How an Australian Bank is using technology to solve our biggest social issues

Can technology be used for social good?

I think we can all agree that technology has changed the world forever.

We can access information quickly. Connect with loved ones across long distances. Pay our bills online.

We have many examples of personal benefits – but what about the societal benefits?

Surely technology has the power to solve some of society’s biggest problems?

Ideapod decided to explore the possibilities.

We teamed up with The Commonwealth Bank of Australia to run a campaign around the hashtag #techforacause.

The challenge

We asked the Ideapod community to respond to this question:

“How can we use technology to solve some of our biggest social issues, including:

  • financial inclusion
  • domestic violence
  • diversity & social inclusion in and out of the workforce”.

The judging criteria

Over 5 weeks, we surfaced over 40 ideas and inspired over 700 interactions.

The top five ideas were assessed against these criteria:

1) strategic alignment
2) desirability
3) feasibility
4) originality; and
5) interactions.

The top five ideas

Your answers blew us away.

On 21 August 2017, the top five ideas were presented at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Pop-Up Innovation Lab in Melbourne.

Whomever posted the winning idea has the opportunity to work with the bank to turn the idea into reality.

Read on to discover who won.

The top five ideas are set out below.

5. A Truly Connected Society by Steve Taitoko from Melbourne

What if a mobile app could be developed to give emergency cash or accommodation for those in need?

What if a machine could call the police or ambulance for help? Imagine connecting this app and machine to help those who are in a really tough spot.

Steve’s idea would be to tap a network of free devices that provide ubiquitous connectivity to people when they most need it:

Automatic Teller Machines, or “ATMs”.

4. Utilise Social Media for Good by Gary Poechhacker from Sydney

Gary urges us to use Facebook to activate our social equity.

We use social media to promote trivial things all the time. What if we could use it to crowdsource critical items for those in need, like the bare essentials for a homeless person?

Gary and his kids adopted a “street friend” called “Belinda”. In her case, all she needed was a sleeping bag and some socks. Gary’s son picked out socks from his drawer and insisted they offer them to Belinda.

Gary asks:

What if we could harness the collective power of social media to help the less fortunate?

A small act of kindness can transform a life.

3. Virtual Reality for Empathy Building by Ksenia 

Ksenia point outs that there is still stigma around domestic violence. Victims’ personal experiences are not widely discussed.

Sadly, this means that victims are starved of empathy.

What if we designed a virtual reality experience that can help others empathise with the experience of domestic violence victims?

The result is that society becomes more compassionate.

2. Leftovers by Terry Sidhu from Vancouver

Terry wonders if an app could be designed to help people donate their leftover food.

He uses the example of his local coffee shop. It gives him a bag of leftover muffins and pastries every other day, to donate to the local homeless community.

Terry believes it would be amazing if an app could connect people who want to help the hungry, with nearby places that have food to give away.

He suggests that cafes, restaurants, and even neighbours, could record their leftover food items on the app, and signal that they are ready to be collected.  Terry says that when we see a homeless person who is hungry, the app could connect us to those nearby with leftovers to give away.

and the winner is….

These are all great ideas and worthy of exploration. We hope they inspire others to work on solutions.

The winning idea was in the area of domestic violence.

Now, we can all agree that domestic violence is a complex problem that can’t be solved overnight.

There are thousands of people all over the world committed to helping those in abusive relationships.

But while there is no silver bullet, perhaps there is a silver lining.

The winning idea for the campaign #techforacause is from:

Vancouver’s Terry Sidhu for:

1. “Stop, Please Stop”

Terry’s idea is to use voice recognition technology – like “Hey, Siri” or “OK, Google” – to let a victim activate a distress signal using their voice. If they called out a pre-recorded phrase like “Stop, please stop”  for example, then the app would ping nearby police to ask for help.

The receiver gets sent:

  1. A recording of what is happening to the victim; and
  2. the victim’s location.


As the rescuer drives to the victim, the app continues to play the live call, so the receiver can listen to whatever is unfolding in real time.

This technology may also keep people safe when they are out. If you are attacked, just yell for help, and a distress signal will be sent.

Thanks everyone!

Ideapod would like to thank the whole community for being part of this world first campaign sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

You can follow Terry’s journey on the hashtag #techforacause as he explores the opportunity to work with the CBA Innovation Lab to turn his idea into reality.

For more ideas, you can hear some of our thought leaders explore even more possibilities in the following #techforacause salon:

Happy idea sharing!

Also read: What is propelling the protests in France?

Picture of Kat Dunn

Kat Dunn

I like to connect Ideas & people. I talk about discomfort & inspiring failures. I'm trying to sleep more and shift to a growth mindset. Former lawbot, pilot & leader in finance. Founder of F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum & working with Ideapod to help companies leverage our collective intelligence & achieve breakthrough thinking.

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