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Brief Published: 10 Jul 2013

Guardian Activate: London 2013


At the annual Guardian Activate digital innovation conference in London (July 9), Hans Vestberg, chief executive of Swedish telecommunications firm Ericsson, revealed that 6.5 billion people will have access to the web by 2018. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that the event focused on the potential for transformation through mobile technology teamed with a sense of openness.

At the conference, big tech brands were criticised by speakers for not contributing to wider society while they innovate. Global disruptive software organisation ThoughtWorks was hailed as an example of a company that innovates for the social good, and as a result received the most Twitter traffic during the event.

The organisation’s mission is to better humanity through software, setting up projects and developing technology that could, for example, track and reunite broken families in Africa. “Two fundamental paradigm shifts – mobile and the cloud – can make a real difference in the development sector,” said Matthew Simons from ThoughtWorks. 

Similarly Peerby, a green, community-driven app, connects people in the same neighbourhood and allows them to set up a system of borrowing items – such as backpacks or ladders – for free.

Other #Activate buzzwords included ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ – brands and innovators were encouraged to be aware of the social role they play, and to be as open with their products and services as possible.

Girls and tech remains a popular talking point in discussions surrounding technological innovations. Keynote speaker Maria Eitel from US sportswear group the Nike Foundation, said “designing tech with and for girls can transform their families, communities and nations”. And indeed, organisations such as The Girl Effect (created by the Nike Foundation) aim to highlight and empower impoverished women around the world. 

Elsewhere, apps such as Radar promoted the concept of text-powered community journalism, while We Are The Million creates jobs through crowdfunding platforms. 

For more on mobile strategy, check out our Cannes Lions report, Making Your Brand Mobile.