Reimagining Citizenship in a Business 4.0 Era: Harnessing Digital Technology to Empower Communities

To usher in transformational change, we must first understand that family, community, business, health, education, technology, environment, and culture are all major pillars in society. Breaking down silos across these pillars can help accelerate the pace of societal evolution and technology can be a pivotal catalyst for change. The goal of Digital Empowers: Accelerating Innovation for Business and Social Good is to gather leaders and trailblazers across sectors who share a commitment to advancement, underpinned by technology, for social good.

The changing nature of society

With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution companies are growing and transforming through the power of digital. Enterprises are adopting artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain, cloud and other technology at a pace that is much faster than observed in prior innovation cycles. Unfortunately, with recent economic, political and social trends, cultural polarization is also occurring at a steady rate.

Given these societal tensions, any solution that balances the pace of growth with equity starts with trust and collaboration. The non-profit sector has the highest level of trust among citizens, and this is where change can begin. Moving forward, I envision cross-sector efforts for social good becoming the norm, with digital technology providing leapfrog innovation. Various agencies will work in unison to efficiently identify and solve the world’s most difficult issues, technology can help customize, implement, and scale solutions. Many organizations have embraced this ‘next-gen’ model for community engagement, becoming early adopters and pioneers for this innovative approach to social change.

Technology as an equalizer

Knowing how to identify and leverage partnerships is essential to overcoming systemic challenges and developing an ecosystem of shared resources. Industries must take a more active role in creating pathways through direct investment and partnerships in local communities. Many of the obstacles we face in solving global issues can be surmounted by harnessing technology that is available. For example, drones can carry out critical tasks as disasters happen, including spotting people in need of rescue or urgent medical aid. In fact, statistics suggest drones may have certain advantages over traditional search-and-rescue efforts — specifically speed. Nonprofits and on-the-ground partners must have a seat at the table with companies who are in the position to provide technology or human capital support for their endeavors. 

As a global leader in IT, digital services and business consulting, we recognize the impact that technology and human capital can make in unlocking the full potential of nonprofits across the U.S. We designed our Pro-Bono Tech Consulting projects with that goal in mind, and have used our technology to empower and amplify impact with pioneering initiatives like Million Women Mentors, US2020, IMPACT 2030 and the World Economic Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap 2020. These efforts have created over $20MM in social good and reached hundreds of organizations and millions of beneficiaries. We also conceptualized a skills-based tech-volunteering program in partnership with NPower. As a trusted partner, NPower helps to identify nonprofits in need from across the U.S. and performs an important liaison role of helping them draft and define their tech challenges. Since 2014, over 1,500 TCS employees have volunteered over 33,000 hours in Pro-bono Tech Consulting Projects, benefiting over 250 NPOs and resulting in over $5MM in social good.

So how can we reimagine citizenship in a ‘Business 4.0 era’?

Increasing awareness and understanding of the power of digital technologies like cloud computing, IoT, VR/AR can be the game changer. This will lead to new engagement models from business, technology, government and nonprofit leaders to envision how to harness that abundance and apply innovative solutions to social issues. Government and policy experts can provide perspectives on national priorities, and highlight the felt need from communities and regions across America. Leading technologists and business leaders can share use cases and showcases of the transformational nature of these digital technologies, giving potential partners insights on the art of the possible. The engagement of sector leaders helps develop a shared vision, aiding in a paradigm shift towards creating exponential value for our fellow citizens and the community.

Balaji Ganapathy is Head of Workforce Effectiveness and oversees the functions of Human Resources Business Consulting, Diversity & Inclusion and Social Responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services. Balaji, a frequent presenter at national conferences and panels, spoke at the Chamber Foundation's Digital Empowers: Accelerating Innovation for Business and Social Good on May 24. Click here to learn more about the evetnt. Follow Balaji on Twitter @musafirbala and @TCS_NA.