DAN GANNON/THE HOYA
DAN GANNON/THE HOYA

Technology leaders discussed the evolving landscape of technology and emphasized the importance of social impact to innovation during the Innovation Panel of the OWN IT Summit.

The panel, which was held in Gaston Hall and came in the middle of the summit, featured 2013 Thiel Fellow and The CRATED Co-Founder Madison Maxey, eBay Chief Marketing Officer Richelle Parham and Anthea Watson Strong, a member of Google’s Civic Innovation Team. Re/code Executive Editor Kara Swisher moderated the discussion.

Swisher began the panel by asking each of the speakers to define “innovation.” All three noted the importance of making a social impact in their definitions, while Maxey particularly touched on finding new uses for existing technologies.

“We’re finding things that often exist with new combinations that are mutually productive,” Maxey said. “I think innovation these days is finding ways to use your passions to think about how we can impact our daily lives.”

Parham explained that innovation is forward-looking.

“It’s how you think about today and how you think about the future and bringing those things closer together,” Parham said.

Noting that innovation disrupts the status quo by changing the world and challenging the public to keep up, Swisher explored the different applications of technology used by the various sectors in which the women work.

Although Strong acknowledged the slow pace of change in public policy, she explained that technology can be a powerful tool to involve the public in policymaking.

“[In public policy,] you don’t have to be the ones coming up with the best ideas or the brightest. You just have to take what is the best and the brightest and apply it in creative ways,” Strong said. “One of the things the Internet could do is reduce the cost of voting. … Reducing the cost of being able to make an informed decision. There are civic decisions that are happening every day … and the data for that is very complicated. How can we pull that out and service it in a way that people can participate how they want to?”

Maxey, a fashion designer and expert in wearable technology, noted that when wearable gadgets become more flexible and ubiquitous, they can allow users to access information even more easily.

“How do we make something that isn’t visible give you exactly what you need?” Maxey said. “It shouldn’t be hard to call someone.”

Parham said shopping is headed toward increasing digitization and added that this online shopping can be more personalized as well.

Following the panel was a question-and-answer session in which students brought up gender and racial disparities in the technology industry.

“It’s an absolute challenge. I think that every company in Silicon Valley has a responsibility to create some change here,” Parham said. “When you have diversity of race, of gender, of all of these things, you actually create better products. We can’t just make products for white guys. We need an environment where people feel welcomed and all ideas are brought to the surface.”

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