Michael Waitze and Daniel McFarlane visited FHI 360’s regional Bangkok office to talk with Josh Woodard, who is the organization’s Regional ICT & Digital Finance Advisor. In an insightful discussion covering many issues, Josh highlights the role of technology in creating resilient communities and the value of thoughtful planning.
Josh’s first experience with Thailand came as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Northeast of Thailand. He explains how it gave him “a sense of the world of international development” and insight into how technology can transform people’s lives. His experience in the Northeast led to a career focus on digital development which he explains as “using digital technology in ways that are appropriate and can effectively help us to achieve development objectives.”
In recent years, Josh has led a grant focused on Technologies for Resilience in Asia-Pacific funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Resilience, according to Josh, is a framing of development that focuses on the “capacity of individual, communities, and systems to survive, adapt and grow in the face of stress and shocks and even transform when conditions require it.” Technology for resilience, he explains, is about how we can utilize technology to “make individuals, communities, countries and the whole world stronger.”
In deploying technologies for resilience, Josh stresses the importance of alignment with the needs of actual users and their capacity. He also emphasizes how organizations need to ensure resilience is designed into the technologies they develop and deploy. Josh asks, “if the technology that we are using to try and help people to be more resilient is not resilient in itself, not sustainable, then how can it help with long term resilience?” Josh encourages organizations that are developing technological solutions to anticipate the future, especially regarding how the technology will be sustained into the future.
To support organizations that develop and deploy impactful yet sustainable technologies, Josh developed a Digital Technology for Resilience Planning and Due Diligence Tool, which is an Excel-based tool that helps organizations plan the development of technology and provides a framework for identifying potential development partners.
The conversation concludes with Josh giving his personal perspective on the need for more thoughtfulness in the commercial tech world. “There are unintended consequences we are already aware of that is still not being addressed.” Then, there are a lot of things that “we can realistically anticipate that it’s gonna be an issue”, which require a lot more consideration and dialogue about between the tech sector and the public.
Technology developed for the good of people can often be used for evil and harm, intentionally and unintentionally. So, rather than dealing with the consequences after the fact, he hopes that it becomes the responsibility of tech developers to anticipate the harmful uses of their technology. While we can not protect against everything, “we need to at least be vigilant” and anticipate what can happen.
Correction: During the podcast, the Pulse Lab’s Haze Gazer innovation is discussed. It was described as a response to forest fires when in fact it primarily deals with peatland fires.