July 18, 2019

Smart Investment in Emerging Technologies Can Help Address the Challenges Faced by the Global Giving Sector

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and internet of things (IoT) is having a profound effect on how businesses worldwide operate. However, less is known how these technologies are impacting the giving sector. A report produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) and supported financially by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presents the key findings of a research program on the potential impact of ten emerging technologies in the giving sector. Venture into the future of giving: The potential of emerging technologies in the giving sector highlights ways that smart investment in emerging technologies can help address the challenges faced by the global giving sector.

The report argues that "Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are transforming the development assistance and giving sectors, from using AI and machine learning to diagnose diseases to implementing drone-based humanitarian logistics. However, their potential impact on the giving process remains underappreciated to date."

Having served in leadership positions of various nonprofit organizations, I understand that "[w]ithin the giving sector, donors, intermediaries and implementing organizations operate in a complex global giving supply chain, which encompasses a wide variety of stakeholders including corporations, academic institutions, watchdogs and governments, among others. Each participant in the supply chain faces both unique challenges and challenges that are common across the sector. For the purposes of this report, we focus on three of the sector's most noteworthy shared challenges: 1) building and sustaining trust, 2) increasing efficiency, and 3) measuring and maximizing impact."

"There are ten key emerging technology applications," the report explains, "that have the potential to enhance the workings of the giving supply chain: big data, AI analytics, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), cryptocurrencies, blockchain payment infrastructure, the IoT, drones, smart contracts and impact tokens. All of these applications are powered by four core technologies: AI, virtual intelligence (VI), blockchain and the IoT."

Moreover, "These technologies can be applied to five key links in the giving supply chain: matching donors and recipients, motivating and informing giving, facilitating transactions, tracking outcomes and validating performance."

Below are the report's key concluding points:
To support donor and recipient matching, big data and AI are helping charitable organisations to understand more about the views, behaviors and opinions of current and future donors, and about trends in the giving sector. A key challenge is determining how to take advantage of the benefits of analytics in a way that does not impinge on privacy and is compliant with relevant regulations like the GDPR.
To motivate and inform giving, VR and AR are allowing donors to see the impact of their investments, overcoming the marketing and communications challenges faced by the sector in the past. A key challenge is the potential for misuse and manipulation when using a powerful tool to unlock empathy.
To facilitate transactions, blockchain and cryptocurrency can add a new rail to financial infrastructure, with tech companies using these facilities to reduce transactions costs.
To improve outcome tracking, sensors, drones and the IoT can be used to gather data that humans cannot, including on environmental and pollution challenges.
To validate performance, impact evaluation can be facilitated by smart contracts, which promote transparency and enable automated pay-outs when a social program reaches a performance threshold. This gives donors greater control over performance-related disbursements. Tokens can also help to monetize measures of impact and create new economic incentives for donors beyond tax exemptions. 
As I am continually learning how emerging technologies work, I appreciate the report's assertion that [w]hile no single technology can overcome the challenges inherent to the giving process, smart investment in appropriate solutions can ensure that all participants in the ecosystem make optimal use of their resources. The structured analysis of technologies undertaken in this study seeks to provide a guide for groups that are willing to experiment and invest to ensure that the sector's sizable contribution to economic and social development can be deepened and sustained in the years to come."

Although I agree with the report that smart investment in emerging technologies help address the challenges faced by the global giving sector, I am disappointed the report does not address the topic of cyber security. It is important for those stakeholders to understand the cyber threats that exist and have a system in place to keep their technologies secure from hackers. Not doing so will negate the value of any "smart investment."

Do you agree with the report's findings? Will smart investment in emerging technologies help address the challenges faced by the global giving sector?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

No comments:

Post a Comment