New figures published by Tech Nation today show our rapidly growing “tech for good” sector is now worth more than £2bn.
“Tech for good” refers to the use of digital technology to create a positive impact for society or the environment, enabling people to live healthier, happier and more sustainable lives.
This includes charities using innovative digital solutions to help them fulfil their mission, or tech companies utilising emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to help solve societal challenges, such as food waste.
It is also promising to see UK for-profit firms in this sector raised more than £1bn in venture capital in 2018, once again proving our reputation as a beacon for investment.
This success is thanks to our unique combination of skills, location and language, our business friendly environment, thriving civil society, access to capital and longstanding reputation for innovation.
I know there is more we can do to realise the full potential of “tech for good” in the UK. I have convened a meeting with some of the sector’s leading minds at Downing Street today to discuss how we can make the UK a global leader in this area.
We are seeing great examples of “tech for good” from British organisations which will be joining the meeting. OLIO (pictured) is a location-based app aimed at cutting down food waste by encouraging neighbours to share food.
Beam, founded by Alex Stephany, who was behind the largest crowdfunding round for a startup in history with JustPark, is a crowdfunding platform that helps people from disadvantaged backgrounds to train up and get into work.
There is also innovation in agriculture through WeFarm, which connects farmers around the world and enables them to ask and answer farming questions and share tips, via SMS or online.
I am determined to support this sector and in January I announced a number of initiatives to help speed up growth and generate new ideas in this area.
My department sponsored the Digital Agenda Impact Awards to celebrate the successes of “tech for good” ventures, we are establishing a £1m Challenge Prize focussed on tackling social isolation and we are backing the creation of Social Tech Trust’s equity fund to encourage people to be healthier and build connected communities using tech.
But without the right talent progress in this sector will stall.
The report behind today’s figures reveals some of the challenges we face in ensuring a greater spread of “tech for good” organisations. Many of the organisations are mainly based in South East England and of even more concern is that women founded only 14.5 per cent of them. Diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of what we do in this sector if it is going to reach its full potential.
Our support for the Tech Talent Charter initiative has already led to more than 300 organisations committing to getting more women into tech jobs and through the creation of Tech Nation we are working to develop the next generation of tech entrepreneurs across the UK.
We have widened the skills base of our charity leaders through the Digital Leadership Fund so they have the confidence to use technology to fulfil their social mission. A number of recipients from across the sector have benefitted from a share of £1m to boost charity leaders’ digital knowhow and explore how they can use technology to benefit their respective causes.
And we’re not limiting our support to the UK’s “tech for good” sector.
Earlier this month we hosted entrepreneurs in agritech, healthtech and fintech from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in London as part of the Go Global Africa tech programme. The scheme supports African startups to improve their business skills and capability, build links with the UK’s tech sector and tap into our expertise to help them take their ideas to the next level.
Now we must keep up the momentum in this vital area and I look forward to seeing this sector go from strength to strength as we work to make the UK a global leader.
Jeremy Wright is Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport