“My phone is everything.”
That’s how indispensable technology is for Shomy Chowdhury, a Generation17 Young Leader from Bangladesh. Her organization, Awareness 360, is driving an inspiring clean water and sanitation movement, one powered by digital tools. “I wake up seeing my phone,” says Shomy, 26. “I go to bed seeing my phone.”
She’s not alone, of course. Globally, more than 3.5 billion1 people and counting now have a smartphone. Roughly 4.2 billion2 use social media. Everywhere you look, young people are connecting in new ways and activating their passion to make a difference with their ever-expanding online networks.
In our new series, “How I Use Tech,” Samsung explores how technology enables Young Leaders from Generation17 – a partnership between Samsung and the United Nations Development Programme that elevates the work of young global changemakers – to take on the Global Goals. In the first installment, we’re exploring access, specifically how digital tools are helping three young visionaries – Shomy, Tafara Mazaka, 24, an app developer from Zimbabwe promoting mobility and job creation, and Yejin Choi, 27, a pioneer of digital education solutions from South Korea – bring much-needed services and support to under-resourced communities around the world.
When did you realize you could use technology to make an impact in your community?
Tafara: Growing up, I never had access to computer science education, so I assumed it was really complicated. But in college in America, I took an app development class online and did really well. Then, I kept learning more from free YouTube tutorials and soon realized I could use my own phone and computer to write software and build an app that anyone could use.
Having lived in poverty all my life, I've always seen the real side of what it looks like when you don't have access, so I started thinking about what people needed back home.
Since 2017, I’ve built digital platforms to enable better ways to transfer money, to have more accessible transportation options and to create a more reliable network for gig economy workers doing one-time jobs—all for people living in Zimbabwe and all based on mobile technology. Whenever I get an idea, I share it on Twitter, Facebook or in a group message and see how people respond. I’m using technology to help create as many jobs and as many valuable services as possible for the everyday person who’s trying to live a better life.
How did tech help you globalize your idea?
Shomy: Awareness 360 was formed in Bangladesh but is now operating in 23 countries – countries my co-founder and I have never even been to. That’s only possible because of technology, because we all had access to the internet or a phone.
We offer a lot of webinars and skills-building workshops about sanitation and hand washing all done online, so it doesn’t matter where people live. They can still join.
When we use tech tools effectively, we can bring a lot of change and create a movement. Access to information and online services is so much easier for us now. That’s why I was able to imagine going global and forming an organization on my own in the first place.
How is tech helping you to evolve what your organization provides?
Yejin: I created a mobile education app called DoBrain that has already had an incredible impact. It’s clinically validated and helps young children (3- to 7-year-olds), including those with learning disabilities and developmental delays, access education based on cognitive therapy techniques. I saw that in communities where diagnostic care and education resources were lacking, children’s learning was suffering.
But advanced technology is helping us have a transformative impact in these places. We’re using AI to develop an algorithm that assesses a child's development like a therapist would and proposes an appropriate learning program among more than 10,000 programs. Through this mobile technology, more parents around the world will become aware of essential information for their children’s well-being.
Watch for more installments of the “How I Use Tech” series that explore the various ways Generation17’s young leaders are putting technology to work in creative ways, big and small, across the globe. In the meantime, learn even more about what’s happening at the intersection of technology and world-changing ideas by visiting the Samsung Global Goals app on your Samsung smartphone.