The Centre for Social Impact Technology is a city-wide knowledge hub for nurturing dialogue, learning, and action on the convergence of social innovation and digital technology innovation. The vision of the Centre is to catalyze an innovation ecosystem in Calgary around technology that is not only socially beneficial but socially transformative (responsible, open, inclusive, shared, and regenerative).
That’s the black box problem in AI that you don’t know you can’t articulate you can’t explain how the inputs are transformed into outputs again. You might not care a lot if we’re just talking about pictures of your dog, but if you’re making a judgment like: this person is worthy of an interview for a job, this person is unworthy to be admitted to this college, this person deserves a mortgage this person should have a credit limit of X. this person is likely to commit a crime with the next 2 years, and so it should be denied…
When you are using AI in high stakes situations It’s a problem, at least in the face of it. It’s a problem you can’t explain why the AI is making the decisions that it is. You probably want to be able to explain why this person was given say a high risk rating and so was denied bail or why they were given a high risk rating for development diabetes and so given this course of treatment, or why they were denied a mortgage or credit, etc., that’s the black box problem. That’s. the nature of the beast of machine learning to recognize complex patterns so complex, in fact, that they defy human understanding.
We know that digital equity is so important. In this current area of digitalization, and during the last few couple of years of Covid shows that digital equity is an important thing to move out our societies forward. It refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, no matter in what scale they are in the terms of being in a disadvantaged position, have access to useful information and communication technologies.
Dr. Turin Chaudhry
Nonprofits, we know, are not adopting digital tech at a pace or scale that other sectors in Canada are, and this comes out of the Canada Helps survey. Only a quarter of nonprofits rate their knowledge of software as Very Good. 54% don’t have enough funding, and 38% have integrated technology so it is a challenge that the sector is facing, and we also know that it’s a workforce challenge for those of us that are engaged in the sector. The reality is that, increasingly, the digital skill set is gonna be critical for the workforce of the future.
I think it’s really important that we engage more with each other in the act of governance, because you cannot outrun governance. You cannot outrun the need to manage things together in that stewardship model. You also have to have rules rules for how you’re gonna work together, rules for how you’re gonna collaborate, rules for how you’re gonna maintain any digital infrastructure you create together.
That’s not law and that’s not policy that’s governance. That’s a different thing.
People constantly reach out, and they say to me, I wanna get involved in this space. But my background is in psychology. My background is as a social worker, my background is as a lawyer, and they say, do I belong? I find this somewhat heartbreaking, because we are hurting the movement by not creating an understanding that tech has a lowercase t now, right?
The future of Tech is not just about technologists, it’s about everyone.
David Ryan Polgar
What I see are a lot of people who are super passionate about what they want to do, and about the change they want to make in the world, right? I also see that they are grossly underfunded. I see that they’re grossly under supported structurally. What I mean by that is not just the money, but other types of access to supports. I also see that they’re somewhat ghettoized, as a poorer cousin of the overall tech sector. I think it’s because we think about social tech the same way that we think about some of the rest of civil society as being less than or other than or not as important as other economic sectors
I think that there’s a real interest right now and an openness to rethinking how we operate some of our social systems, whether it’s looking at policing, whether it’s looking at how we decide to invest or not invest in different social programming, whether it’s looking at conversations about equity and diversity and inclusion, how are we starting to pull that together and also be able to reflect that in some of our data and some of our reporting and our evaluation of what’s working in the social sector or not?
What I see when I think of what we’re calling social tech are the people who have chosen to solve problems that don’t have owners. Right? We’re trying to solve social community problems. As soon as we get into that problem space, one of the things we do is we start pointing fingers. Isn’t that the government’s responsibility? Isn’t that the community’s responsibility? What I see when I look at social impact technology leaders, is that these are community members that have stepped forward and said, ‘I am community, right? I will, it’s going to be my job to solve this problem
… those yet to be connected remain cut off from the benefits of this new era and remain further behind. Many of the people left behind are women, the elderly, persons with disabilities or from ethnic or linguistic minorities, indigenous groups and residents of poor or remote areas.
Since humans create technology, it can’t be neutral.
Therefore, the opportunity and challenge is to more intentionally, inclusively, and collaboratively build the technologies that come next so they can support us in the bigger work of building an equitable world.
The only way we can truly make this happen is to use models that are built on community-centered values.