Progressive technology design

By | Science & Technology
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Google Campus London and FutureGov Partner for innovative events

How does one make the web more accessible and attractive to the elderly? How may the digital space be used to help young people gain employment and receive professional training?

These are just a couple of the questions that FutureGov, a progressive design and technology agency based in Central London, is attempting to address with support from one of the world’s technology titans, Google. The David and Goliath tech companies have joined strengths to host Interactivism. This bi-annual series of London events challenge innovators to solve social challenges with technology and then aim to give them the tools to prune and fully execute those proposals.

An upcoming Interactivism event on 6th December may attempt to answer the question: ‘How does one build tools that might secure children from  individuals that troll online?’ FutureGov, Google and their affiliates have put forth a far-and-wide ‘call out’ for submissions, which they aim to narrow down to a select five to ten semi-finalists. These lucky few may present their ideas at the public Google Campus event in December.

FutureGov’s founder and director Dominic Campbell is in the business of actualising such socially-rewarding and visionary concepts. For nearly five years, his company has worked with local governments in implementing social media strategies and tools to improve efficiency and strengthen communication, through design and technology. All along, he has also had his eye on another prize; being an agent for productive social change.

“We are always looking for opportunities for social action and innovation,” he says, “As a company we’re very into civil liberties as our slant.”

This social integration ethos is evidenced by past projects like Casserole, one of Campbell’s favourites. He describes it, “That was built around replacing meals-on-wheels by getting regular people to cook an extra portion of their meals for older people in their neighbourhoods.” Campbell anchored the project in a tailor-made app that facilitated connections amongst neighbours, a text messaging service, and phone based tool for inept text-savvy seniors.

In a similar vein, the first Interactivism event focused on solutions for the alienation faced by the elderly when approaching technology. In response to that call-out, some innovators came up with a simple, easy and accessible browser made specifically for older people.

Another of FutureGov’s successful community technology initiatives was CityCamp London. The three-day event featured talks and workshops, and served as a lab for developing digital projects aimed at improving London.

Campbell recalls how this fateful initiative helped launch Interactivism: “The head of engineering for Google London came to that event and saw the power of that open space for ideas and making action happen.” With FutureGov’s roots in local communities, government and social media, and Google’s access to an elite class of developers, it appears to have been a match made in heaven (or at least cyberspace).

Google’s developers have been enlisted to assist with select Interactivism projects; and the company’s funds are being used to support their vision. In turn, the tech giant gets the opportunity to recruit young talent from a pool of UK students who join the project with a view to gaining some practical experience.

And, in the case of the first Interactivism (whose focus was senior citizens), each innovation team got the chance to consult with a pair of individuals who were over 65.

To make matters a bit more intriguing and entertaining, December’s Interactivism may be structured in the spirit of television competitions. “It’s going to be more like Dragons’ Den with a bit of challenge and push-back from the panel,” explains Campbell. “This one is going to be more challenging than the other ones,” he adds, still sounding aimful about the outcome. The more challenging a social situation, it may seem, the more innovative the solutions.

 

Interactivism: Think Kids
6 December 2012, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Ground Floor, Google Campus
4-5 Bonhill St.
London EC2A 4BX

How else might collaborations between tech giants help solve society’s challenges?

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