Tech for good
My last post focused on how it was the return of humanity, despite all the tech being used, which has provided a positive effect in this current pandemic. To continue the positive theme, I wanted to highlight how tech companies have come to the rescue in many different ways.
WhatsApp and Facebook groups have been set up to help neighbours, friends and family communicate, whilst Zoom and Houseparty have been used extensively for meetings and group chats. But it is the apps that were built for a specific purpose that addresses problems faced in this crisis that are truly worth a mention.
It amazes me how quickly some of these solutions have been put together and made available to literally millions of people in such short timeframes – a lesson for any large corporate in their digital transformation projects/plans.
One of the first, and probably my favourite, was GoodSam. This is an organisation that pre-existed the pandemic and was already doing great things, focusing on alerting emergencies and managing dispatches. When the UK government initially requested 250,000 volunteers, GoodSam quickly put up a service to manage those volunteers. It not only allows you to register as a volunteer for the NHS, but it also registers you for deliveries to those that are self-isolating and unable to travel, or transporting medicines or just to be a telephone companions for those on their own. Registrations have currently stopped as they process the 750,000 initial volunteers!
Small businesses provide the largest number of jobs in the UK, many of which rely solely on local walk-in trade. Businesses like pubs, restaurants, and hairdressers all face a hard time ahead and whilst the government is providing some support it’s great to see some innovative thinking to create an alternative solution. ‘Save my local’ is another great initiative. Essentially it allows merchants to create voucher schemes to forward purchase products and services. Local customers can then purchase these vouchers to support the business once the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Mike Kelly of fintech Curl was one of the founders of this solution despite being busy on his own business.
Sponsored by Budweiser, ‘Save pub life’ also allows customers to forward purchase, in this case beer, but in addition doubles the money the pub owners get. You spend £10, the pub landlord gets £20!
One obvious impact of the crisis is people’s income, and here a cohort of fintech luminaries like Simon Taylor of 11:FS, Freddy Kelly of CreditKudos and Simon Vans-Colina of Fronted put together an app and site to help people understand what financial support they could get through ‘Covid Credit’.
Another favourite of mine comes actually from the property tech (proptech) space, and this was set up by estate agent, Bobby Singh. ‘Homes for NHS’ allows landlords of rental properties to register rooms or property that could be given free of charge to NHS workers, not only to relieve their financial burdens, but also to make it easier for them to isolate from their family homes whilst they are treating patients, or to reduce their commute to hospitals.
Another in the proptech space is GasTag. This is focused on landlords and helps them to manage visits for emergency repairs or important servicing like gas safety certification.
It’s great to see so many examples of tech-based assistance available to people during this crisis, solving very different problems. Some of these were led by existing companies but some were literally created by a group of people whose sole purpose was to help others.
I guess what I’m saying in these last two posts is that whilst there is a lot of concern around the virus and its broad impact to our lives, incomes and normal life, there are also glimmers of hope and encouragement from humankind and business.
These examples were focused on the UK, so it would be great to get your feedback on other initiatives around the globe in the comments or to me on Twitter @dharmeshmistry.
Dharmesh Mistry has been in banking for 30 years and has been at the forefront of banking technology and innovation. From the very first internet and mobile banking apps to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
He has been on both sides of the fence and he’s not afraid to share his opinions.