Bit by bite to a better world

Technology is cool. Technology that makes the world a better place is even cooler! Nowadays, it takes more than pure technology and a nice paycheck to inspire FHICT-students. Living at the heart of society, they want to have a positive impact on it. Guided by an intrinsic moral compass and technological knowledge. Together, FHICT and partners connect technology and morality through the ambition theme Impact on Society.

“ICT-products have great social impact.” If anyone should know, it would be Huub Prüst. Lecturer ICT & Media Design, project manager of Impact on Society, and techno philosopher, he is always on top of the matter. For the last few years, Prüst and his team saw the emphasis on the ethical side of technology steadily growing bigger. In general debate and in education.

A moral view on technology
“A good sign”, says Prüst. “ICT is becoming more and more human-driven. We need our moral compass for us to control technology, so technology does not control us. Continuously, we ask ourselves questions. ‘Does a particular technology make you more autonomous, or do you become more dependent?’ or ‘Does it merely solve a problem, or does it make people genuinely happy?’ During the entire process, we keep our focus on that moral point of view.”

To tickle awareness, FHICT designed TICT. Using smart scans (Quick, Full, and Improvement), this discussion tool helps dissect and improve new innovations on a moral level. “Take for instance the smart energy meter. We scrutinize all positive and negative aspects like sustainability and safety hazards. Working as a team, on this subject matter, brings out the best solutions.”

Take for instance solutions for the financial world, where Impact on Society is top priority. Alexander Baas, COO of the Volksbank, parent company of SNS, RegioBank and ASN Bank, has been a strategic partner of FHICT from the very start. “Being a bank is simultaneously being a business and utility company supporting societal processes,” he states. “That is why we not only look at our return of investment, but take the effects on and the significance for employee, customer and society into account as well.”

Make way for the IT-banker
“With about 90% of all processes being automated, banks are more and more evolving into IT-companies. The modern banker therefore is an IT-banker with a sharp eye for social causes”, continues Baas. The Volksbank keeps that keen eye particularly on subjects as sustainability and financial resilience. “Subjects where we want to make all the difference. Through creating opportunities for reusing our ICT-tools or with smart app functions that offer more control on customers’ personal finances.”

Baas is a strong advocate of cooperation with partners like FHICT: “It is wonderful FHICT defines Impact on Society as an ambition. A shared theme allows for more knowledge and an even better connection between higher education and industry. This collective approach enables us to influence society in a positive manner.”

The province of North Brabant wants to operate as data driven as possible, also when it involves social causes. For 12,5 years, Marcel Thaens, the province’s Chief Information Officer, acted as extraordinary professor Public Governance at the Rotterdam Erasmus University. A great experience: “My educational background allows me to acknowledge the importance of theory combined with relevant practice. Over the next few years, we bit by bit will uncover the impact of this approach. Knowledge gathered from all educational levels, be it university, higher professional education or secondary vocational education, is an indispensable element.”

An example of smart cooperation that appeals to the imagination, is the ongoing battle against drug-related crime. Thaens: “On our request, students of FHICT concentrated on two interconnected issues: ‘How to predict where drug production and waste dumping occur?’ The outcomes provides police and province with very useful templates that can be translated into positive impact on society.”

Tessy van Stuijvenberg is Sector Vice President Manufacturing, Retail & Financial Services at CGI, one of the world’s largest all-round technology service companies. For her, smart concepts that can positively influence the world are daily fare. Especially now we are in the midst of the corona crisis. “This past year has surely shown that digitalization is more than important: it is inevitable. Just consider tool to make the transition to efficiently work from home, produce from a distance, and sell through virtual channels.”

The benefits of working smarter and safer is getting clearer and more pressing, in Van Stuijvenberg’s opinion. “As a society, we are becoming more aware of the fact that working from home is also efficient. However, while seated at our kitchen table, we log onto business-critical systems. Our systems and our clients’ systems. We have to preemptively address the involved risks and raise awareness.”

This type of risk management welcomes the new perspective students of FHICT can bring to the table. As we speak, 8 trainees are working on a technical concept for a client of CGI. Also, first-year students are creating engaging projects, like building a festival website. The best concept even gets a fun little prize. All done in close cooperation with each other and CGI. Van Stuijvenberg: “Together we search for well-considered solutions to enhance security. Sharing thoughts and experiences is not only educational, it also makes us more aware of our impact on society.”

Little projects, great effect
The ambition team of Impact on Society has already connected some socially relevant projects to education. Take these seemingly small projects with great social relevance.

In the context of the initiative ‘Learning in the Neighbourhood’ and together with the Ik wil (I want) -foundation, students of the courses Psychology, People and Health Studies, and HRM, FHICT-students develop a tool. Object of this tool is to allow residents to discover and utilize their talents and potentials.

The initiative ‘Learning in the Neighbourhood’ is also the starting point for wearable data tools and apps that lead to a better understanding of the factors that influence the psychological functioning of residents.

How do you reach people in need that are entitled to Food bank support but do not sign up? A pressing question to which FHICT-students, Valtech and the Food Bank search for the right answer.

In Ruanda, whenever you need a medical consult, you have to travel to the capital of Kigali. There, in that unfamiliar city, you then have to find a reliable pharmacy that has the medicine readily available. Quite the quest … In project M-pharma FHICT-students and WorkXP’s young ICT professionals in Kigali team up to develop, build, and test an app-solution.


“We need our moral compass for us to control technology, so technology does not control us.”