Teens like me constantly use technology to communicate, spread information, learn, etc. It’s a major part of my everyday life. However, I haven’t often enough thought about technology as a whole. And until lately I haven’t had the opportunity to pay close attention to the leaders and innovators of the industry.
As my summer internship with the company was coming to a close, the Techonomy Virtual: Reset + Restore conference introduced some fascinating players to me. It made the tech world more tangible and concrete. Most importantly, it demonstrated how imperative technology is, and is going to be, for solving world issues efficiently in the future.
One huge issue that teens are paying close attention to is sustainability. It was spoken about extensively during the conference. Over the past few years we teens have held school strikes, marches, and protests to draw attention to the dangers of global warming and the need to act now. Techonomy Virtual showed how technology is being used to work on sustainability and the SDGs. Longtime environmental visionary and author Bill Mckibben opened the event by discussing some of the hopeful movements and new innovations which are helping the fight against climate change. Most importantly he spoke about new technologies that are bringing down the price of solar and wind energy. He dubs these “by far the most important technological developments on earth,” giving us new energy systems that do not harm our environment. However, Mickibben also brought up an important question: Will lawmakers and powerful business leaders truly incorporate these innovations and change the way critical industries have been running? The United States appears to not be ready to change, Mckibben says. Our own president calls climate change a Chinese hoax. The technology is available and only getting better. It is now up to people in power to use it.
One influential figure who also spoke is AJR’s Adam Met, who is using his platform as a successful musician to advocate for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He founded a company, Sustainable Partners Inc., to help educate younger audiences about sustainability and develop creative and impactful ways to market to them around the issues, often using celebrities. The company sees off-the-charts retention and click through rates on its campaigns, because it understands how to incentive teens. It targets teens on social media platforms using simple ideas like “watch this video to the end to plant a tree” or “one like equals one tree planted.” By using platforms that teens understand with phrases that make the importance and impact of watching the video/ad clear, it is no surprise that Sustainable Partners sees such success. Gen-Zs are on the cusp of voting, are constantly online, and have the power to create powerful change to fight global warming.
Ericsson’s Heather Johnson also had a powerful message about the SDGs and technology that especially resonated with me as a student now. Johnson spoke about how imperative technology is in order for students to learn and communicate during this global pandemic . More than 9 million schoolchildren in the United States don’t have sufficient access to the internet or computers, she said, making it impossible for them to learn virtually. Johnson showed how Ericsson is working to help students get critical access to network infrastructure. Listening to the numbers she cited helped demonstrate how much of a privilege it is to have tech and access to the internet is during Covid-19.
As a student who relied all quarantine on internet access to pass my classes, I realized more clearly how important access is to every student, and how many young people are not as lucky as I am to have good access.
It will be impossible to achieve quality education, good health, sustainable cities, and to fight against climate change without global access to technology.