Published in Fast Company | NOVEMBER 20, 2018
Want to build tech for good? Understand people's needs first
By wilneida negron
Tech’s fast-moving, top-down approach often exacerbates social divisions. By building an understanding of communities’ needs, before developing tools to help them, tech can truly become a force for the public good.
The dark basement of a church food pantry in Flushing, New York, is where I decided I needed to learn how to code.
As a social worker when I was 26, I met with and counseled countless undocumented immigrant women–mothers, grandmothers, and young girls. Most of them were looking for food and work, so they could provide for their families. Others were victims of domestic violence, looking to earn money so they could leave abusive relationships.
Hearing their stories, I was overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness. What could I actually do for these women? Where could I find ways to help them? Reaching out to local social services, other churches, nonprofits, corporate law offices, elected officials, and local business leaders, I learned firsthand that the best way to confront fear, powerlessness, and hardship was to connect with others and build bridges. And I started to realize that, when applied in ways that serves the public interest–like helping to connect vulnerable communities to vital information and resources, and building movements–technology could be one of those bridges.