Saba Gul on One-Size Fails All: Building Socially Scalable Tech
The Barnard CSC is excited about our next Diversity in Computing Speaker, Saba Gul, technologist and entrepreneur.
Saba Gul explores the question: How can technology startups create economic and societal value without wreaking havoc on users?
Product development at tech startups often abides by the doctrine that technology is neutral with respect to geography and culture because all users are the same. When digital platforms neglect to build teams with diverse social experiences and multi-disciplinary training that can inform product impact and anticipate risks, they can cause profound harm in the world. The effects of these harms are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable users.
In this talk, Saba Gul draws from her wide-ranging work around the globe as a Pakistani, female technologist to explore the concept of ‘social scalability’—building products that carry an awareness of the social systems they will become a part of, and that can respond to society-level needs, not only user-level ones. Using her own experience building products and startups as case studies, she discusses technology and business solutions to mitigate the harm perpetuated by tech platforms and their growth-at-all-costs approach—from features and algorithms, to product design, incentive structures and startup culture. She asks the question: How can technology startups create economic and societal value without wreaking havoc on users, public infrastructure, and economies?
Saba Gul is a technologist and entrepreneur who has built digital products and startups across geographies, including the US, Europe, South Asia, and East Africa. Previously, she was the Founder & CEO of Popinjay, an e-commerce startup with a supply chain spanning Pakistan, Vietnam and China. She has been part of two teams that built the engineering core for billion-dollar companies, and helped launch companies in diverse sectors such as health, ecommerce, mobility and logistics. In 2019, she led the design and development of a first-of-its-kind, AI-driven platform for the Gates Foundation to reduce South Asian infant mortality. Saba was also a graduate researcher in the Genesis group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, where she built computational models of how humans tell, perceive, and understand stories. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a US State Department Generation Change Fellow, and speaks frequently on entrepreneurship and gender at forums like the UN, World Bank, Harvard Business School, and TEDx events. Saba was raised in Pakistan, and holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees from MIT.