The COVID-19 epidemic served as a reality check in many areas. The response to the pandemic was first and foremost human, through an outstanding mobilisation of the caregivers, women and men working on the front line. Their service to the community showed how technology alone is not a cure-all. For many of us, the period was nonetheless substantially digital. Digital practices have experienced a breakthrough, helping to maintain social and family cohesion and accelerating adoption of teleworking, telemedicine, distance learning, and online access to culture and knowledge, among others. These practices, new to some, will not go away when the virus subsides. This great crisis brings many lasting transformations, and digital transformation is not the least.
In this regard, tech companies bear a heavy responsibility. We have known this for a long time and we have been talking about it every year since 2018, on the eve of Viva Tech, in a multi-stakeholder forum: at the forefront of digital transformation, tech players should think more broadly than their own interests and serve as pathfinders for society as a whole. The scale of the challenges facing tech firms has grown steadily during the past three years, at a time when access to and mastery of digital technology are valuable keys to education, health or work. This is also a time when the environmental footprint of digital is uncertain, and when the under-representation of women in science and technology highlights the need for professional equality in the digital sector.
On each of these issues, with the methodological, strategic, and knowledge support of McKinsey teams, the Tech for Good companies undertook commitments during the 2019 Summit and have since begun to implement them. Faced with the epidemic, they reacted to the crisis by rapidly mobilising resources. This progress report is its modest testimony but it is mainly dedicated to trace the trajectory over the next few months.
There is still so much to do! The early successes must herald deeper, more practical and lasting change in people’s lives in France, Europe, and the world. Beyond paying lip service to CSR, Tech for Good companies, corporate groups and startups, will need to transform themselves and, together with the support of civil society and the research community, find development models that put digital at the service of humanity, rather than the other way round.
The next Summit will provide an opportunity to collectively draw up a report on actions that have been undertaken, and to explore how to mobilise digital technology and artificial intelligence responsibly to meet major humanitarian challenges. The crisis we are going through will leave traces. We have the responsibility to build the fairer world that our children expect, one in which innovation contributes to the common good.