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Tech can be a powerful weapon against the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear. The hydra’s corruption and incompetence, once exposed online, is their kryptonite.

Drive-thru virus testing along with that latte? How pandemics give technology a chance to transform the public sector (and retire hydras)

“TERMS OF SURVIVAL” SERIES

This twenty-part series introduces you to twenty key terms used in a local mobilizing process that you and your community will require to survive and thrive during colliding crises. The articles will reference the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Concept 16: Technology

In our rush to connect everyone on the planet, we forgot to encourage people to use technology to make our societies fairer and kinder for everyone. We can remedy that today.

In this article I do my humble best to show how technology can be used to support groundbreaking projects to ensure the ten vital services for surviving and thriving. This ranges from websites to artificial intelligence. This topic also brings up the challenge of the digital divide that must be addressed in each county, ensuring all county residents have access to tech and wifi to access web-based services, learning, job placement and the capacity to work from home.

Tech is us.

Only a quick search on Google is needed to find these “facts” about the web (please don’t quote me but it’s a good starting point for a list of fun facts):

  • number of websites: approximately 1.7 billion
  • number of email accounts: about 4 billion
  • emails sent in a day: more than 200 billion
  • number of users on YouTube: 1.3 billion
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute

While I hesitate to overwhelm you with long lists, consider that we are a planet of 8 billion people where almost 5 billion YouTube videos are watched every single day.

  • in an average month, eight out of ten 18–49 year-olds watch YouTube
  • six out of ten people prefer online video platforms to cable TV
  • podcasts: more than half a million podcasts with 29 million episodes
  • social media: 3.2 billion users every day (42% of the world’s population)
  • social media: over 90% of millennials and over 77% of generation X use social media
  • social media: social media users average over 2 hours and 22 minutes of engagement per day
  • social media: 90% of social media users access via a mobile device

Tech’s power

The private sector’s successes are most often driven by taking advantage of the latest technology wave. The public sector, twenty years after mobile phones became affordable to the masses, is still catching up. It might surprise readers to discover how much work in government and nonprofits is done with paper, pens and decisions based on hunches, not data readily available online. Until just a few months ago (pre-pandemic), people drove hours and hours for meetings when online conferencing is free and widely accessible.

I have gathered together some accessible technology recommendations for managing the 100% Community initiative to help you quickly and efficiently move from success to success. And, thanks to my colleague’s research, I will also give you a little peek into the future.

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Tomas can access various forms of medical care and behavioral health care online.

Huge potential (if used for good and not evil)

We watched a global pandemic unfold using all forms of technology that were pure science fiction only decades ago. The article you’re currently reading wouldn’t exist without modern technology, so yes, embrace it as a friend. This entire 100% Community initiative is only possible because of the power of modern technology, and for that we are grateful.

But what impact does technology have on capacity to address a public health challenge like a pandemic or economic free fall? Amazon’s highly-efficient model shows that it is possible to deliver vital resources rapidly. The ubiquity and power of smart phones means we can share vital information across town and the planet instantaneously. Online conferencing technology allows us to offer virtual trainings from the comfort of our homes as well as check in the most vulnerable members of remote communities, providing advice and services without a three hour drive or plane ride. And, rolling out solutions inspired by TripAdvisor’s review model (focused on hotels) means we can identify and rate the quality and accessibility of vital services like a health clinic or food bank and work to fix those with the lowest rankings.

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Marie can access job training online. She can also identify quality child care quickly.

How tech can work for you

We already provided a taste of the opportunities that evolving technologies can provide to a community ready to take advantage of them. Here is a list of how we are using that technology for 100% Community. Remember only twenty years ago this tech would have been considered the stuff of Star Trek.

Publishing software: Thanks to Amazon’s self-publishing tools and distribution network, we were able to publish the 100% Community book series online and in print with lightning speed.

Video Conferencing: Thanks to online collaboration software, we were able to combine the talents of individuals across the state and country (and in some cases, the world) in realtime to create additional resources, check facts and brainstorm innovative solutions.

Email: Thanks to email and newsletter management software providers, we were able to create and send weekly messages to state lawmakers and other stakeholders. One was a state senator who became our co-sponsor (with a state representative) of a senate bill to fund the Institute that sponsors the 100% Community initiative.

Social networking: Thanks to Facebook advertising, a heroic city councilor in Las Cruces, NM took notice of our book, ordered and read it, becoming a leader in piloting some of its key policies and organizing ten action teams focused on ensuring surviving and thriving services.

Online radio streaming and podcasting: These allowed our radio show to be sent to state lawmakers and stakeholders who became champions of our mission.

Online learning management systems: These allowed us to create the 100% Community course to educate and empower community members everywhere, with links to effective innovations and problem solving strategies.

Survey software: Thanks to collaborative databases and analysis software, we are able to track all our work in the public sector and use our 100% Community Survey to identify what percentage of our county residents need resources (our ten “surviving” and “thriving” services), collecting data on why they are blocked from currently accessing support. We can also use the software to track our innovations and measure to what degree they are making the vital ten sectors more accessible and of higher quality.

Mapping software: We use mapping software to take that data and visualize local services, gaps in services, progress toward solutions and alignment of all county stakeholder’s work.

Visualization software: We use widely available software to show the future in the form of innovation prototypes and create mini-documentaries and animated stories to demonstrate that if we do A (for example, invest in a school-based health clinic) we get B (more students, family members, and school staff having access to vital medical services).

Mobiles and more: We use all our devices to take an inspiring idea (how to create a local system for ensuring students and the elderly get lunches), and go viral with it (friends telling friends tell friends x 1000), share our vision, to be transparent with our goals and activities and proposed outcomes, and gather support for our mission.

Artificial intelligence (AI): Much of the tech listed here depends on AI to make it run and AI is transforming all the ways we can deliver our ten vital services for surviving and thriving.

Tech makes 12,345 moving parts of the initiative work in alignment

100% Community is two initiatives in one — with technology vital at both the state level and the county level.

On the state level, we must communicate and collaborate with state lawmakers and state cabinet secretaries of all major state agencies to improve all systems of health, safety, education and economic development. Each state must ensure ongoing dialogue with every state lawmaker to pitch PLAN A: ensuring 100% of residents have access to ten vital services for surviving and thriving. We can also share that if there’s no PLAN A, there is a PLAN B that might evolve on its own. (See: History of desperate actions of scared people during pandemics and economic disruptions.) PLAN A, please.

Our county focus with the 100% Community initiative means that we treat each county like a sovereign country (The People’s Republic of San Miguel, etc.), with its own systems of care, safety, learning and economic development. This is where a community itself decides to either support 100% of their residents (PLAN A) or leave them to fix themselves without services in times of crisis (PLAN B).

Once a county is engaged with the 100% Community initiative, there are three goals, all supported by technology:

  • Improving Individual Organizations: Strengthening individual service organizations (within the ten surviving and thriving service sectors) to increase efficiency, user-friendliness and reach. Technology will play a huge role here as many services evolve to become web-based and those that remain face-to-face are tracked by state-of-the-software to provide clients with opportunities for feedback to improve services.
  • Creating a Seamless Countywide Network: Networking all service organizations (in all ten sectors) with one another, using technology and a collaborative spirit established by agency leadership, to create a seamless countywide system working in alignment.
  • Local Investing in 100%: Ensuring sustainability by establishing funding streams through county government and city government. This could be accomplished through a process one could describe as “1% for 100%”, meaning that 1% of the combined budgets of the county and cities within the county’s borders, are earmarked to fund a local countywide 100% Community initiative. Even in a small county of 30,000, that could equal a yearly operating budget of $500,000. (This is far less than some cities spend on maintaining their parks.). Technology will be used to track every component of the initiative, making every aspect of the work transparent, ensuring funds and energy are spent as efficiently as possible to achieve measurable and meaningful results.

As you can see, much work awaits us and technology, coupled with collaboration and compassion, makes it all possible.

See 100% Community, Chapter 36: Connecting, Improving, Surfing and Muting: Adventures in Tech

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Answers await you here: www.tenvitalservices.org

Written by

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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