Three Ways Technology Has Made Our Lives Better
[The computer] was the first machine man built that assisted the power of his brain instead of the strength of his arm. – Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral.
With the holiday season kicking into high gear, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can use technology to better the lives of those less fortunate. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum; everything we do affects how we live.
From our work helping the federal government through its digital transformation to innovations in the way healthcare is delivered to underserved populations, Iron Bow recognizes that technology should be advanced in the service of others.
Our CLINiC™ solution—a medical consultation system that enables remote examination and diagnosis via live high definition video conferencing—is helping connect people to healthcare services. The technology was developed to help fill voids where the demand for physician services is greater than supply, where input from specialists is desired, and where underserved populations reside.
With that in mind, we wanted to highlight three ways technology has bettered society.
Undoubtedly the most impactful innovation in modern history, the global system of computer networks we know as the internet has affected every corner of society from politics and business to medicine and humanitarian efforts. While the internet was largely born as a federal government project in the early 1960s, the advent of commercial networks in the early 90s and the proliferation of the World Wide Web thrust the interconnected global network into our daily lives.
By 2016, nearly half of the world’s population used the internet and in the United States alone about 75 percent of people are internet users. Census Bureau data shows that just 20 years ago only 18 percent of homes had internet access.
And while in developed countries the internet is used for shopping, banking and other daily activities, for those in the developing world and rural areas, it serves as a basic communications tool. The internet has made it possible for people around the globe to deliver everything from healthcare to job training to those living in places that may not offer those services. This has opened up the door to a world of development.
Before the late 70s, computers were massive machines relegated to corporations and research institutions. But by 1984, IBM and Apple had introduced into the market desktop-sized models that were both affordable and small enough to fit into the modern household.
While nowadays about 80 percent of households in the United States report owning at least one laptop or desktop computer, it wasn’t always that way. Just 20 years ago, only about 37 percent of people said they had a computer in their home.
The personal computer launched what would become a succession of computing devices that would get smaller and smaller over the years, leading to the mobile phone that sits in most of our pockets today. While the internet is what has connected us, portability in computing is what sparked the propagation of that vast network.
Without the commercialization of computers, the internet would simply be a way for corporations and governments to convey information and not the life-altering interconnection that it has become today. Personal computers helped democratize the internet.
You might be scratching your head about this entry since public libraries date back to 1464 when a brotherhood of clergy and laity in Bristol, England erected a library that allowed anyone who wished to enter “for the sake of instruction.” Back then, the free access was for books, which were just beginning to be mass-produced after Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press about 25 years earlier.
Now, that access also includes the first piece of technology on our list: the internet. That makes public libraries as important as ever. According to the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland, public libraries report being the only provider of free public access to computers and the internet in 64.5 percent of communities in the United States.
Libraries also often provide technology and skills training so those in under-served communities can figure out how to get the best out of their time spent on the internet. For school-aged children in those areas of the United States, about 81.9 percent of public libraries also provide access to homework resources.
It’s nearly impossible to get a job, find government services or seek out a doctor without access to the internet. Public libraries make that possible for millions of Americans who don’t have the privilege of the internet in their homes.
These are just a few of the ways that innovation has helped move us forward and equalize the disparities faced by those who struggle to get by. Looking forward, we still have a lot of work to do and we must focus our energy on making the world a more just and equitable place.