Engaging Communities and Customers in the Digital Era

Technology is changing the way that we create social impact. While in the past it was just a tool, today it is transforming into the essence of social impact.” Revital Bitan, Intel Israel

Summary

This discussion, held as part of the Maala international conference in November 2018, revolved around how digital lifestyle and technology create new opportunities for increasing businesses’ influence on communities and society at large. The main focus is on solutions for basic everyday problems, and increasing accessibility for underserved communities to digital platforms and communities.

Maala Conference 2018. Photo by: Netanel Tobias

 

Speakers

ModeratorDaniela Prusky-Sion, Global Director, Internal Communications and Sustainability, Strauss Group

Tali Golan, Director, Philanthropy and Inclusion, TripAdvisor

Revita Bitan, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Intel Israel

Noa Shinar-Ron, Chief Operating Officer, SAP Israel R&D Center

Ciara Byrne, Tech Journalist

Einat Singer Dan, CEO of the Forum for Economic and Social Development, Presidium of Israeli Business Organizations

 

Discussion recap

Daniela Prusky-Sion | Strauss Group

Daniela Prusky-Sion, Maala Conference 2018. Photo by: Sharone Amit

Technology creates new opportunities for businesses to broaden their positive impact on society. Technological innovation affects all aspects of our world, from agriculture to transportation and communication. A growing number of companies, not only tech companies, are beginning to relate to the role technology can and should play in tackling social challenges, and how they can successfully integrate it into their business activity. This session is about solving basic problems, giving access to underserved communities, tools that will help them communicate with their surroundings.

 

Ciara Byrne | Tech Journalist

Ciara Byrne, Maala Conference 2018. Photo by: Netanel Tobias

Ciara was a fellow at Blue Ridge Labs (2014) of the Robin Hood Foundation – the largest organization fighting poverty in New York. The fellows at Blue Ridge develop tech solutions for low-income Americans. One of the successful projects, Fresh EBT, offers a cellephone app that makes the application process for food stamps quicker and easier, saving crucial time for low-income Americans, and enabling them to monitor the balance left on their food stamp budget. This, and several other projects developed at Blue Ridge Labs, are examples of how technology can specifically help people living off of very low income.

 

Tali Golan | TripAdvisor

Tali Golan, TripAdvisor

Tali presented impressive data and insight on the potential social impact of TripAdvisor and the travel & tourism sector at large. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel community. $80 billion of travel spent in 2017 would never have been spent had it not been for TripAdvisor, meaning that TripAdvisor is not just influencing travel but actually causing travel, much of which is to destinations around the world that didn’t receive tourism before. TripAdvisor has realized its major impact on the economies of travel destinations, and partnered with the World Bank to help communities and populations around the world understand how they can leverage user-generated content (reviews, opinions, pictures etc.) in a way that grows their tourism economy. The focus is on low-income communities that lack the ability to utilize marketing dollars as practiced in more developed areas.

 

Noa Shinar-Ron | SAP Israel

Noa Shinar-Ron, Maala Conference 2018. Photo by: Netanel Tobias

SAP, a global B2B software company, has the ability to both impact society directly and to help its customers have a greater positive societal impact. The R&D center in Israel has been focusing its efforts on helping people with disabilities and disadvantageous backgrounds to leverage technology in order to improve their lives. SAP Israel partners with organizations to enhance its social impact. Two examples of such collaborations were presented by Noa Shinar-Ron at the Maala conference:

  1. Together with Beit Issie Shapiro, a center that focuses on improving quality of life for people with disabilities, they developed four apps providing assistive technology for people in need, including customizable keyboards and calculators, and an app that helps children learn basic sign language.
  2. SAP collaborated with the House of Wheels, an organization serving hundreds of adults, teenagers and children with CP and other severe cognitive and physical disabilities, allowing them to acquire tools for a more autonomous life. They developed a digital calendar application personally adapted to the person looking at the screen (using face recognition technology). This way the members of House of Wheels can manage their own schedule, and are even able to confirm their meetings and other activities.

One of the most valuable things the organizations gain is the ability to work with hi-tech companies, to understand the mechanisms of hi-tech companies, and how to gain impact while working with a company. They can then leverage that knowledge further, and some organizations are also encouraged by SAP to push their products abroad as well.

 

Revital Bitan | Intel Israel

Revital Bitan, Maala Conference 2018. Photo by: Sharone Amit

Intel has a unique approach of significant volunteering in the community in the cities where Intel facilities are situated in Israel – Jerusalem, Haifa and Kiryat Gat. Its goal is to create a digital active citizenship incubator in each city, following the model of place-making, which includes engaging with the community to solve complex local issues. The community knows best what its needs are, and the company can provide the technological expertise and know-how. In order for place-making to work it has to be localized and customized. Rather than spreading one project all over, Intel develops projects specifically for each city. Intel couldn’t renovate a park or a tunnel in a city without the resources and knowledge of the municipality and the community. Therefore, place-making is about driving social change together, engaging the community, municipality, residents, and even artists from the community.

 

Einat Zinger-Dan | Forum for Economic and Social Development, Presidium of Israeli Business Organizations

Einat Zinger Dan, Forum for Economic and Social development

The Forum for Economic and Social Development is an initiative of the Presidium of Israeli Business Organizations. The Forum is essentially a community facilitating business and civil society partnerships, integrating technology and digitization into its work, thus creating an ecosystem for social impact. The Forum was established in order to develop and promote effective solutions for core social and economic issues in Israel. The challenges tackled by the Forum are such that compromise the economic and social resilience of the state of Israel, which the government and public sector have trouble handling successfully, such as poverty, equality, social mobility, education, inclusive growth and more. This effort requires a broad community with partners from all segment of society, including businesses, municipalities, academia, civil society and government. All are welcome to join some 130 organizations of all sorts that have already joined.