Harnessing technology for positive disruption

March 6, 2024
Woman talking on stage with microphone

Tamara Gondo Soerijo, a Generation17 Young Leader, participating in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo: Tamara Gondo Soerijo

“Technological disruption will only make millions lose jobs!”, that would be the argument behind why one would stop exploring the power of technology. Many would stop at surface level knowledge of the power of technology through embracing common social media or food delivery apps. I was one of them. The conversation surrounding technology is foreign for me as a social entrepreneur who runs a traditional business model. 

Having never gone to a mobile conference or Europe, I will share my experience attending the largest connectivity conference in Europe, Mobile World Congress in beautiful Barcelona, Spain.         

I think three words can describe MWC: innovation, passion and entrepreneurs. I’ve seen the future of innovation, the passion for collaboration, and the rising stars. Here is why a congress attended by 100,000 people left a mark on me.

The future innovation 

Interior crowded conference room

More than 100,000 people attended the Mobile World Congress, which featured more than 3,000 exhibitors.

Photo: Tamara Gondo Soerijo

The exhibition booths were massive, 3,000 exhibitors spanning eight halls—from self-driving smart cars, to an automation software for Telcos.

There were leadership topics such as “The CEO toolkit” to more industry-specific topics such as “AI in the transportation industry”, paneled by insights from ministerial speakers, Chief Technical Officers, to heads of innovation. You could breathe innovation around the conference’s hallways. 

The energy for collaboration

Four people in business wear

From left to right; Robert Opp, UNDP Chief Digital Officer, Thuy Anh Ngo, Generation17 Young Leader, and founder of HASU, Benjamin Braun, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Europe, and Tamara Gondo Soerijo, Generation17 Young Leader and founder of Liberty Society.

Photo: Tamara Gondo Soerijo

At this year's Mobile World Congress, I had the pleasure of moderating a joint panel centered around the theme of "Harnessing Positive Disruption through Technology." The distinguished panelists included Benjamin Braun, Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung Europe, Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of UNDP, and Thuy Anh Ngo, a fellow of Generation17 and founder of the HASU app, a personal healthcare assistant for Viet Nam’s elderly people.

The panel highlighted the incredible journey of the global partnership between Samsung and UNDP, which began in 2019. A key focus was the Samsung Global Goals app, available in 89 languages, with over 300 million Galaxy users. This accessible platform not only facilitates learning about the Global Goals but also contributed US$17 million in donations to support UNDP's work. The partnership between Samsung and UNDP led to the creation of Generation17, an initiative I joined in 2022, empowering and providing 17 young changemakers worldwide with essential resources like technology, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Leading a panel at #MWC24 underscored the opportunities fostered by this initiative!

During our panel discussion, we explored the swift emergence of new technologies, ranging from generative AI to groundbreaking health advancements, significantly influencing our daily lives. The guiding question in our conversation was whether these changes are happening too swiftly and if they ultimately contribute to positive societal transformations. Addressing these points, Benjamin Braun, the Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung Europe, discussed how tech leaders, exemplified by Samsung, can effectively strike a balance between disruptive innovation and fostering positive change. We also heard the perspective of UNDP's Chief Digital Officer, Robert Opp, on the dramatic shift in technological innovation within the public sector, particularly its role in addressing global challenges and promoting sustainable development. Turning to Thuy Anh, a fellow Generation17 leader leveraging technology for social impact during the COVID-19 pandemic, we discussed the inspiration behind HASU and why she believes new technology is crucial for creating positive change.

The rising stars

People at booths in conference hall

Technology disruption will shape our future to make more small businesses, non profits, or social enterprises more competitive.

Photo: Tamara Gondo Soerijo

I got to hear from other impact-focused tech entrepreneurs about what it means to find the balance of delivering business performance and societal impact. As a Generation17 Young Leader and entrepreneur, here are three takeaways:

  1. Technology can save cost and reduce inefficiencies
  2. Young leaders need to take advantage of technology to scale their impact
  3. You can use technology so that NO ONE is left behind. 

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 2.6 billion people remain offline. We need to use technology to accelerate equality for all.

For my work in Liberty Society, a social enterprise providing jobs ans skills to women affected by violence and poverty through the creation of upcycled products for corporations, I was able to look into some tech startups to streamline our work and provide better customer service. Innovations like AI chatbots to reply to customer inquiries to using word-to-code AI services to replace the needs for hiring engineers.

What’s next?

Attending a conference for an industry I was completely unfamiliar with in a continent I have never been to was mind blowing. Though initially not expecting much out of it, I have gained valuable knowledge and insights to the world of technology disruption, which will shape our future to make more small businesses, non profits, or social enterprises more competitive. 

The UN has committed to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Right now, we have not only tried to leapfrog, but moonshot towards the goals. If you are reading this blog, now is your time to take action. Get involved and learn more about the SDGs through initiatives like the Samsung Global Goals app. Together we can meet the goals much quicker and scale them with the support of technology. Partnerships can enable positive disruption, UNDP and Samsung are showing the way supporting the Global Goals. Now, it is the time that you embrace the power of technology to bend it towards the side of positive societal change.