June 30, 2016
Last week, Techweek Chicago took over the Windy City with talks, competitions, and swanky food layouts. Attendees were privileged to discussions about sports technology, workplace diversity, meaningful mentorship and so much more. And while the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at this tech conference, a commitment to helping out the little guy was prevalent in panels concerning the development and design of FinTech software as well as innovations in education technology. And it’s no secret that these conversations would tackle some serious issues that need addressing.
“I was hoping that it would get provocative,” said Amanda Signorelli, CEO of Techweek in an interview with Tech.Co at the conference last Thursday. “It’s such an important issue.”
Particularly in Chicago, the education discussion is rarely anything but bleak. Speakers touched on the lack of viable technology for teachers to use to actually increase learning. As they pointed out, the software being developed is not being produced for teachers to better the education system. It’s being produced for the people measuring how bad things have been getting.
“You don’t actually have an alignment between what the problems are that they are willing to spend money on and what the needs of the educators are,” said John Wannemacher, vice president of strategic marketing at Pearson Education during the talk. “The way we think about data in general is reporting on an annual cycle. These tests come at the end of the year and they are not helpful to do anything other than an autopsy of why kids didn’t learn.”
In addition to the importance of education technology at Techweek Chicago, the FinTech talk also touched on how technology is finally coming around to focusing on the little guy. With finances becoming available at the click of a button, tech junkies aren’t the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. Everyone sees the value of being able to save, spend, transfer and collect money on your phone rather than in your pocket, particularly when you are drowning in debt.
“You have to pay bills,” said Signorelli in the same interview. “And if the one person that’s going to pay your bills can’t do it, what are you going to do?”
Fortunately, FinTech designers have taken a more socially responsible approach to their products, making sure that everyone from your 85-year-old grandma to your 16-year-old neighbor can figure out how to manage their finances without issue. And if the commitment to the little guy found at Techweek Chicago is an indication of business to come in the future, we could be looking at a business revolution that is actually focused on the needs of the people rather than the needs of their share holders.
“Technology is not traditionally designed for customers in the middle,” said Bailey Moore, vice president of Wintrust Financials during the FinTech talk. “It’s usually designed for early adopters and then it sort of trickles down. [With FinTech], we’re in an interesting position where we’re actually designing technology tools to meet people where they are and will help them get where they need to go.”
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