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I recently had the opportunity to visit the United Arab Emirates. While there, I gave a keynote to a group of 100 students and aspiring entrepreneurs at a youth summit hosted by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa). The center’s mission is to nurture a vibrant startup ecosystem in Sharjah and provide entrepreneurs with a launch pad for success. 

During my talk, I had the opportunity to discuss a few ideas I am passionate about. The first concept I shared was that business can – and should – take a leadership role in making the world a better place. The second idea I presented to and asked of these future leaders was to dream BIG about the mark they want to leave on the world.

We all can help make the world a better place

When people dream big – and couple those dreams with technology and purpose – it is truly possible to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives.

A prime example of this is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which were approved in September 2015. These 17 global goals are full of big dreams, as they aim to improve billions of lives by ending poverty, protecting the planet, fighting diseases, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030.

One of the UN goals is zero hunger (Goal #2). The principles of this goal are to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Can we achieve zero hunger by 2030 – is it possible? It seems like a big dream, especially as experts estimate food production must grow by 70% to feed 2.2 billion more mouths by 2050.

However, countries, private and public sector organizations, and everyday citizens are working together to make the achievement of this goal a reality. For instance, digital farming is helping farmers in Africa and around the world collect crucial data to increase crop production, and become more efficient and sustainable.

Another UN goal is sustainable cities and communities (Goal # 11). It seeks to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Today, 10% of the world’s population lives in just 100 cities, and by the end of the 21st century, those cities will hold close to 20% of the world’s population. Technology can play a critical role in helping these hubs of innovation drive sustainability, resiliency, and inclusion.

Smart cities use Big Data to not only ensure the proper functioning of basic services but also to save people from natural disasters and other emergencies.  For instance, data collected from sensors embedded into city infrastructure, like the sewer systems in Buenos Aires, will help ensure basic services are working while saving people from natural disasters and other emergencies.

Finally, another of the goals is good health and well-being (Goal #3). The UN wants to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all people at all ages. Technology is at the epicenter of progress around complex medical issues.  It can deliver insights and simplify medicine to help diagnose, treat, cure – and ultimately prevent diseases.

For example, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) helps cancer patients and doctors find the best treatment options. About 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer every year. Most ask their doctor the same question: “How can you help me fight it?” It’s a difficult question to answer, but thanks to ASCO’s CancerLinQ system, it’s getting easier. Using Big Data and innovating on in-memory computing, CancerLinQ analyzes 500,000 electronic patient records to show which treatments are likely to work best.

Dream big and leave your impact

At the Sheraa summit in Dubai, I closed my talk with a personal story and a bold call to action. I shared with the young audience how my upbringing and my career have helped me realize the impact I can make in this world.  From the presentations of two young entrepreneurs from AUS that followed, I know the next generation will make even broader impact to this world.

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