The technology making our world a fairer place

By Anna Schaverien 12 October 2017

Saving our planet one app at a time.

Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others (to paraphrase George Orwell).

What’s frustrating is that his line still rings true in today’s society, more than 70 years after it was written.

And despite the constant promise of a fairer world, it has somehow never materialised.

Thankfully, there are more optimistic people out there who think we can make our future world more equal with a little help from technology, like innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank.

Here’s three innovations you need to know about.

Sharing is caring, yes really

The average adult spends almost three hours a day on their smartphone.

You might spend that time watching cat videos until 1am on a Monday, but you can put your phone to much better use.

Do your bit in the fight to cure AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s by turning your phone into a DIY supercomputer.

These illnesses are incredibly unfair in who they decide to target – and everyone knows someone affected by them.

Researching the cures take an incredible amount of computing power – and there’s not enough supercomputers to go around.

But by combining smartphones’ spare computing power (while their owners are sleeping), you can create a DIY version with HTC’s Power to Give app.

Any Android phone can sign up and every little bit of power becomes part of a huge grid that works to solve our greatest (and most unfair) medical challenges.

“It’s not about new technology alone, but rather, realising the potential in new technology that can lead to meaningful and positive change in the world,” said Wayne Guthrie, co-founder of Fearlessly Frank.

Do you speak my language?

It’s oh so easy for any native English speaker to go international – almost everyone they work with ends up communicating in their mother tongue.

But what about everyone else who struggles to take their business worldwide because of a simple language barrier?

Google’s tackling this inequality with its new Pixel Buds.

There are already hundreds of translation apps out there, such as iTranslate Voice, which repeats back whatever you say to your smartphone in any language you want.

But it takes time and you have to pass your smartphone back and forth, resulting in a stilted conversation.

What’s different about these translation earbuds which use Google Translate, is they make communication more human: you’ll be looking at the person you’re speaking to, without the distraction of the phone.

And the buds instantly can change what you say into up to 40 languages – from Afrikaans to Zulu.

“It is quite amazing what Google has achieved,” said Dr Mario Saraceni, reader in English language and linguistics at the University of Portsmouth.

“I have strong doubts that you could have a really full and rich conversation with a machine translation tool. But the language used in business meetings is relatively stable and would lend itself to being translated in that way.”

And if Google Translate’s not quite up to scratch for a deep conversation, it would at least make travelling to far-flung places a lot easier.

“If you go to Thailand and want to ask for a hotel and the person doesn’t speak English, then it could be very useful,” Dr Saraceni said.

Make your (digital) voice heard

Have you ever thought of writing to your local politician and hesitated over the effort?

Or doubted whether they’ll even listen to you? Future voters should have no excuses.

Taiwan has an interesting approach to making politics fairer for all.

Join, the Taiwanese government’s online platform, uses the public as a sounding board on its draft trade regulations and deals.

Lawmakers consult the very people their deals will affect and adapt their ideas based on the feedback.

And over in the US, the Countable app makes it easier for citizens to become engaged in politics.

Every week, it shows what the country’s politicians are debating and lets you instantly send an email to your local politician telling them how you’d like them to vote.

And in the UK, SwapMyVote tried to rescue every wasted vote in the General Election and make our electoral system a little more democratic.

Will our future governments look to make sure everyone has their say and everyone gets heard?

The innovation consultants at Fearlessly Frank gives us a glimpse into a fairer world for all in this video:

A more equal future for all

The world is not a fair place to live in… yet.

Although there’s no magic wand for solving the world’s problems, there are more and more apps and technologies that promise to diminish them just a little.

“If we observe the value of pausing to understand and interpret the tools we create, there’s rich potential for progress in every direction,” said Wayne Guthrie, co-founder of Fearlessly Frank.

For now, at least, they’ll certainly set us on the way to finding a fairer future for everyone.