for people to find us. To begin with, I didn’t know if it would work, but we soon were overwhelmed with requests from community groups, charities, volunteer organizations needing all sorts of help. As I just said, requests varied from some things as simple as Google docs to setting up an entire website or an app. 

What was fantastic about that was that I could put this community to work. There was so much experience and talent within the community! It’s worth saying the community now is over one and a half thousand people across the world. So we’ve got pretty much every skill covered anybody can ask for. We get projects every week, so it’s still something that’s needed.

That’s really cool that projects like yours exist today! I have a question here. When I entered the website of your project, I saw that people can either find help there or volunteer their skills for other people who need them. I wanted to ask what kind of skills are needed the most today and what kind of help do people seek during the pandemic?

We always need people with technical skills. Technical skills doesn’t necessarily mean 10-15 years of experience in a programming language. It can often be as simple as “I know how to set up a WordPress website”, or even “I know how to handle Google Docs”. The thing that I bear in mind is that there’s a lot of people who ask us for help and have no technical experience. They don’t even know where to start, and even having a conversation with someone who’s more technically minded for 30 minutes can completely change everything for them. 

One of the things we do lack, though, and increasingly get asked for are skills like marketing and branding and design. It’s often the case that there’s a fantastic charity helping with real issues, and just not enough people know that they exist. So they need a bit of help with putting together some good advertising campaign or a good design. 

Okay, thank you! I hope that your team will grow day by day because your project truly expands people’s chances for a better life in such challenging times. And as I know, Covid Tech Support is purely remote. Does it mean that anyone reading this article can enter the website and offer or find help?

Absolutely. The skills that can be offered don’t have to be purely technical. We have a lot of project managers and business managers, we have accountants, we have lawyers. All of those skills are needed at various points by charities. By the way, I think Covid Tech Support is not the best name for it anymore because it’s more like Covid Project Support. 

If you have a professional skill that you’d like to donate to a charity, then by all means, please sign up. We will find a project that needs you. If you need help, the only requirement we have is that your organization is a charity or a nonprofit. We deal with projects from all over the world. 

One more thing for anyone who’s thinking of volunteering their time. Aside from the benefits of helping a charity during these pretty tough times, we’ve been getting a lot of feedback from our volunteers who note that this is a really great opportunity to upskill, to try new things, to get experience. Especially because a lot of our volunteers are out of work right now and also going into an increasingly competitive job market. So, this is a great way to differentiate yourself and show that you didn’t spend your quarantine unemployment just sitting in your home. You were out there helping people and learning things. So I encourage you to sign up and give it a go.

Becoming a volunteer is a great way to differentiate yourself and show that you didn’t spend your quarantine unemployment just sitting in your home. You were out there helping people and learning things.

That sounds really inspiring! Maybe you will also tell us about some particular cases more in detail? For instance, about some interesting volunteer projects that you helped with or some examples of your top achievement in Covid Tech Support.

For example, we had a homeless charity in London who contacted us to say they had a warehouse full of goods for homeless people, but they were having trouble with distributing because of the quarantine restrictions. So they asked us, “Could you create a website for us so that people can shop for the goods?” They wanted other charities and shelters to shop for goods that they could give to their local communities. Within a week, we managed to get together a team of people with web development experience and online e-commerce and put that website together and immediately started helping.

Another project I really liked was a charity in London that helps immigrant communities within London find other immigrants and get settled into society. They were a typical example of a charity that did everything in person, and all the fundraising was in person. They had a very real risk that they were going to have to shut down because their funding dried up.

One of our volunteers is a project manager who did an absolutely amazing job pulling a team together and getting this charity back on their feet. We helped them figure out how they could offer a lot of their services remotely. One of the reasons I like it is because they are an example of a service that I believe just wouldn’t exist now if Covid Tech Support hadn’t been able to help them out. 

We’ve helped 250 projects at this point. But I think there are a lot more stories like that amongst those.

Yes, these are the stories that definitely should be heard! And if it happens that the situation with Covid gets better, will you continue your activity with Covid Tech Support? Or will you transform it somehow?

It’s probably been the number one thing we talk about in the last couple of months. We’ve decided we do want to keep it. As long as there is a community of technical people who want to help, we’re going to be around. With that in mind, we’ve decided we’re probably going to rebrand ourselves because we don’t want to just be Covid Tech Support. 

I don’t know what we’re going to call ourselves yet, but we’re going to make it clear that it’s about long-term digital project support. We’re also now investigating fundraising and becoming a charity ourselves. We’ve never established ourselves as any kind of legal organization, but I think we’re getting to that point now.

Covid Tech Support is about long-term digital project support.

That’s great that you are determined to expand your project and help more and more charities around the world. I have one more question that is of particular interest to me. You know, usually, people use technologies for their own good. And while all of us use technology in our everyday routine, not all of us realize that technology can be used for global and long-term goals. How did you come to the idea that technology can be used for the common good?

When the pandemic started, a lot of people realized the world has changed. Suddenly, we lost things that we took for granted, like the ability to go out to the shops and take public transport. I’m someone who is very fortunate, and I don’t have any disability or any major problems in my life. And these things were affecting me in a negative way, and it just became very clear, “Wow, if it’s affecting me negatively, how must it be affecting vulnerable people and people who are in much worse situations than me?”

I think that was the same for a lot of people realizing that this is a very serious situation and there’s gonna be a lot of damage on the back of this. Being awoken to that made me think, “Well, what can I do? I’m not a medical person. There’s nothing I can directly help with. I’m not someone who works on the front line, but surely all this technical knowledge and experience I have must be useful for something”.

Being awoken to the pandemic problem made me think, “Well, what can I do? I’m not a medical person. There’s nothing I can directly help with. I’m not someone who works on the front line, but surely all this technical knowledge and experience I have must be useful for something”.

So that’s what prompted me then to find the few others and join this community early on. One of the things I’m probably proudest of with Covid Tech Support is learning that there’s a huge demand for technical skills. It’s just not very publicly known because the people who need it don’t know that they need it. I’ve seen it time and time again with hundreds of projects we’ve helped. I see how transformational it’s been for them to work with our volunteers. 

On top of that, it’s been transformational for the volunteers as well. The number of stories and people I spoke to said, “I loved working for the charity. I’m still working for them months later because it’s such a great project. Beyond the life of the original question request that they came in with, I continue to help them because it’s fantastic”.

Definitely! Helping others is the key to happiness! I have two more questions for you. What ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world?

That’s a great question. I believe one of the core values for Covid Tech Support is the idea of helping others, giving something. One of the things that this pandemic exposed was how much we depend on one another. When the basic services of society disappear, all you can rely on is your community. That’s another value – the power of community. 

In the case of Covid Tech Support, bringing together an online community from all over the world is also enormously powerful, along with making that community available to others. But this is only one of the things we spend a lot of time doing. I’d say only about 50% of our work is connecting volunteers to projects. The other 50% is fostering a sense of community within our volunteer group and promoting the work that’s being done. 

We have the Volunteer of the Month Award, where we pick someone who’s worked on multiple projects and delivered a huge amount of good and celebrate them. I make sure everyone is aware that these people exist. We have a newsletter that goes out with a Slack Group where everyone chats. For us, it’s about as much about fostering our community and making them aware of each other as it is about making them aware of the projects that we can support. 

On top of that, honesty and transparency are important as well. We try to be very upfront with our volunteers. We also make it clear to the projects we help that these aren’t employees. These are people giving their time, and they will need some flexibility. But everybody’s trying, everybody’s working hard, and that’s enough. 

Thank you for an interesting answer! The last question for you. Do you think society is ready for the Tech4Good movement?

It’s a really good question for a number of reasons. In general, society thinks that tech is for bad. Due to fake news and fake media, tech is no longer this geeky thing. I believeTech4Good is a fantastic way of reminding people that tech has enormous, enormous benefits. Yes, tech can be used for bad. But for the most part, tech helps society far more than it damages things. Promoting people’s technical efforts is a great way of addressing that as well. 

One of the things I’ve seen as I’ve been working on Covid Tech Support this year is other organizations doing a similar thing of collecting volunteers and addressing technical problems. For instance, there’s a version of Covid Tech Support in Scotland where they’re doing similar things. There’s one in America. We’ve all started to talk to each other and start to coordinate our efforts. 

On the back of this pandemic, I see a growing Tech4Good community that has started to accumulate projects, accumulate volunteers. That’s something that now continues to grow, and I am very proud that Covid Tech Support is a small part of that!

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The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Debra Ruh

Through the lens of Tech4Good, Debra explains why we have to be the change we want to see in the world.

In the sixth interview of our “The Leaders of Tech4Good” blog series, we are glad to introduce Debra Ruh, a recognized and well-known market influencer and inclusion strategist. Today, we talked about her success story, experience with gender equality and inclusion, ethical principles, and her view of Tech4Good as a way to help others.

Who is Debra Ruh?

Debra Ruh is a famous American advocate for the rights of women and people with disabilities. She is a founder of four social enterprises (Ruh Global, AXSChat, Strategic Performance Solutions (SPS), TecAccess) and an expert in the field of sustainable development, gender equity, digital inclusion, and impact investing. Being a successful businesswoman, Debra fulfills a vital social mission and uses technologies as a way to promote essential values. As she believes, the Tech4Good movement teaches people how technologies can be used to make the world a better place. Debra highlights, “We have to be the change we want to see in the world.” 

Our team was amazed by the volume of information about you on LinkedIn. So, my first question will be: how do you find time for all of these activities? How many hours do you have in a day?

Well, I wouldn’t tell you that I can do everything by myself. I have an incredible team around me. It’s a small team consisting of many younger people. The reason why that matters is that the younger generation is showing the older generation the way forward. They are showing us that we have to make society better. Technology is wonderful! But it has to be technology for good and technology for all. 

Today, people who want the world to work better and want to unite efforts seem to be finding each other. One more cool thing about what we are doing now is that it is good to know teams like yours. We all want to focus on Tech4Good, but we do not always know the teams that can help us to do it.

Totally agree. The more we collaborate, the more open-minded we become, and the more changes we can bring to the world. My second question will be about social justice issues. What has inspired you to fight for women’s rights?

When I was young, I was always told that my opinion did not matter. I want to make sure that younger people, especially younger women and people with disabilities, see that their voices are heard. Women don’t have to walk the same path as I walked

I think my generation needs to do a better job of inviting the younger people to have their voices heard. If you don’t like the way the world works now, what are you doing to make things better for others? 

Sounds really motivational. You have mentioned that when you were younger, you fully realized the problem of gender inequality. By the way, what is your success story? Maybe there was a person that helped you become who you are today or some experience you want to share?

Well, that is a very interesting question. When I was younger, people did not take me seriously because I was a woman, a young woman. And I am not just paranoid, I was told that. I was told, “Well, you are a woman. You know, you are so young.” I always felt discounted. A lot. 

I realized that the way I was treated by other women is unfair, as well as by men discounting me. Once, one man told me that my business would not be successful if I did not have a white male CEO. No one would take my business seriously. Yet, I reversed the impact. I saw how I was treated, and I did not want other people to be treated that way. I started making very deliberate efforts to help others. 

I was helping someone who was looking for a job, I was connecting people. For example, I had a young woman of color working as my administrative assistant. She was so smart. I worked really hard to help her to get promoted. Of course, I liked having her as an assistant, but I felt like my calling is bigger than that. It was more about helping her. So, I helped her. She got promoted, and then she started helping others. 

When I was pregnant, I was harassed by a woman that worked with me. I felt such pressure. I was bad in whatever I did: I was a bad mother, I was a bad worker. I did not get the mentoring, so I decided to give the mentoring. I think that my success has been that I help others be successful. When people help others, it makes them successful. So, be the change you want to see in the world. We have to be the lights forward. We have to help each other. 

So, be the change you want to see in the world. We have to be the lights forward. We have to help each other. 

That’s just so inspirational to hear. So far, you have at least four companies listed on your LinkedIn profile. Could you tell briefly about each of these companies? What do they do, and what is the global idea behind them? 

I started multiple companies, and TecAccess was the technology company focused on technology software development and web development with an emphasis on accessibility. We aimed to make sure that all these technologies are accessible. I merged this company with another one, so I am not a part of that entity anymore. 

I have Ruh Global Impact, which is my current company, and also AXSChat, which has been already mentioned. The first focuses on the global social impact. We spend a lot of time focusing on sustainable development goals, as well as diversity and inclusion, especially through the lens of disability inclusion. Unfortunately, technology is still not accessible to all people. 

AXSChat is a Tweet chat where we interview our guests. I created it together with two gentlemen: one is from Europe, Portugal, and one is now in London, the UK. It’s one of the largest and most successful Tweet chats in the world. We really believe that you need to have a deep global conversation about technology, accessibility, connectivity, and all these things that make technology good for all people. That’s what we do there. 

Very interesting, thanks for the answer. As I see, your life experience has made you fight for gender equity and female rights. But how did you understand the necessity to fight for digital inclusion for people with disabilities?

When I had my first daughter, my boss was very unsupportive of me. There are so many ways employers can be supportive of us as we walk life, but my employer was not very supportive. And it was unfortunate that on top of that, she was a woman. I am sorry, but I think women should try to understand what other women are walking. We need to support each other. 

My husband and I have been married for 38 years now. Our oldest daughter was born with down syndrome. I did not know anything about a down syndrome. The doctors did not diagnose her with down syndrome until she was four months old. By that time, they were telling me that my daughter was broken. But I knew she was interesting, creative, she was sweet. There are so many things about her! 

It started with my daughter. It started with society continuing to tell me that having a child with down syndrome is a pity. They started to pity us. I do not think that the universe of God, or whatever you believe, makes mistakes. My daughter’s life is valuable. She just lives a different life than other people. My daughter was the first catalyst. 

And also, my husband. He was hit by a drunk driver when he was a child. He died on the spot, and doctors brought them back. He was in a coma for a week and a half. It was a really bad accident. But he survived, went on to get married and have two children. Unfortunately, his brain was so damaged during that accident that now, it’s aging differently. He now has very severe dementia. 

As you see, we live our lives, and we are going to either be born with disabilities, or we are going to acquire disabilities. It’s not a threat. We are just human beings. We are all different. There is a beauty in diversity. I think the world works better when we appreciate these differences.

We are going to either be born with disabilities, or we are going to acquire disabilities. It’s not a threat. We are just human beings.

Your story deserves so much respect! Thank you for sharing it with us. Also, I wanted to ask you what role do the technologies play in the implementation of your values and ideas?

I love technology, and I think technology is beautiful. I was taught to love technologies by my father. He was a technologist for the whole life. Technology is a wonderful and great equalizer. But it also can do great damage to society, and we see it in what is happening nowadays. 

We have to humanize technology and use them to solve important problems. Technology needs to work for humans, and for our planet, and for the inhabitants of our planet. I really like it when corporate brands take technology and use it to improve the world’s largest or at least smallest problems. Technologies help us relate to each other. I think that the world cannot keep focusing only on making money. 

That’s true. And is there any way for the average person or the average Internet user to contribute to the promotion of gender equity and digital inclusion? Maybe some donation page or volunteership?

You know, we don’t have a donation page, but what we are doing now is trying to know each other better. The mistake of many countries is that they forget there are other countries outside of their border. And that’s wrong because we are human beings living on Earth. The more we come together and understand each other, the more we can help each other, and the more we can make our world a better place. 

We want more younger people involved, we want to work with blogging, we want to help others with content and to exchange information. We want to know who is doing good work. I think it is more about all of us coming together. 

The same concerns young women. We are told that women are the largest minority group in the world. That’s ridiculous! We are not the largest minority group – we are the largest group! I think the way we help each other is exactly what we are doing here. We get to know each other, we try to understand each other, we talk about it, and we join each other in making the world a better place.

Women are not the largest minority group – we are the largest group!

You are such an inspirational person! In your opinion, what ethical values are the most important in the world?

Oh, thank you. I think we have to be authentic. And sometimes, being authentic is very scary. People give me really weird looks because I have purple hair. We have these little things in our heads that sabotage is not cool. You have to be truly yourself, and you have to try to get out of your own head and not let your worries and fears stop you. 

I remember one guy that was about to become an entrepreneur. He said to me, “Debra, how did you get over being afraid?” And I said, “Well, I have fears. I can hardly mention all these things I am afraid of right now. One of them is my husband’s dementia. There are so many things I fear.” 

Apart from being authentic, we have to be empathetic. We should try to understand what other people are coming from and be more patient with each other. Even now, during the time of extreme stress, I noticed that people are being more aggressive than usual. I think that’s because they are so scared, and we have to be extra kind and extra empathetic for what people are walking right now. 

Recently, I was talking to someone staying in a really scary place. And I said, “All I want to tell you is what I have been told for so many times: if you want something, give it to someone else.” If you want help – help others. If you want love – shower others with love. You want somebody to be kind to you – be kind to somebody else. Give away what you don’t have and what you want. So, I would say the most important ethical values are empathy, authenticity, and the willingness to help each other.

If you want something, give it to someone else. If you want help – help others. If you want love – shower others with love. You want somebody to be kind to you – be kind to somebody else. Give away what you don’t have and what you want.

Thank you! Also, what do you think is the future of the Tech4Good movement? Do you think that we as a society are ready for it?

I do. People might not realize that society has changed, but it has. Tech4Good, Tech4ALL, connectivity, reducing the digital divide – all that has changed. More and more younger people are demanding these changes. They won’t work for you if you are a bad company. They don’t want to live in your country if you treat people wrong. They just do not want to do it anymore. And I believe that this is the future. 

My company is a social enterprise. And it was a social enterprise before we knew that title. Society promotes social enterprises. We do not mind people making money because the more money and profit they make, the more good they can do. Another question is when their only purpose is making money and they don’t care if their society benefits from technology. Such people are not among those who want to make the world a better place for all of the inhabitants. 

We need our people, animals, nature. We need the diversity on this planet. We live in a living entity. The planet is alive. Let’s take the time to protect it. I do not see a way forward if we do not focus on Tech4Good. Let’s support each other and promote positives, using them to make the world a better place. I want to be a part of the world where I can support everyone and help everyone, both men and women.

I do not see a way forward if we do not focus on Tech4Good. Let’s support each other and promote positives, using them to make the world a better place.

Thanks! And one more question for you. What are your nearest plans in this field? Is there some new goal in your mind?

Right now, we are working on a project that I am really excited about. It is a project for mentoring young people, with a special emphasis on young people with disabilities. We are currently working on a global mentoring program because I think having a mentoring program for just one country, once again, misses the point. 

In the global program, we come together and allow people to focus on what they are good at. My aim is to make sure that we hold the door for other, diverse communities. One of the ways to change the world is to give others a microphone. I want others to speak and to be heard. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. You have to make sure that you are giving your place to somebody else. These voices can give answers to the world’s problems. 

One of the ways to change the world is to give others a microphone. I want others to speak and to be heard.

We need to make technology help others to lead the world. The more we humanize through technologies and support each other, the more changes will happen. Whenever the universe puts us together, there is a reason. We have to share the way forward and help each other. We need your voices!

To Wrap Up

Technology is not only about connecting with friends through social media. It is about an essential social mission of making someone’s life more comfortable. Taking into account the vast opportunities that technologies can give, you should try to use them for more global purposes. The Tech4Good movement complies with this aim and encourages people to change their attitude towards the phenomenon of technologies. Inspiring others, Rebra Ruh uses technology to meet the needs of people with disabilities and harassed women. We think that her principles and life path are a really valuable example for those aiming to drive changes.

Do you need a development team to support your Tech4Good idea?

Our professionals would gladly join you in your endeavor. Learn more about us to understand if we can become a match.

Alex Pletnov Max Savonin CEO

The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Tey El-Rjula

We discuss how Tech4Good leaders may turn invisible people into invincible ones with the help of Bitcoin.

For the fifth interview in our “The Leaders of Tech4Good” blog series, we are talking with Tey El-Rjula, also known as the Invisible Man. This conversation promises to give us a unique insight into the lives of refugees, the struggles of invisible people, and the prospects of Bitcoin & Blockchain technology.

Who Is Tey El-Rjula?

Tey El-Rjula is a Bitcoin evangelist, a co-founder of the Tech4Good studio helping the invisible people, an avid TedX speaker, and a Syrian refugee. He became “invisible” when he was only 5 years old and his birth certificate was lost because of the ongoing war in Kuwait. Years later, when he resided in the Netherlands, he became invisible once again when his work contract was not renewed. Seeking asylum in a Dutch refugee camp, he found hope in his Bitcoin wallet. Today, he is working to help other invisible people find their ray of sunshine

On your LinkedIn page, it states that you started a tech4good company that helps others like you. Can you tell us more about what this company does, how it helps the others, and what role technology plays in it? How do you turn invisible people into invincible ones?

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Tey, but I usually introduce myself as the Invisible Man. The title “invisible” is given to people who do not have identity documents, specifically, who do not have a birth certificate. I was born in Kuwait, and in 1990, the Gulf War started. In this war, the birth registries were destroyed — burnt to the ground. The only chance for me and my family to survive was to leave Kuwait and go to Lebanon. So, I grew up in Lebanon, graduated from the university, and I worked in Dubai for seven years. At the beginning of 2010, I moved to the Netherlands. I was working there as a software trainer — I learned about software innovations in the market and I taught them to companies. But in 2014, my job contract was not renewed, and the only chance for me to stay in the Netherlands was to apply for asylum. My father is Syrian, and so am I. In 2014, there was a war in Syria, so I could not go back. 

In the asylum camp, I felt what it was to be without an identity, I felt what it was like to be an invisible person, the person without an ID. The only things I had were my clothes, my phone, my Internet connection, and my Bitcoin wallet. I used that Bitcoin wallet to order pizza to the camp because I remember that the first physical product ever sold for Bitcoin was pizza. I opened the Internet and found the website of a local restaurant where you could pay for your pizza with Bitcoin. And this was a big victory! As asylum seekers or refugees, we have cash in our pockets that would allow us to buy pizza, but cash cannot move online. No restaurant was okay to send me a pizza to the camp before I paid upfront for it. Bitcoin helped me achieve that goal — I could order pizza with this type of digital money. Could I do something else with it? That is where the motive for working for Bitcoin started. I did translation jobs, and I got paid in Bitcoin. I did content creation jobs, and I got paid in Bitcoin. 

Today, we are living in a world where hundreds of millions of people have been forced into a situation similar to what I was in exactly five years ago. While I was confined in my space in the camp, people today are confined in the comfort of their houses and homes. Everyone studies online, and, in the camp, I did my Master’s in Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology online. Everyone works online, and so did I in the camp. Those three pillar points replicate my experience five years ago, and today, it is a feeling that everyone is experiencing.

Meanwhile, some countries around the world like Lebanon, Zimbabwe, or Venezuela have problems with their local currencies. They cannot transact their local currencies, they cannot use their local currencies, the banks put restrictions on them. So again, it is a similar situation to an asylum seeker in any camp being excluded from financial services. I thought, “It is time to start something to cater to people who do not have an identity, to bring them into the online economy. Bitcoin plays a major role in this quest.”

It is time to start something to cater to people who do not have an identity, to bring them into the online economy. Bitcoin plays a major role in this quest.

So, I am working for a financial company, which is called “Fluus”, which is “money” in Arabic. Our company helps people to send and to receive money across borders. We rely on the Bitcoin network to break the barriers that existing social institutions are placing on people. We are focusing on Lebanon as a market because Lebanon is going through very difficult, tough times in terms of financial stability and financial access. Since 2019, Lebanon has made zero progress on improving the financial inclusion rate. Banks are putting restrictions on depositors, so it does not matter if you are rich or poor in Lebanon anymore. If you have money in a Lebanese bank, that money does not belong to you because you cannot use it. If you have cash at home, it is devaluing at a very alarming rate. Last year, when I visited Lebanon, I could buy a Manouche — a famous flatbread with some toppings on it — for 1,500 Lebanese pounds, and the same product today would cost me a minimum of 4,000 Lebanese pounds. Some products like a bottle of juice, which used to cost 250 Lebanese pounds for almost as long as I remember living in Lebanon, today have doubled in price. The prices of goods and services are increasing. Money transfers cannot be cashed out in US dollars but can be cashed out in Lebanese pounds at a rate that the central bank is enforcing. So, if I sent a hundred dollars to my parents in Lebanon, what I get there would be around 3,000–3,200 Lebanese pounds per dollar. But when they go to a supermarket, they would be paying at the rate of 4,000 Lebanese pounds per dollar. Bitcoin could help to create some sort of more liquid economy in Lebanon. Of course, there is a steep learning curve for people in Lebanon to use it massively. Yet, through a very simple user experience, we hope that we could soften this steep learning curve and bring financial services to Lebanon outside the banking system, outside regulators, and free for everyone to use.

So, you are working to educate people on how to work with Bitcoin, right

We are working simultaneously on both ends. We try to educate people on why to use Bitcoin and how to use it. At the same time, we bring a product that hides all these complexities from an average user.

But is Bitcoin legalized in Lebanon

It is a gray area so far. There is no law in Lebanon that says that Bitcoin is legal and no law that says that you are not allowed to hold or use Bitcoin. I spoke with lawyers, and they say that, if you want to hold Bitcoin, there are absolutely no issues with that. But you cannot use it as a currency, as an alternative to the US dollar.

As I always say, legal issues will appear in two cases, and these are the two extreme cases. Case number one: if you are too big and too successful, the regulators will come to check on you. Case number two: if you are doing fraud, and other people report your fraud to the regulators, then the regulators will come to check on you as well. In both extreme cases, whether you are too successful or you are engaged in criminal activity, then you are under the scrutiny of regulators. But if you are growing at a reasonable pace and trying to avoid the touchpoints with the regulator — not to do excessive marketing, not to challenge the regulators, not to be too vocal about Bitcoin, — it can work.

We cannot avoid legal aspects, and therefore, we engage with the regulators on a diplomatic level. We explain that this technology is good for the country and good for the people. In fact, the central bank of Lebanon in the words of its governor supports innovative technologies and digital currencies.

As far as I am aware, to mine Bitcoin, you have to have sophisticated hardware and stable Internet connection. In most developing countries including Lebanon, most people would not have that. How do you solve that kind of challenge

Lebanon does not have electricity at all. For thirty years, we have been dreaming about having electricity 24/7 in our country, but still, we do not see it. Therefore, Lebanon is not a great market to mine Bitcoin unless you are stealing electricity from the government, which actually happens a lot. We do not mine Bitcoin there, but we can transfer it to Lebanon.

What are your plans and achievements with the project

What we have achieved so far: today, communities are running our services through Telegram and WhatsApp groups. We educate people and equip them with basic tools to transact bitcoin, in addition to facilitating buying and selling of cryptocurrencies through these groups. We act as an escrow, and the services that we provide to Lebanese people are escrow services — we can protect our users from fraud and bring some confidence to the facilitation of peer to peer payments in the market. I can say that about two hundred households in Lebanon receive money from their relatives living abroad, in Australia, Canada, or Europe through Bitcoin. Once these families get their Bitcoin, they can transfer it to our escrow accounts, and we facilitate the exchange of these Bitcoins into cash. As for plans, we are trying to build partnerships with the tech companies in the US and in Europe, so they could pay their employees or freelancers from Lebanon in Bitcoin as well. On the demand side of the Bitcoin economy in Lebanon, we engage with SMEs and explain to them that, if they use Bitcoin, they can pay for their Amazon licenses, Netflix subscriptions, and even import goods or services. There is a huge list of services that accept bitcoin as payment.

On your LinkedIn page, you position your company as a Tech4Good company. What do you think is the future of the Tech4Good movement? Do you think that the global community is ready for it

I can honestly tell you that the future going forward is only with Tech4Good companies. Today, we are realizing that the way we live has to change. Whether we are looking at cultural identity, at health implications of the pandemic, or at the identity barriers — all these obstacles do not let us live in a comfortable environment. We have to look at the good side of our jobs and understand what good we are creating for our environment and for our communities. Let’s say, in the birth registration scenario, there are 29,000,000 children under the age of 5 who do not have a birth certificate similar to mine. I bet I made you count the zeros.

The only change in this scenario is the following. Most families of these invisible children do not have money to pay for birth certificates or to pay for taxis to go between five different locations and obtain the birth certificate. Even if they had some money, the inflation of their currency would put barriers against them registering their children.

By using bitcoin we can pay upfront for the birth registration costs. With the help of our peers in Lebanon, we can help them. We never know what these children will be when they grow up. One of them may be the greatest criminal, and we facilitated this process of him becoming one. Or he can be a genius, who will invent a cure for the most difficult diseases on Earth, and we facilitated his development. Those two extreme cases are pure speculation. But what we know for sure is that humans by their nature are a driver of the good force — they are good in their nature. That birth certificate grants the child the right to go to school, to receive healthcare, and to be a full-fledged citizen. With education and healthcare, the chances are high that this person will grow to be a good person, not a criminal. We always bet on the good nature of people — this is the driver of the Tech4Good companies and initiatives.

What we know for sure is that humans by their nature are a driver of the good force  — they are good in their nature.

That is very refreshing to hear that people are a good force. Most often, we as humans are called “the most dangerous animals” or “the parasites of Earth”

I mean, we were able to go to space with a recyclable rocket. The actions against racism that we see, the actions against COVID-19, how communities come together — these are proofs. Every time there is a crisis, people are coming together. Sure, there are some of us who are on the opposite side of this goodness spectrum, but this is not the majority — the majority are good. Lebanon with all its turmoils has been the most tolerant of refugees, despite rising voices of “send them back” chants every now and then. Lebanon is an example of hospitality, and this small piece of geography welcomed 1.5 the number that both Germany and Holland host.

That is true. My next question is, what ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world?

The most important ethical values are the non-aggression principles. Forcing aggression on people is a very dangerous and unacceptable thing to do. We built our company, our technology on non-aggression principles. Of course, ethics is subjective. Still, there are some parts of it that all human beings agree on, and one of them is not to put aggressive force against each other, not to use technologies to threaten each other. Privacy is also very important, that is why, in our company, we enable a peer-to-peer exchange where we collect no personal data at all. Abiding by non-aggression principles is a good starting point to build an ethical Tech4Good startup.

When I watched your videos from TedX, it became crystal clear that your childhood was beyond difficult. What would you recommend to your younger self?

To be honest, I enjoyed how I grew up. The way I grew up and the stories that I experienced made me the guy that I am today. If I could give myself a piece of advice, I would say “enjoy the time you have with your friends and family, pay more attention in school or in university, and understand that, no matter how difficult things are, unless you are dead, there is always an exit”. Life is worth fighting for, and regardless of the situation, there is always a way out. 

And my last question. What advice would you give to the people that find themselves in similar life hardships that you experienced five years ago?

The moment when I started embracing who I am, embracing my story, and the moment that I learned how to tell my story, the things started to change. But it really started with embracing who I am. I had a big challenge in my life accepting the fact that I am a Syrian refugee, and I was very ashamed of that. The moment I accepted my identity, I became more confident and free. Another thing, I never wasted an opportunity to tell my story. Every time I have an opportunity, on the train or in an elevator, I tell people my story.

In those difficult times, I switched my mentality by going to my roots and counting my blessings. When I was in the camp, I was thinking that this was the end of the world for me. Nothing could become better for me as for a Syrian refugee in a Dutch camp. I was thinking of going back to Syria and just dying there while fighting in the war. Basically, I was thinking of suicide. But then, I remembered that I lived in my own house in the Netherlands, I had a car, a motorcycle, a dog, a job that paid me well, I partied every Saturday — I lived life at its best. When I heard the stories of other refugees about how they came to the Netherlands to apply for asylum, I realized how lucky I was. They crossed the sea, they were stranded in the sea for days without water and food. Some of them even came swimming after their boats sank, some of them came walking from Greece to the Netherlands, and some of them had bullets still in their legs. Meanwhile, I left my apartment, I took a train, I was eating a hamburger, and I went to apply for asylum. I was driving up and having fun before applying for asylum, while others were packed like sardines in a small boat with no water, praying that they would make it to safety. This was a switching moment for me. When I started counting my blessings, this changed everything. I am safe, I am in the Netherlands, not in Syria, I am not captured or forced into the military, my parents are safe, what more would I ask for?

So, when you start accepting who you are and counting your blessings, looking at what you have in your hands, you find a way out. Then, you analyze your weaknesses and find people who are strong and complete these weaknesses. This is how you make everything work.

When you start accepting who you are and counting your blessings, looking at what you have in your hands, you find a way out. Then, you analyze your weaknesses and find people who are strong and complete these weaknesses. This is how you make everything work.

To Wrap Up

The story of Tey El-Rjula proves that there is nothing impossible for the people who are willing to fight against circumstances. You can watch him tell his own story in this TedX video. Hopefully, Tey and his team succeed in their precious endeavor of making the lives of people in Lebanon and other war zones a bit easier. 

We hope that you found this interview to be inspiring and insightful! See you soon, and subscribe to our blog not to miss anything.

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The Leaders of Tech4Good: Meet Elisabeth Anne Delgado

We are talking about why children from developed countries need as much help as children from the developing world

This article is already the fourth one in our The Leaders of Tech4Good series and the second one that deals with the problems of children. Yet, this conversation is like no other — it is heartfelt, genuine, emotional, and crucially important. Today, we talk to Elisabeth Anne Delgado — a founder of Kinderenergy and an environmental advocate in the UN.

Who Is Elisabeth Anne Delgado?

Elisabeth Anne Delgado is a founder and director of Kinderenergy. She is a successful environmental and social policy advocate, whose NGO is associated with the United Nations, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and other political, academic, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. An avid traveler, she strives to explore the entire world and to make it a better place.

What Is Kinderenergy?

Kinderenergy is a non-profit organization, which strives to promote children as the most valuable natural resource on Earth. It was founded in 2008 with the aim to inspire US junior and senior high school students to help children from the rural areas of the developing world with school supplies and sports equipment. The team soon found out, however, that the lack of school supplies was not the most serious problem — these children lacked some vital basics: clean water, sanitation, food, and shoes. Today, the organization works to provide these basic but crucial essentials

There are so many things you are aiming to solve: the eradication of poverty through education, global health, protection of oceans and coastal regions, climate change, pollution, overfishing, biodiversity loss. How do you find time and inner strength to engage in all of these? 

We start from the main premise — we believe that children are Earth’s most important natural resource and are a part of the Earth’s biosphere. Imagine, when you work in farming, and in order to keep the soil rich and healthy, you have to alternate the crops that take nutrients from the soil with others that add nutrients to this soil. I see children as living agents who add nutrients, health, and energy to Earth. They don’t just take, as many would argue, they also give back in a superior way, if we let them. I have so much confidence in their potential. I believe, if we as adults had confidence in what they can do, if we did not treat them as “kids, who can’t do anything”, we could really tap into their creativity and passion to help people and the planet.

As cultures become more industrialized, the potential of children is often not seen, they become wealthier as the cities become more modern and many children in the Western world have more material goods but fewer responsibilities, they are working less and helping less. I believe that responsibility helps them step outside of themselves and gives them purpose and genuine happiness.

My idea is to tap into their potential to solve problems. We are giving them a chance to help improve the state of the world, to take care of the Earth, its people, plants, and animals. By giving them responsibility, we give them a real sense of purpose. Right now in the United States, education is a bit watered-down, people finish high school, and they don’t know what to do, they feel like their education is useless. Our solution is inspiring them to participate in the process of sustainable goal implementation.

If we believe that children are a part of Earth’s biosphere, then they also are a part of oceans, coastal regions, forests, they are a part of biodiversity. So, what we are doing is — asking the big questions, “What could children do about oceans?”, “What could children do about climate change?”, “What can they do to participate?”. We have trillions that the world wants to spend every year on fighting climate change, but none of this money is given to promote the role of children as solutions providers or their contributions. We have seen many activities of children protesting and standing around with balloons and posters in their hands. Yes, they are using their voices, but what are they actually doing?

There are many activities where children go and stand around with balloons and posters in their hands. Yes, they use their voice, but what are they actually doing? 

We believe that it is important to listen to youth but also to children (as the UN defines, children are from 0 to 17 tears old). That age group is huge! How can the children of 9, 11, or 14 years old can be not given a greater role, a responsibility? We do not want them acting as parliamentarians, we do want them to go to school because we need them to learn so that they are better prepared to take care of the problems. The more you know, the more you can help. 

And when I am invited to speak to a group of students, my hope is that there will be at least one who is willing to help. Most of those who say, “wow, I am excited to help”, are girls. Maybe the girls are more mature, maybe they are more interested in helping others — I don’t want to open a box of worms here and be accused of being sexist but it’s interesting that the majority who end up designing projects are girls. For some reason, there are more girls interested in collaborating in these kinds of things than boys.

Anyway, I encourage these kids to gather a team of interested people, to choose a problem that they feel is important, to design a solution, and then, to implement this solution. They tend to be little projects that solve big problems. I help them by connecting them with corporations, who can offer some funding as a part of their own corporate social responsibility program. This is not an easy thing to do. What I am looking for is a group of corporations who see value in partnering with us and will connect their CSR dreams with our projects. And together, step-by-step, we can make work together to make life on Earth better for everyone. This is actually what SDG #17, Partnerships, is all about.

The things you do at Kinderenergy are incredible. What inspired you to found the Kidnerenergy project?

I started Kinderenergy with my son and daughter when they were in middle and high school in Northern California. My daughter had a school project, and everyone was doing different activities at school to help build a school in Africa. This was very popular in the United States, they would say “Okay, everybody, let’s get together, and gather money to fund building a school in Africa”. To collect money, they would be running at a school’s gym or at a stadium, and people would give them a dollar for each lap.

So I asked, where is this school? How many kids are in this school? Who is going to be a teacher at this school? What are they going to sit on? Do they have clean water there? My kids were not able to answer any of these questions precisely, nor was her teacher. Before running around the gym, why wouldn’t they clarify better for what reason they were actually running? They could build a school, the building itself, but where would they find teachers, equipment, books, water, and bathrooms? When kids were not part of the decision-making process they become detached emotionally from the project. If the project were their project, then there would be a greater connection to all aspects of the project.

This is when I suggested to my daughter and her classmates that they design their own project based on the needs of the other children. They had to find out who the teacher would be at that school, where the school was geographical, what political situation was going on there, if they had water, what these children were going to eat, or how far the school was from their home. We started thinking, and I realized that this is something that has never been spoken about — how important children are in solving problems big problems. I am a big environmentalist, and I saw that there was no focus on the positive potential of children within the environment. So I decided to do exactly that — to make children the center of the environment. We are proclaiming that their brains and their compassion are the actual resources. It is brains that solve problems and compassion will move the brain to act. If we connect brains with compassion and technology, this is how we solve problems.

It is brains that solve problems and compassion will move the brain to act. If we connect brains with compassion and technology, this is how we solve problems. 

We started Kinderenergy, where Kinder equals a child, and Energy equals an intelligent resource. A child is a renewable source of intelligent energy. Today, we are the only non-profit organization in the UN that believes that children are important for the environment. We are also a part of ECOSOC and UNFCCC. Today, we take part in various international conferences speaking on behalf of children, and we give a voice to the children so they can tell the international community what they are doing to help Earth and why they are important. Within the UN ECOSOC, we are a part of the Major Group of Children and Youth (MGCY), but they are all youth — 18 to 30 years old, and no children are involved or encouraged to participate. It is actually tremendously difficult to have children speak at the UN. The children are really given no voice or recognition for what they are doing, and this needs to change. I think it is slowly changing. Children from all over the world are doing great things for the planet, and they have to be recognized as real authentic solutions providers and instruments of peace for the planet.

What are your plans and achievements with the Kinderenergy project? 

Right now, we are doing a project in Tanzania where there is a particular school with 265 students who have no clean water, soap, a kitchen, food source, or decent toilets. We are helping one school but there are many like this in Tanzania. We want to help them all but one by one. Obviously, without water, students will not be able to stay healthy and to continue at school because the water they drink is dirty and filled with bacteria. When they drink that water, they often get very sick and spend many days away from school. That little money that they have, is spent on medicines to kill the water-borne diseases and now with this COVID crisis, their terrible situation has been exacerbated. Imagine, all of us have alcohol, masks, soap to protect ourselves, while they do not have even water or proper sanitation? How can we tell them to wash their hands if there is nothing to wash their hands with?

In Africa, depending on a country, from 50 to 70 percent of the population consists of youth. We have to help them find their vocation. Let’s teach them how to work the land and how to make money with that land. By starting small, we can industrialize agricultural production in the African countries and make it more efficient. We did so in Uganda. We started with a couple of chickens because the diet of Ugandan was very bad. We gave them some funding, so they could start growing chickens. Now, they grow those and have eggs. They sell the majority of these eggs while leaving a sufficient amount for the children to eat, and they make money out of it. With this money, they buy more chicks. Now, they have chickens, eggs, and manure, which they can use to fertilize their soil and start planting something. So, we gave them water, some funding, and the idea. They set up a production of chicken and eggs, and now have to start growing the food that will be nutritious for them, for instance, potato and beans. Once they have food security, their children will start studying and learning to set up their own business. This is how development works. 

There are a lot more projects to begin. After the water and sanitation project, we will build a school residence in Tanzania so the girls will not have to walk for hours to get to school. When these girls are walking by themselves, it is dangerous and they often get raped. We have to try to keep them safe and healthy. If they lived at school, they would have their basic needs covered and they would be much safer and would be able to concentrate more on their studies.

We are starting this new Tanzania project with a European youth group. And we plan to involve even more youth groups so that everyone could help with idea generation and with fundraising. It would be easier to get European funding too if there were a couple of different youth groups involved. It could even be a sports group — we can connect sports to development. This is what we did in India, for instance. One of Kinderenergy’s first projects in India involved Adivasi Children playing soccer with no shoes — and they decided to turn that problem into a project. At the end, they were able to send funds for only half of what they had hoped for, about two hundred fifty pairs of shoes and they were a bit down in the mouth for completing only fifty percent of their project goal, but we made them realize how much good they still did for these kids. We asked the teachers to leave these shoes at the school. The children would go to school in their own sandals and play soccer at school in these soccer shoes. What happened? The kids ran to school every day so excited to wear those new soccer shoes again that they did not want to miss a single day of school after that. In the end, sports stimulate education, development, economic progress and, world peace. One of our goals for the school in Tanzania, is to get them basketball hoops. These are little projects, but they make a huge change.

What role does technology play in this? 

That’s a good question and a very important one. Most of the students that we deal with have cell phones. They use them for research — to study problems, about countries, and about solutions. They use phones to communicate with each other and to engage others in their projects. They use phones to disseminate information about their project through social media. So, mobile phone technology is crucial for our entire system to work.

Another idea that we are working on right now is related to Virtual Reality. We are working to create VR software, which will let students see problems that the kids in developing countries experience every day. They would “walk-around” that environment where African kids live and understand how dire their situation is without water, housing, or toilets. They will not only see the problems, but they will also be able to use that technology to solve the problem they see. For instance, they can look at the area and think, “what if we put a toilet at this spot?” or “what if a small bridge were built by that river?”. With the help of this technology, they will be able to measure dimensions, calculate the number of resources needed, and engineer solutions for their problems. I also think that such an approach to design and engineering would inspire more children to choose STEM career paths.

This tech idea will be great in so many areas, take Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for instance. It will let children see a potential natural disaster before it happens. I think it is important they understand this. For instance, such a situation happened in Haiti. The people needed firewood, so they were chopping down trees. But they were chopping so many trees on hill that the disaster that the hill was at a terrible risk of sliding. There were no roots to hold that dirt together any more. If there had been a village below that hill, there could have been a catastrophe. So we showed our kids the type of disaster that was about to happen and inspired them to find a solution. The solution was quite simple — to plant trees.

How can others help you with your project?

The best thing about our organization is that a hundred percent of the funds go to project implementation — we are doing our work for free. There is a donation page for Kinderenergy where one can donate any sum they want, and we appreciate any support.

Another way to help Kinderenergy is to participate. If there is a school or a youth group, which wants to take up a project — that is great. We are happy to partner up with any youth group from any country. 

I am sure that there are times whey you feel tired, disappointed, or lost. What motivates you to keep going?

My motivation is my desire to help kids reach their potential. This is my passion — I am really passionate about what I am doing. Probably, not being paid — makes it even better. I don’t think there is enough money that would make it worthwhile for me to do this for so long. Also, it is something that we started, and we know that there are so many kids that need help. We believe that if kids do not receive an education, they will not reach their potential, move out of poverty, stimulate economic prosperity, impulse development, promote compassion, make Earth a better place for all and secure world peace. Education puts wind in a child’s sail.

Of course, sometimes, I’m tired and frustrated when I present projects that do not get funding. But I remind myself that we are doing it for the kids and that it is not about me, it is all about them. When I think about this, I keep going. I feel a certain degree of responsibility to help them improve their lives. The kids in developing countries really need our help but kids on the other side of the globe, in wealthier countries, they also need help finding their purpose, so I connect the two groups. I try to ignite their empathy. I tell students, as soon as you give yourself to someone else freely without expecting anything in return — it gives you tremendous satisfaction and self esteem. The purpose of life is to make others happy, and in the process, you find happiness yourself. It does not take much to make others happy.

As soon as you give yourself to someone else freely without expecting anything in return — it fills you. The purpose of life is to make others happy, and in the process of it, you find happiness yourself.

What ethical values do you believe are the most important in today’s world?

Honesty. There is a tremendous amount of corruption in the world. It’s hard to solve problems when you are dealing with dishonest people. But, most of the problems we see happening in the world today are caused by an absence of ethical values. Sure, there may be some historical reasons as well, but corruption and a lack of transparency are still big problems. I am a big believer in the virtues: charity, honesty, and fortitude. I think that if virtues were given more importance and people strived to reach a higher level of personal virtue; it will be much better for them, society, and the world.

What do you think is the future of the Tech4Good movement? Do you think that the global community is ready for it?  

I think so. Now is a perfect time! Everyone has technology. Even in Africa, while they do not have water, they have a cell phone. They use the cell phone not only to communicate but also to transfer money to banks or to receive money. The amount of data on those phones is immense, and Artificial Intelligence will change the way we do development also. AI will tell us precisely where funding is needed, for what age groups, and it will tell us what is or is not working. The amount of data out there that needs to be understood and measured is incredible. We are just at the beginning, I think.

What advice would you give those entrepreneurs who plan to enter the Tech4Good movement?

They have to really know what they want and to be really passionate about it. I think that it is passion that will change the world for the better — passion and compassion, the two of them together. You have to be passionate to be compassionate. If you don’t have passion, you can’t even get up in the morning. Even if you love a soccer team — that’s great, you have a passion for this soccer team. The worst is when a person has a passion for nothing. 

So, if people have passion to solve problems or to help somebody, they will do well. Despite the setbacks, the problems, the lack of money, they will be successful. You have to understand, are you doing this for people or are you doing this to feel important? If it is the latter — no. If it is the former, you will succeed.

You have to understand, are you doing this for people or are you doing this to feel important? If it is the latter — no. If it is the former, you will succeed.

Everyone should also remember that it is one step at a time. We are on a long journey, and the most important step is the first one — the most important and certainly the most difficult one.

To Wrap Up

Elisabeth Anne Delgado is certain that the children from the developed countries need as much help as the children from the developing world. She says that when she teaches young students to see and solve problems others have, she is helping them find purpose, happiness and build skills for the future. Driven by passion and compassion, the Kinderenergy team is just the beginning of the global Tech4Good movement. Do you think you are ready to join them?

Do you need a development team to support your Tech4Good idea?

Our professionals would gladly join you in your endeavor. Learn more about us to understand if we can become a match.