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Three Ways the Public Sector Can Use Tech for Good

02/06/2016 10:54

tech-for-good

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The size and scale of the public sector means that we are only at the beginning of tech for good in government - there's a lot of room for public sector organisations, including local councils, to be smarter and leaner about how they spend money by using tech for good.

Here are three opportunities (among many) that they could take advantage of:

1. Using data more efficiently to solve social problems

Social enterprises are already using data to help people find local sports facilities to get healthy (Imin), reduce rents for those of us who can't afford rising living costs (Rentsquare) and warn people of flooding (Flood Network). These typically are not government led, but are often backed by government organisations.

And that's just the beginning. In the future we'll be seeing policy making be more and more data-driven.

What if you could use open data to help solve the housing crisis? Rentsquare are a data driven startup working with local authorities in London to do just that. They use open data to work out what the best rent price is for both landlords and tenants.

Not only do cheaper rents for tenants and reduced fees for landlords help reduce the time properties are empty, but both parties save money.

Often it's start-ups and think-tanks rather than councils that come up with the most innovative ideas. That's why working together is important.

2. Tech can help create the best outcome for the most people

Technology can be used to cut out human bias from a process and make matches. It can help governments work out a way for the most people that can to get what they want - or need.

A hero of ours, economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Alvin Roth, designed a smart way to organise kidney transplants.

All over America there are people who need kidneys, and people who want to donate them. Often partners or relatives of people who need a kidney transplant want to donate one of theirs. However there's a problem when someone's offering a kidney that isn't medically suitable.

By using a nationwide database and shuffling things around, you can create a chain of people who can give and receive kidneys. So I might not actually give my kidney to my mum who needs one, but to Fred who is my blood type. Then my mum who is compatible with Fred's partner gets a kidney from her.

Each kidney saves healthcare providers £25,000 and many lives have been saved. There are many other areas in which tech could be used to match people with what they need - education, housing, and so on.

3. Tech can be used to empower citizens to solve problems themselves

Traditionally public services have provided blanket solutions to problems rather than encourage creativity. But what if people could be the solution to their own problems?

In the UK you can use an app to identify and reduce your risk of diabetes. In Paraguay you can use a tool to figure out the most important problems a your family is facing to map your route out of poverty.

The people we know behind these kinds of tech for good platforms are passionately listening to the people using them and figuring out how to make better products. For them it isn't about huge profits but social return. Which while budgets remain low is exactly what the public sector is crying out for.

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Firesouls make digital tools to get more resources into organisations who effectively solve local problems.

HuffPost UK Tech is running a two-week focus on our Tech For Good campaign, which aims to highlight the technology that is driving social change and making a positive, long-lasting difference to our world. If you'd like to blog on our platform around this topic, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about.

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