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How Technology Can Help Solve World Homelessness

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Richard Lorenzen
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The ability to have quality shelter continues to be a global problem that shows no signs of slowing. According to statistics gathered by Habitat for Humanity for World Habitat Day 2015, key housing facts show that 1.6 billion people still have inadequate shelter.
Of this figure, there are deeper issues within the numbers:
One billion live in informal settlements while more than 100 million people have no type of settlement or shelter.
Approximately one in four people live in conditions that are considered unsafe and unhealthy.
By 2030, UN-HABITAT has estimated that nearly three billion more people, which is about 40 per cent of the world's population, will need assistance in order to have quality housing.
Business Intervenes in Global Social Issues
With this grim future prospect for many around the world, this is the time for those who have the power and influence to step up and enact the necessary social and economic changes to solve world homelessness. This includes those from the technology industry that are becoming more involved in global social issues. As a CNET article noted:
Top tech executives are discovering they can use their considerable influence to promote a cause and demand political reform. In the last week alone, tech leaders have threatened to cancel travel, reduce investment, relocate employees and remove millions of dollars from the economies of states passing laws they disagree with.
While there is the strategy of negative reinforcement, others in technology and business see a way to positively effect global social change.
Effecting Positive Strategies for Social Change
For example, Business Rocks 2016, Manchester's global tech, music, and investment summit, will host a global "hackathon" in a bid to help solve the ever-growing problem of homelessness through technology.
While there will be many opportunities to see top developers, investors, and headliners like Steve Wozniak and Brian Fanzo speak, the real highlight is the summit's charity endeavors, including the hackathon and charity partners like World Science Aid and Forever Manchester as well as The Community Foundation for Greater Manchester.
Surrounded by Homelessness in the UK
Hosting this event in Manchester couldn't be more relevant given the homelessness crisis in the surrounding area and across the UK. According to The Guardian's Diane Taylor, "Homelessness in Manchester has risen by 150 percent in recent years."
According to the latest statistics published by Crisis, 280 thousand people in England approached councils last year seeking assistance, while 7,581 slept rough on the streets of London, a 16 per cent increase from the previous year. The latest figures released by the Empty Homes Agency noted that there are currently 610,000 empty homes across the country.
The upcoming two-day hacking event will educate some of the sharpest and brightest minds about the dangers, challenges, and needs of the vulnerable. A panel that includes the homeless from Gary Neville's Stock Exchange project, scientists, developers, technologists and experts on social housing and the current migrant crisis will tackle the "tech for good" challenge.
One of the participants in Business Rocks 2016 is Murray Newlands, Co-Founder of as well as an advisor at Network Of Things Fund, a vehicle of Draper Nexus Ventures. As a UK native, Newlands is particularly excited about pitching in to help his home country. "Homelessness is a growing problem that is encompasses many walks of life," explains Newlands. "This project is one that is driven by the homeless, taking their ideas and opinions and making the world into a better place."
Newlands, a Pitch Camp "Jedi" for Business Rocks 2016, said, "I am more than proud to be a panel expert for a summit that is not only generating innovative ideas in the tech space, but it is one that is also giving back to the surrounding community through charity ventures like the hackathon. There is nothing more important than recognizing and helping our fellow man."
Building on Tech Ideas Already in Motion to Help Homeless
Within Silicon Valley and the surrounding areas like San Francisco, tech companies are working on solutions that help empower homeless people by helping them develop job skills and encourage any entrepreneurial spirit within them so they become self-sufficient so homelessness is no longer part of the equation. Other efforts have included a 2014 event in which more than 100 developers, designers, entrepreneurs and do-gooders attended Impact Hub for the first-ever Hack to End Homelessness, a four-day event that encouraged participants to envision and create ideas to alleviate the homelessness problem in Seattle. Now, with Business Rocks 2016, more solutions can be developed and implemented as the global tech community continues to take up this social cause and enact the real change necessary to provide everyone with quality shelter no matter where they are in the world.

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