GHC2014: Doing Good with Technology

Pretty photo to come.

This is post 2/4 of talks I’m covering for the GHC community. You can view the wiki page here for more information!

When I grow up, I want to have a career where I know for certain my work is making a positive impact. Aside from teaching, I’m not really sure what opportunities there are for a software developer or computer scientist to make positive and meaningful social impact.

This talk covered doing good through open source, teaching, pro bono work, and suggested ways for students to do good while they’re still in school.

Many Open Source projects have become widely used and extremely important in our tech lives today: MySQL, Java, VLC player, Apache, ngrok are just some examples. We can all be involved by giving back to OS projects we use (e.g. donate money or actively share the idea of Open Source) or by contributing code or documentation. I personally am too afraid to let anyone rely on code I wrote, but one day I’d love to lend my expertise.

Education is another venue for contribution. Khan Academy, are outlets for people who aren’t necessarily professors or lecturers or „professional“ teachers. The speaker mentioned an anecdote from when she volunteered with Girls Who Code, where she realized that relating code to things that girls actually find interesting was the key to getting them interested in code. I think this is a good model that all schools should adopt. There’s no reason not to have middle school or high school programs that let students just code up things they imagine in their brilliant brains. I know my little sister would get a kick out of making Angry Birds or a simple version of Minecraft.

Palantir’s Philanthropy Team is a great example of corporate social good, and is actually one of the jobs I’d like to end up at in the future. TED,, and others also support pro bono work, and allow employees to take some time away from their regular day-to-day responsibilities to help out.

The student speaker focused on how students can make a difference. She started a group at Harvard to promote awareness for doing social good through technology. She also suggested getting started at hackathons and implementing an idea that advances social good (there are some hackathons that are „social good“ themed).

Here is a list of all the resources they mentioned. I’m excited to start looking through these in the future!


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