Keynote presentation delivered by Red Cross CEO Judy Slatyer at _southstart, a conference looking at the impact of emerging technologies on humans, on 21 November 2019.
Let me begin by acknowledging the Kaurna people, Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the audience, and the nations they come from.
I hear that yesterday you talked about teaspoons. You put those teaspoons on your hearts and that you did this, inspired by Ronni Khan, and in recognition that we all have a role to pay no matter how small. I also hear that you stepped into the technology discussion with eyes wide open – imagining what the future could look like with a real awareness of the positive and negative. And that you explored how to build a business with purpose – with the community or people genuinely at the centre.
Today I am keen to talk about bringing humanity and technology together with people at the core of what we can all imagine a good future. Humanity – our bravest and most enduring tech trend.
The Power of Humanity
Nurse Anne Carey helping to contain the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Courage, empathy, highly skilled bringing the most human of characteristics to bear in the most difficult of circumstances. We know technology will play a critical role in epidemics and pandemics in the future but we also know that community based awareness and prevention are just as powerful.
Wim driving people with chronic illnesses to hospital for chemotherapy and other treatments. I think we all remember Driving Miss Daisy. While the appointments are critical, it is more often the connection, conversation and time together which is the biggest help in soothing the emotions and building the strength in times like this
Rhiannon and 94-year-old Joan forming friendships over a cuppa and a laugh.
Brothers donating their $10 pocket money through crowd-funding so mums on Galiwinku Island can buy sewing machines and material to make clothes for their newborns.
The amazing courage we are seeing now from the emergency services workers and our volunteers and staff in responding the fires.
Every day, in so many ways, from welcoming new Australians to honouring first Australians, we see people walking alongside others, supporting people around them in the most difficult of circumstances.
We see the power of Humanity.
Technology is crucial to our work.
Technology helps us reach more people in need, faster, cost efficiently, and on a scale like never before.
Earlier this year, we mobilised more than 400 staff and volunteers to support over 52 thousand residents in the Townsville floods.
We ran evacuation centres, providing safety, comfort and kindness.
We ran Register.Find.Reunite, an online system which helps find and reunite family, friends and loved ones during a disaster.
We conducted more than 20 thousand phone calls providing psychological first aid in the days, weeks and months following.
It was one of the largest and longest Emergency Service activations in Australian Red Cross history.
Technology helps us trace and find missing loved ones, separated from family by war, disaster or migration.
It's been five years since Hayfa, and her children last saw her husband and their father.
Hayfa is a Yazidi woman from the Singjar District of northern Iraq.
In 2014 the world watched in horror as Yazidi communities were surrounded and attacked, with reports of mass murder, trafficking of women and children enlisted in the militia.
Now living in the regional Queensland town of Toowoomba, Hayfa is rebuilding a life for herself and two sons, and trying to find out what happened to her husband, Ghazi, she last saw as fighters separated them in their village.
Red Cross field officer Sue, in our Restoring Family Links program, visits Hayfa regularly with updates on finding her husband and family.
Australian Red Cross is working on 60 cases relating to over 300 missing Yazidi people.
Refunite, a google program for refugees and Trace Your Face, are among a range of programs helping us find and re-connect people.
Technology helps us connect people who are wanting to do more good in their community.
One in two Australians would like to donate, volunteer and do more community outreach. They want to take action that is inspiring, immediate and easy.
We have an annual clothing drive in partnership with Uber, so people easily donate their pre-loved clothes. It’s picked up and delivered to our shops for free.
More than 500 sporting teams across Australia got involved our ‘Beat Loneliness’ campaign. It was launched through esports.
Research tells us that men aged 18 to 24 are the loneliest, and the ones least likely to talk about it. So we asked sports teams to change their team’s name to ‘Loneliness’ – and become the team to beat.
This has led to the creation of the My Team app, which allows people to assist others who are experiencing mental health challenges.
Through simple actions on their mobile phones people are taking a new form of humanitarian action.
Every day, in big and small ways, we see the best of humanity.
We are inspired by the human spirit in the face of adversity.
When people are vulnerable, stressed, lonely or in despair.
We see heroism, compassion, generosity and resilience.
We see how one person’s kindness and courage, can lift and transform those around them.
The devastating bushfires in NSW, Queensland and Port Lincoln is showing what humans are capable of, when we work together, and have support, from family, friends and community.
We see what Humans are capable of when HUMANITY is at the core of our society. Individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities thrive.
BUT. Our work is getting more complex, complicated and protracted.
Communities are facing challenges like never experienced before.
It is changing the way we connect, respond and cope.
Rapidly growing population and climate and humanitarian crises, desperately need solutions, and opinions on these are more fractured than ever.
Technology is helping us improve society and address some of the more significant issues facing humanity.
Helping us empower people and communities to build resources and resilience.
Helping us predict, prepare and respond to climate related disasters.
But technology has the ability to exacerbate, or create new, multifaceted and entrenched problems.
Technology risks misuse and malfunction, potentially exposing people to new forms of intrusion, insecurity and inequality.
We are seeing this now.
And so we are at a crossroads. One where…
HUMANITY must be at the HEART in technology design.
More than ever before organisations and governments have a duty of care to the people and communities they represent.
To ensure the human experience is central to new technologies, products and services. To be the voice of humanity.
Why? Because so much is at stake for all of us when humanity isn’t front and centre in technology design.
Decisions about employing someone, giving them health insurance, or identifying them as a crime suspect, human bias plays a significant role. When this bias is transferred to powerful AI technologies, it can perpetuate and entrench social inequality.
Digital platforms and social media are increasingly echo chambers that reinforce personal beliefs, shutting out contrasting worldviews, increasing social division between people, creating a climate of suspicion and hostility.
Personal data allows companies to target our social media meaning our views are easily manipulated.
With 40% of Australian jobs predicted to be automated by 2030, the employment market may not develop quickly enough to create new jobs and support a basic standard of living.
For the Australian National Outlook Report 2019, Red Cross joined CSIRO and experts in business, academics and non-profit leaders to look at what kind of country Australia could be in 2060.
Using sophisticated, integrated modelling, we explored several possible outcomes to help Australians continue to enjoy the best quality of life, and for future generations to have access to even better opportunities.
We asked ourselves. How will people adapt and thrive in this new world economy, particularly those who are most vulnerable and marginalised?
History has shown that we may not have posed enough questions to new and emerging technology.
How might Facebook and Twitter look today if we’d asked:
How will you ensure people aren’t subject to online abuse?
OR. How will you prevent the dissemination of false information?
As the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, Red Cross advocates for people facing extreme vulnerability, in real life and online.
We see the impact of technology when it isn’t designed around human needs, when it discriminates against people with less access to wealth and power.
We see the impact of doing nothing.
So Red Cross has created Humanitech, with a mandate to put ‘humanity first’, in the use of frontier technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence and robotics.
Humanitech brings together the best minds, to understand the role of innovative and new technology, so that it better serves humanitarian needs in our community.
Through Humanitech we can leverage the collective strength of the sector and harness resources towards significant societal impact.