How digital technology can change the world

Our world is changing and accelerating under the impetus of new and digital technologies. Many stakeholders are involved in this innovation, but start-ups – with their disruptive mentality and quick-thinking in visualizing new digital solutions – really stand out from the crowd. Through collaboration, start-ups and large businesses are now working hand in hand to create tools and services which make the world safer, more fluid and more sustainable.

How digital technology can change the world

Communication tools for all

With the development of a whole host of communication interfaces (instant messaging, videoconferencing, etc.), people can communicate with one another whenever and wherever they want. Recent developments in voice recognition should quickly spread this fluid communication to the masses, for example, by breaking down communication barriers for the deaf and hearing impaired. The start-up RogerVoice has therefore developed the world’s first application to instantly subtitle telephone calls. RogerVoice, which is free to download for smartphone and accessible 24/7, switches simultaneously between written and spoken language, thereby bridging the gap between these forms of communication. Whether it’s calling family, making an appointment or exchanging a train ticket, the hard-of-hearing no longer have to head out to complete everyday tasks.

Safer Internet use for young people

Internet use is changing: thanks to modernized networks, users now have access to high-speed Internet even when on the go, allowing them to download content and apps very quickly. Children and young adults, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse online, are still at risk of being exposed to offensive content or being blackmailed. To better protect them and reassure their parents, the start-up SafeToNet has developed an app based on artificial intelligence that identifies and automatically blocks suspicious messages and harmful content before they are received, without disclosing them to parents to preserve the right to privacy. Parents may also remotely block or unblock their children’s devices and the apps installed on them.

New educational solutions

Digital technology has long offered new educational opportunities with the progressive expansion of e-learning, MOOCs, and videoconferencing, among other things. Numerous projects are still ongoing, for example in Africa, where, five years from now, 150 million young people will be in need of schooling. The need for educational solutions that overcome continent-wide problems related to infrastructure and human resources continues to grow. Aware of the urgency of this situation, the start-up Chalkboard has created an e-learning app which works offline so communities without Internet access can also use it. Students can read for their classes, complete exercises or tests through text messages and USSD technology.

Evermore energy efficient

Advances in Big Data and connected objects already contribute to a more responsible use of energy which corresponds more accurately to the intensity of human activity. This is probably just the beginning of a global movement in which digital technology leads to an optimization of resources, like the Qarnot project, which seeks to reuse the heat generated by IT hardware in data centers, which doubles every five years: it would already be capable of heating half of European homes! The start-up has therefore created Q.rads, a system which uses microprocessors as a heat source in the home. Energy from computer systems no longer accumulates in data centers, but is rather spread around homes through radiators connected to the Internet. A first step towards more economical energy solutions based on the digitalization of the economy.

Another issue is access to energy resources in remote areas or in humanitarian contexts. Projects such as that launched by the start-up Zéphyr Solar provide sustainable solutions to the energy divide in the form of solar-powered green products. To that end, it has developed a kit consisting of a tethered, solar-paneled balloon and a battery to store and distribute energy. The kit could help to power a makeshift hospital or to set up a telecommunications network, thereby playing a part in the emergency assistance effort.