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Organized by the United Nations in Geneva, the World Summit of the Information Society discussed the role of technology in building a better future

Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, speaking at WSIS Forum

A big welcome to the future we all want – with more technology, creativity and innovation at the service of a fairer society. That was the message that this year’s 4-day WSIS Forum, whose motto was Leveraging ICTs to Build Information and Knowledge Societies for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, opted to convey to the rest of the world.

Entrepreneurs, government officials, organizations and members of the civil society tackled some of the most important challenges facing the modern world which included those relating to protection of the environment, inclusion of vulnerable social groups, promotion of small businesses and furtherance of artificial intelligence for human rights.

Horyou, the social network for social good, joined two panels, alongside high-level members of international organizations, as well as the private and public sectors. During the High Level Policy Session on Financing for Development and the Role of ICT, Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, spoke about the skills required from social entrepreneurs. «It’s great to see how youth is engaged in social entrepreneurship to make a difference and do good. At Horyou, we believe in technology with a purpose, which requires courage and optimism», he stated.

On the sensitive issue of promoting equality through information and technology, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN, regretted that “as fast as advances are occurring, they are not taking place fast enough in many areas” and called to “bring the whole world online so everyone can benefit from ICTs”.

It was nevertheless underscored that governments are indeed making progress in democratizing access to technology. Case in point, Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Salem, ICT Minister of Saudi Arabia, highlighted that the Kingdom has invested in state-of-the-art technology to equip its public institutions. «In 2018, ICT investment has grown by 6% over 2017 and, by 2020, we will furnish thousands of public institutions with optic fiber”, he stated.

The panel Women in ICT, moderated by Cintia Pino, Horyou’s Head of Marketing and External Relations, female executives from non-profit and private organizations discussed the ways to engage more girls and women in technology. Leading women figures including Sonja Betschart, co-founder of WeRobotics, an organization which uses drones to promote technology in developing countries, and Trisha Shetty, a UN Young Leader who advocates gender equality, showcased their success stories and their activism for social good.

Government officials were an important part of the event, as many high-level conferences were organized to debate policies and share success stories. Dr. Chérif Diallo (ICT), from Senegal, presented his country’s digital strategy for 2025 and Ms. Aurélie Zoumarou (ICT) from Bénin, highlighted the efforts to include more women in technology.

At the closing ceremony, Mr Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), declared that «WSIS 2018 has shown how the power of ICT can be leveraged to make progress on a range of important issues, from gender equality to cybersecurity and the Internet of Things». Mr Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Chairman of WSIS 2018, thanked the audience and panelists with words of hope and optimism. «Connectivity and the Internet can play an essential role in the endeavors to achieve inclusion and equality», he affirmed.

From June 30 to July 2, European Youth Awards invite creative minds to join a game marathon at the Technical University of Graz, in Austria.

EYA Game Jam
EYA Game Jam

Why not use technology to discuss social and environmental changes? That’s the challenge presented by the European Youth Awards to the young, creative minds that will be part of EYA Game Jam. The programming competition takes place at the Technical University of Graz, in Austria, and will use tools like virtual reality and 360° to discuss topics like water and family.

The goal is to create game prototypes to address both topics, that are intrinsically connected to the Sustainable Development Goals. Says Kathrin Quatember, EYA spokesperson: “Two of the UN SDGs focus on the topic of water; Goal 6 – Clean water and sanitation and Goal 14 – Life below the sea. By establishing a special category, EYA wants to contribute to the international awareness of treating the “source of life“. Secondly, we try to motivate young innovators and entrepreneurs to develop smart solutions for water related problems and apply for European Youth Awards 2017”. Water should also be the topics of the EYA 2017, she added.

The idea of using virtual reality and tech gadgets in the event stems from the fact that EYA wanted to bring digital technologies to the center of social innovation discussions within the EYA community. “The combination of the Game Jam topics ‘water’ and ‘family’ with VR and 360° technology is thrilling. It enriches the possibilities for the Game Jammers to reach the peak of creativity and opens new possibilities to approach the topics”, said Kathrin.

The competition is open to everyone interested in game and development. EYA partnered with VRCORE, the organizer of the “Global VR Hackathon“ – a worldwide event with regional competitions and a Championship Final in Shanghai at the end of August. Three Winners of the Jam will be invited to the Championship Final – a unique opportunity for the participants to expand their network and learn!

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

Have you thought of a world where nobody would have to be concerned about paying for their basic needs? The unconditional basic income (UBI) project, which will be submitted to a vote in Switzerland next month, addresses this controversial issue that has been the “talk of the country” for quite some time. And last week, hundreds of academics, executives, trade union representatives and the general public gathered in Zurich to discuss the UBI in connection to new technologies, disruptive work and a shrinking middle class, both in the developed and developing worlds. While attending for Horyou blog, I was very interested to see how the basic income discussion would fit with the concept of Spotlight, the global social currency created by Horyou. And I discovered that there are many people studying and working hard for more income equality all over the world.

Yanis Varoufakis - Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network
Yanis Varoufakis – Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network

Named “The Future of Work”, the conference discussed alternatives for the current crisis of capitalism, marked by income stagnation, deflationary process and decreasing interest rates on a global scale. Renowned specialists such as Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Minister of Finance, and Robert Reich, former US Labour Secretary under Bill Clinton, were among the speakers.

First to speak was Robert Johnson, executive director of the Institute of New Economic Thinking, for whom the root cause of our society’s challenges is a mix of political pessimism, technological disruption and a political system whereby economic growth is powered and consumed by the wealthy few. “We are living under fear of social unrest caused by the increasingly precarious conditions for workers”, he said.

Robert Johnson - Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network
Robert Johnson – Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network

One of the signs of this precarity is the rise of sharing economy platforms like Uber and their impact on working conditions. A panel called Disruptive Work presented cases of companies like Uber and Zipcar, whereby members are proposed flexible conditions while not enjoying the same rights and income they would be in a “traditional” industry. “My father had one job in his life, I had six in mine, and my daughter will have six simultaneously”, said Robin Chase, co-founder of the car sharing platform Zipcar. She is optimistic about the new working model – according to her, 85% of people are not happy with their current jobs and the so-called “peer inc” companies can tap exponential learning and lead people to interesting jobs instead of automated ones.

A system where a basic income would guarantee people’s survival would give everyone freedom to chose a meaningful job without having to work hard to make ends meet. For the critics of the project, it would lead to a situation where many people would be discouraged to work at all. Some experiments made in Africa, India and Germany, however, show the opposite. Michael Faye, co-founder of the non profit GiveDirectly, shared his experience with cash transfers in extreme poor villages in Africa. “The only social group who stopped working were children”, he said. “There is no evidence that they become lazy and spend the money on drugs and alcohol. In fact, people go back to school and start working for the community”. The same phenomenon happened with the Mein Grundeinkommen experiment in Germany – from the 36 people who benefitted from a cash transfer which guaranteed their survival, only one spent it on luxuries. “Most people changed jobs and started spending more time with their children”, says the executive Amira Yahia.

Robert Reich, who worked as a US Labour Secretary and now is a professor at UCLA, is one of the biggest supporters of the project. “Even the Silicon Valley is starting to be interested in the basic income project. Companies are concerned about people not being able to afford the products that they manufacture, as the middle class is shrinking”, he said. In his opinion, a basic income would create an aggregated demand that would address such issues as inequality and social insecurity. “The central question is not economic but ethical. Who is the government working for, and who has the influence and power? How do we use the abundance and distribute the gains produced by society?”, he asked. Reich is not convinced about the effectiveness of a basic income, but believes it is “inevitable” to create a system which promotes the circulation of income.

Robert Reich - Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network
Robert Reich – Photo by Jonas Rohloff/Neopolis Network

The closing speech was Yanis Varoufakis’. Famous for his controversial statements about capitalism and the financial system, he stated that the social democracy tradition is dead and that capitalism has been agonizing since 2008. “The new system transfers the value of production towards the financial sector that remains insolvent. This created a deflationary process and today, half the global economy is on negative interest rates”. Varoufakis went on to explain that the working class can no longer ensure itself through social insurance, as youngsters find it very difficult to find full time jobs, and wages are stagnating. “This is aggravated by the fact that low wage routine jobs would be rapidly replaced by artificial intelligence”.

The basic income, according to him, is a necessary tool to stabilize society. “The struggle is ethical as we need to overturn the dominant paradigm of capitalism. The basic income is a dividend for the collective production market, it is about giving money to the underserving, to the rich, the surfers, people who are collectively producing wealth”, he advocated. At the same time, a redistribution of wealth would benefit central banks as well by working as a counter deflationary tool, and promote the creation of value at work, as people would have the right to turn down a job they don’t feel connected to. “We need to create a system which aggregates capital and creates a stream for everyone. It’s a trust fund for all our children”, he concluded.

Written by Vivian Soares

Special thanks to Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and Neopolis Network for all the support and pictures.

A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day
A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day.

It was a cloudy morning in Geneva when I headed to my first Hackathon. I was excited and curious for the challenge of using technology and communication techniques to develop projects on the refugee crisis, along with other marketing professionals, journalists, programmers and developers. The event was organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), in a partnership with the Radio et Télevision Suisse (RTS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Although I had read a lot about Hackathons all over the world, I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the beautiful and impressive building of RTS. I was welcomed by a friendly team and very quickly started to make contacts among the participants. They were producers, editors, designers, entrepreneurs and curious with different origins and interests, but with the same goal: to discover how technology can help with good and meaningful projects.

The refugee crisis is the theme of the moment. Europe has been flooded by millions of migrants and refugees for years now, in a situation that has been aggravated by misinformation, prejudice and radicalism from both sides. Communication is key here – and that is the reason why EBU, RTS and UNHCR decided to organize a Hackathon over the refugee crisis.

How non-specialists in refugee policies could possibly develop communication tools and projects for this seemingly endless challenge in 24 hours? Well, this is what Hackathon stands for: it is a “Hacker” marathon. And when I thought of hackers I had all the misinformation and prejudice I could get: people trying to steal passwords or to transfer money from bank accounts by breaking in computers. I was surprised when I discovered that, in modern computer science language, to hack is to find a solution for a problem or an inefficient process. And this is what we were willing to do, after all.

Coaching and lectures were given to the participants
Coaching and lectures were given to the participants.

We were coached for specialists in many areas: a content leader of the UNHCR, a media and data professional on Google, a young journalist who discovered appalling stories on Iran, Afghanistan and Syria using data and crossing information, as well as professionals from media outlets as Deutsche Welle and RTS itself. They were there to provide inspiration and to help us by sharing knowledge and advices.

My group of 6 people started working on a project to connect young refugees with local people, since our focus was integration. We identified problems as isolation, lack of communication between both groups and prejudice. The idea was to develop an educational app to “match” them according to their hobbies and common interests, like music, sports, career aspirations. We spent the night working on programming, design and content for our project, as well as the other teams. We needed and we had great help from the coaches and even from our “competitors”. We could exchange people from groups if we felt interested on a different project.

After many hours of work, we were ready for the pitch session. It was amazing to see how, in a short period of time, all groups had developed great ideas for the refugee crisis. Two of them were focused on the refugee travel. Using real time information, they could show the best route for refugees based on their profile: families, men, women, mixed groups. Other tried to raise awareness on the refugee crisis, showing a European or American person how hard it is to live in a refugee camp or to travel thousands and thousands of kilometers, using data and storytelling tools. The winner group developed an app with information about all European countries such as refugee policy and laws, health care system and shelters.

After 24 hours of working together, we didn’t feel we were competitors, as it is common in group contests. We were sharing skills and inspiration, feeding each other with purpose and will. We celebrated the best project because it was indeed a great idea and didn’t feel sorry for not being chosen as winners. Most important, we showed the UN Refugee Agency many possibilities and paths they can take from here.

Personally, I have got made new friends, new abilities and a full set of ideas I will use and share in my work at Horyou. As a social network for the social good, we have the same goals and aspirations I experienced on this Hackathon: to connect for good, to help solving social challenges by using technology and communication and to build a better world. I didn’t know it by then, but we are all together social good hackers.

Written by Vivian Soares

BiohackHeadshot_blog1

Horyou had the chance to interview Eleanor Watson, engineer, entrepreneur, futurist and believer in the positive future of humanity. Eleanor Watson grew up in Northern Ireland as an only child of an engineer, a childhood in which books taught her at an early age the challenges in this world and the hope in defeating them. Today, her continued interest in the psychology of technology has led her to study, speak about and encourage the emergence of social trends. Mrs. Watson is within the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Faculty at the Singularity University, a benefit corporation that helps individuals, businesses institutions, investors, NGOs and governments with educational programs, training them to understand new technologies and the positive impact potential of these technologies. In this interview she tells us about her work and experiences at the University. — by Amma Aburam

Have you always wanted to be an advocate for Technology in Social Good and Impact? How did it come about?

I grew up as the only child of an engineer in a house filled with serious science fiction. From an early age I also had a cherished copy of the Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, a book that details the whole world’s resources, and the greatest problems of our world society.

I also learned that lasting humanitarian successes, such as the eradication of smallpox, seemed like science fiction not so long ago.

I believe that the combination of these two influences seeded an understanding of the immense challenges facing so many in this world, along with a sense of optimism in being able to continue our shaping our world for the better.

The University impacts Education, Innovation and Community, how are these three elements intertwined to tackle world challenges?

SU teaches new models for understanding the world, based upon principles of harnessing the power of exponential technology curves, and a cultivated mentality of abundance (as opposed to one of scarcity).

This leads to a whole new way of looking at the world, and people sometimes switch the whole track of their lives once they acquire these new tools for understanding the complex systems in which we live.

Such methods also create a clarity about predicting the future of technology and society, which leads SU alumni to found new ventures that are ahead of the curve that the solutions created may have no precedent, or no existing market for them. Many of these solutions are able to generate massive social impact, as well as building powerful engines of wealth creation, enriching society at least as much as shareholders.

Furthermore, we lead an extended community of alumni that is able to continue to collaborate all through their careers. I continue to work on a range of socially beneficial projects with colleagues that I first met during SU, creating a lasting legacy of creative benefit.

What are your best/favorite success stories of local impact with technology through the strategies at Singularity University?

SU students and alumni have founded a wide range of inspiring ventures, with missions as daring as detecting cancer at the earliest stages, mining old electronics to recover valuable materials (mined originally often in places of intense conflict), or even drones that can replenish entire forests by firing seedlings like a machine gun.

What in your opinion are the three building blocks in reaching solutions for local community issues?

The most important success factor is having in-depth understanding of the situation within the local areas that the issue has the strongest particular impact.

Very often, NGOs and public officials attempt to intervene in a situation with the best of intentions, spend a lot of time and money, and still not fix the problem, because they did not spend enough time ‘on the ground’ asking local people about the real issues, and how they themselves suggest fixing them.

Worse still, sometimes even seemingly beneficial actions can lead to unintended consequences for other parties, or for the wider environment. No lasting and useful social solution can ever arise without an intense learning and deep understanding of the core problems, as experienced by people affected by them.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? Any ideals?

I’m not sure if there is a universal ‘meaning of life’, but we can certainly choose one for ourselves. I have chosen one overriding personal goal in my life, and that is to seed as much good in the world as I reasonably can. I even keep a mental score counter of my hit rate.

There are many possible means of amplifying the good that one does:

One may launch new ventures, creating a self-sustaining engine of happiness for the world. One may educate and inspire others where knowledge is most crucial, and most lacking. One may discover complementary qualities between people that can cause them to flourish once connected. Sometimes one may simply pinpoint better places to allocate resources using reason and evidence, the core idea behind the Effective Altruism movement.

What does our mantra Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you personally and professionally?

An inquisitive spirit to dream of a better future, a valiant will to take action towards those ends, and the inspiration to continue against daunting odds, because humanity needs you to succeed. These are the ingredients of all world-changing efforts!


Migration, poverty and food chain were hot topics of the UN Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Poland.

The COP24 is taking place in Poland

Despite the “Act Now” motto of COP24, this year’s Conference of the Parties looked like a redacted version of the former editions, probably due to the obvious effects of global warming on our daily lives. And they indeed are being felt everywhere – from water scarcity in South Africa to floodings in the US, and from storms in South America to rising sea levels in the Atlantic. Nature is also transforming the way we live; everyone’s safety is being threatened and climate migration is becoming a serious issue.

“Changing weather, floods and droughts in many places increasingly threaten people’s livelihoods. That is leading a lot of families to have to consider whether they can stay where they are, or try to live somewhere else,” said Koko Warner in a statement during the COP24. The UN estimates that over 258 million people live outside their country of origin, and global warming is expected to increase this number as it makes some areas of the planet uninhabitable. Currently, four times more people in the world are displaced by extreme weather events than they are by conflict.

Climate change also affects food production. All over the world, farmers have seen their crops affected by heavy rains, droughts and extreme weather conditions for several years in a row, leaving most of them without predictable income and, ironically, with restrained access to food. As a result, they are bound to change their status from suppliers to requesters, and thus aggravate poverty and hunger.

A set of recommendations was presented to help define the 197 countries’ commitment to climate action. Cooperation among parties is key, as well as using technology and data analysis to tackle information and planning challenges. “The goal is really to help countries understand the scale of what is coming and really prepare for it”, said Ms. Warner. “It’s really about finding ways to reduce the suffering and ensure the safety, dignity of the people at risk of displacement in the face of climate change.”

Some of the recommendations included financial planning support for communities who are facing natural disasters, as well as the increase of investments in mapping and understanding human mobility due to climate change. “The real impact,” noted Ms. Warner, “will only be measured through the steps countries take to avoid and minimize unnecessary suffering, and address the risks involved in climate-related displacement.”

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Migration, poverty and food chain were hot topics of the UN Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Poland. Despite the “Act Now” motto of...