Mobile Applications Vs. Basic Needs

While developed countries are rushing forwards with almost imaginary technologies and living more and more in a digital world, basic needs are pushed away, as if the future can replace the present.

Reading about the latest trends in medical innovations leaves me wondering why this scene and even the social impact scene don't develop more solutions for the basic needs of the masses. Are entrepreneurs more interested in developing software applications to a mostly western world? and why are they less interested in finding solutions to the world's most urgent challenges, such as poor healthcare services, hunger and food waste or lack of access to electricity?

Having said that, last month in Israel I was happy to meet with a few startups that solve basic challenges for developing world populations: accessibility to clean water, diagnostics for treatment of malaria, hygiene pads for young girls and useful solutions for small holder farmers. But those startup founders are fighting just like me to persuade the business sector that doing good and doing well can and should exist together.

As always, the general assumption will be that money dictates what we do and where we go, but when it come to what makes people feel and be excited, it is to do something meaningful. Most people that I know would love to believe they are a part of something good, they would be happy to know that their work contributes to make this world a better place. That is a belief that businesses do talk about, but most of them aren’t always realistic about the social impact, and they hardly put money on that.

The business world keeps considering doing good as donations while it should be a part of each business bottom line, and why not? Are mobile applications "safer" for business—more than affordable medical devices, ambulances, notebooks and schoolbags for children? How come the starting point of so many startups is the technology they want to use or the trendiest field, while so many needs left unanswered?

At least, double and triple-bottom-line startups can be assisted by humanitarian organizations, which are the watchdogs of developing markets, where basic human needs are still a luxury. Once a business reaches them, with a good business model it can grow to become sustainable. However, those organizations are hard to reach. Moreover, if a business is working with humanitarian aid, and if it's plan is to sustain sales, it needs to make sure the products are subsidized and not given for free.

So, while the developed countries are rushing forwards with almost imaginary technologies and living more and more in a digital world, basic needs are pushed away, as if the future can replace the present. As if our reality is happier with less interpersonal communication and more virtual reality or digital communication. Well, it's not. There is no period in history of human kind in which people were more isolated than in the present Western world.

In recent years, mobile phones have flooded developing markets as well, which were until now the better example for where one can still find strong communities. As a result, many applications have started to pop up. But did the daily challenges of a farmer changed? Does he really need another application on his phone? Probably he will still need better infrastructure, better medical services, better shoes, shelter, nutritious food and access to drinking water.

Sometimes the gap between the focus areas of innovation and basic needs is so huge that I feel like we are indeed living in different worlds. But we need to remember – there is no "we" and "them", there is just "us". It's the same world we are all living in, and while wellbeing, happiness and communication are our common basic needs, we should look after each other. Money doesn't make the world go round, it never did, it’s just a tool to reach what is really important.

I'm writing this as a reminder for myself for 2018: Get your head out of your smartphone, spend more time with real people, dare to dream even more, design the reality of your life, love and learn, pass on the knowledge and care for others.

Have a great 2018!

Tamar.

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