Social Impact Tech: Ensure you are creating a solution for other humans

Data Friendly Space
6 min readJul 2, 2024


"Technology is a tool, but the goals and outcomes for accessible learning are human." – Unknown

When developing technical solutions, it is crucial to remember that they are ultimately designed for human use. As technologists, we must prioritize inclusivity and recognize the significant impact of technology on society by ensuring it is accessible to everyone. In the third installment of our Social Impact Tech series, we interviewed Camilo Palacio, Senior Frontend Engineer at Data Friendly Space (DFS), about how he got started, what challenges we still face, and how to create accessible technology for others.

What inspired you to start working in technology?

I saw technology as a way to build and share tools that could help me and others in our daily lives. This fascination began when I was considering my options after graduating. Although I studied Computer Science, it was not my first choice — I also considered philosophy, music and graphic design. I ultimately chose technology because it seemed the most efficient way to impact lives. Back then, I believed that with creativity, knowledge, a computer, internet access, and time, I could create something that would create a social impact. Years later, I’m glad to say this is still true, and I constantly think of ways to use technology to create a positive impact on society.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face when integrating technology into sectors that are still catching up?

There are several challenges, but I would like to delve into one I call “Ensure you are creating a solution for other humans”. Working in the tech industry, it is easy to overlook the wide spectrum of digital literacy and access in society. This can lead to creating solutions that may not be easily understood or used by most people. When developing a website or application, every technologist should go through a checklist to try to cover more and more of that spectrum.

First, you need to consider variations of devices and connection quality to ensure the platform you’ve created works and looks good on all screens, and in different situations, from slow mobile data connections to blazing fast wifi. Language clarity is another factor — ensuring the language used is not too technical or specific so it’s understandable for most users. Visual language also matters; for instance, a clean UI may fail for users who don’t understand icon conventions, like a standalone interrogative icon indicating a help page action/link. Comments like “I didn’t know that was a button” or “I didn’t know the platform had that feature” are common when interviewing users, and these issues shouldn’t be considered solved by simply sharing a large user guide.

The examples I’ve described are probably the most general and vague considerations, but this checklist goes on and on and can get very specific depending on the sector you’re working in.

What ethical dilemmas keep you up at night when developing, and how do you approach resolving them?

Several ethical dilemmas concern me when developing, and one I would like to highlight relates to the marketing/analytics side of a product. In web and app development, we often gather extensive data on how users interact with our platform — tracking which buttons are clicked, which pages are visited the most, and so on. I make my best effort to ensure that we communicate to users what data is being tracked and the purpose behind it. However, like many users of various platforms, I often find myself skipping these explanations and simply clicking the “accept” checkbox to proceed. To address this, I continuously explore alternative methods to communicate this behind-the-scenes tracking with users, while ensuring none of the tracking ever becomes intrusive or involves sensitive data, especially when third-party platforms are involved.

Another ethical dilemma arises in how we use this user behavior information. While our intention is typically to identify areas for improvement and generate new ideas, during product growth brainstorming, it’s easy to see how this data can unintentionally lead to the creation of so-called “Dark Patterns”. To mitigate these challenges, I apply Kant’s categorical imperative (to get a bit nerdy), placing myself in the user’s shoes. My goal is to make sure that everything implemented on any platform I’m working on, even if it’s behind the scenes, is something I would personally accept and be comfortable with as a user, rather than solely as the developer or creator.

Do you think there should be limits on the types of problems technology can be used to solve, and who should set those limits?

I would say there’s no point in setting strict limits, but we need more people reviewing the impact of tech solutions, as a single solution can lead to many unexpected effects in society (usually a mix of good and bad). To prepare, it’s crucial to study possible impacts and build shared knowledge about these solutions, even before implementation. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly ask the right questions, prepare for potential outcomes, and share these concerns as early as possible to build proper knowledge around them. By engaging diverse perspectives, we can better understand the broader implications of technological advancements and ensure they are used responsibly and ethically.

What role should public opinion play in guiding the development and deployment of technologies?

Given the involvement of both the private and public sectors in technology development, it is challenging to expect public opinion to guide or lead the course of tech growth. However, we need to have public opinion participate more in facilitating digital adoption. Whether we like it or not, technology is the primary means to work and participate in society worldwide, and it is becoming increasingly present in all corners of the world.

The reason I emphasize this is that we, as a global community, are creating a situation where people who want to use technology but don’t know how or lack the resources to do so are becoming more and more marginalized by the system. Addressing this issue requires involvement from various sectors, but public opinion plays a crucial role in ensuring that digital literacy is constantly on the rise so that as technology becomes more useful, it also becomes easier to use for more and more people.

If you had unlimited resources, what ambitious project or initiative would you undertake to create social impact through technology?

I would work to get more and more people to learn sign language! Since late 2023, I’ve been learning Colombian Sign Language, and ever since my first session, I’ve had several ideas to make learning it easier and more accessible. Communicating through signs and facial expressions is fascinating to me, and I think learning to do so has many benefits, from being inclusive to the deaf community to enabling communication in a different — and sometimes more assertive — way. This has led me to a slow-moving personal pet project I’ve been developing using my software and product skills, with the end goal of creating a free platform for learning sign language and motivating people to do so — even if they don’t have close relatives who are deaf.

I started learning because I was frustrated by my inability to communicate with deaf people (as a side note, I truly believe this should be taught in elementary schools). But I started seeing many other perks, such as communicating properly with scuba divers during immersion and not having to shout when trying to communicate with someone next to me in really noisy places, especially considering how the modern world is constantly becoming louder.

I think sign language is a superpower, and it’s unfair how little attention and support it and the deaf community receive.

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