The Spark Salon, a Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) initiative created to showcase innovative and thought provoking new perspectives on the role of technology in helping create a sustainable world, marked its first event last Thursday.

Taking place at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on the Strand, the inaugural session was titled: Hope or Despair – will technology help create a sustainable world?

At TCS, we want to examine the impact of technology in managing the world’s resources and finding creative, new ways to improve sustainability. To this end, we invited along four expert speakers: Joesphine Goube, COO of Techfugees and one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs 2016; Alexander Finlayson, GP and academic at Oxford University and founder of Medicine Africa; Abi Ramanan, co-founder of ImpactVision; and Martin Wright, a sustainability expert with over 25 years writing, editing and advising on the topic.

Technology is now central to almost everything we do – not just in business – and has the potential to change the world for the better. From reconnecting lost refugee children with their parents, to improving the healthcare in fragile states of Africa, and even reducing food waste through hyperspectral imaging – TCS is exploring the power of technology and the positive effects it is already enabling.

 

Technology – no longer an unnatural disruption

Martin Wright described it as a “punch the air in joy” moment when he was walking along a river in Bangladesh and heard the abrupt sound of a mobile phone ringtone. Why? Because solar power had given mobile connectivity and renewable energy to a village of over 250 people, allowing fisherman to sell more fish and locals to stop using harmful kerosene lamps. This is a great real-life demonstration of how technology offers a genuine resolution to issues and crises around the world.

To demonstrate this further, Josephine Goube recounted the story of a group of refugees saved by the coastguard in the Mediterranean after they were able to contact them using WhatsApp. What might seem like a simple thing to us, saved more than 40 lives and led those refugees to being rescued.

Alexander Finlayson also told us the story of Jibril Handuleh, who under the guidance of Medicine Africa using internet based training and support from hospitals in London, went from a volunteer to an advisor at the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the topic of mental health in his native Somaliland.

Through the use of a variety of technology and communication tools, all of these organisations and people were able to make a tangible impact on the lives of individuals, groups and even whole towns and villages.

 

Bringing it back home

As Alexander said, technology has the ability to “scale up programmes that initially involved people on the ground and do them on a greater scale.” This is something that we at TCS think is applicable both here in the UK and globally to make our economy and society, more sustainable.

As an company of more than 371,000 employees worldwide, our infrastructure, facilities, and associates have a large impact on society and the environment, making this a hugely important issue to TCS. Our sustainability strategy is embedded in our internal processes and services offerings, our mantra is to grow sustainably and help our customers achieve sustainable growth.

The event was a rare opportunity to hear from some of the leading minds who are using technology for   sustainability. TCS is already working on the next events and looks forward to further exploring the meeting point of technology and sustainability. If you are interested in hearing more about TCS’ Spark Salon and the upcoming events, please join the conversation at #tcsSparkSalon.