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Age UK Chief Digital and Technology Officer, Lara Burns, and LSE Director of Information Management and Technology, Laura Dawson, joined CIO UK Editor Edward Qualtrough to discuss Tech for Good during episode eight of the CIO UK podcast.

As well as Dawson and Burns explaining what Tech for Good meant for their organisations, digital and IT experts from the Royal National Institute of Blind People's Tech for Life team shared the work the RNIB is doing with digital, technology and IT to help people who are blind or visually impaired.

The CIOs said that accessibility and Tech for Good were concepts that should be familiar to all technology leaders, that working together as peers would lead to the most positive outcomes, and both cited loneliness as an area where tech was improving peoples' lives.

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"Everything we do is Tech for Good, it's key to everything my team does," Burns said.

"My team is the IT, the tech, the pipes and electricity side of tech - but it's also I guess what people see as the digital side. Doing things differently, trying to innovate by using technology in different ways which is what we've really been focusing on in the last couple of years.

"We won Digital Charity of the Year just recently and I think part of the reason we won that is because we've really been focusing on using technology to do good for our beneficiaries."

Dawson brought up loneliness as an issue where she felt that technology had a huge amount to offer.

"Loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest problems that the UK faces and we don't hear enough about it," Dawson said. "What can we as charities, either from a technology point of view or just because we have a charitable network, do to solve that problem and make it better?"

Burns gave an overview of Age UK's Call in Time project, a telephone befriending service for older people, and how digitisting the sign-up, safeguarding and matching process were helping scale the initiative.

"Loneliness affects people of all ages," Burns said. "We're making a massive difference to their lives, and that for me is what Tech for Good is all about."

The duo cited voice assistants and drones as some of the emerging technologies they were excited about for their potential to have a big impact in their worlds.

RNIB's Davinder Kullar, Ibrahim Gucukoglu, and guide dog Benny outside the RNIB building on Judd Street in King's Cross.

Tech for Life at RNIB

Davinder Kullar and Ibrahim Gucukoglu from the RNIB's 'Tech for Life' team - and accompanied by guide dog Benny, also discussed how the team of digital, technology and IT experts were working with people who are blind and visually impaired and helping to empower them with technology.

The duo discussed how innovations in mobile smartphone technology had helped give blind and visually impaired people much greater independence, and cited artificial intelligence, AR, voice assistants and autonomous vehicles as some of the emerging technologies they believe have the potential to have a significant positive impact for their organisations.

You can contact the RNIB Tech for Life team here.


Dawson also called on CIOs, particularly in the charity and non-profit sector, to work together more to lead to the best outcomes for their beneficiaries.

"We've been talking about this for years and we need to start doing it," Dawson said.

Burns added: "We're starting to talk about how can we develop technologies that we can share. How can we start to work together and share a solution? That's not quite as easy as it sounds for but me that whole kind of Tech for Good discussion could be really interesting in the way we start making things happen a lot faster by pooling our money."

Launched in January 2018, the CIO UK podcast is a monthly discussion featuring CIOs, commentators and technology executives thrashing out the key issues relevant to the UK's business and technology leaders - as well as the tangential and irreverent musings of guest CIOs.