Even a man who lives in complete social isolation and cherishes a solipsistic view on life would dare not deny the definite evidence of technology’s distinctive effect on modern communication. Social media and mobile apps are, by their own reckoning, a way for new communities to address old problems in new ways.
During a recent trip to visit my family in South America, I couldn’t help but marvel at my cousins who were signing onto Facebook as I remembered how difficult it was for me to shower that morning. (We ran out of water and someone had to fetch more water from the lake.) It was a priority for me to have a decent shower. It was my cousins’ priority to “friend” me. Technology’s redoubtable and addictive properties will sometimes challenge our priorities but, above all, it truly is a great tool for “finding the others”.
It’s not really about connecting with friends or for braggadocios to post attractive pictures of themselves, it’s for crowd sourcing solutions. Young Kenyans were pioneering the use of text messaging to monitor political conflict in 2010. There are now mobile apps for blood sample analysis, even though women in developing countries are 21% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. Can social media help us move toward democratization?
This past weekend’s Social Good Summit presented and parsed topics and questions like the one above. There were also summits in several other countries and attendees were shown videos of other meetups in Greece, New Zealand, Montenegro, Egypt, and Myanmar. We learned about concepts like Shared Value, innovative websites like ShoutAbout, and new mobile app challenges. It was a summit that marketed humanitarian organizations as we concurrently learned how terrible humanitarians are at marketing.
The speakers at SGS truly distilled the values of corporations and NGOs who are coming together for social impact:
Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, described his work in the White House as being an incubator of initiatives, not companies. He talked about the Open Data Initiative. He focuses on open innovation and the desire to make new data available and unavailable data usable/downloadable. He reminded us that Government’s decision to make the global positioning system freely available is what fueled private sector innovations like navigation systems (GPS).
I enjoyed the thoughts of Larry Irving, Co-founder of Mobile Alliance for Global Good. He discussed being connected with a purpose and recited this rarely publicized quote by MLK Jr. - “A great revolution is taking place in the world today…a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation…yes, we do live in a period where changes are taking place.”
Another highlight was Dr. Hans Rosling’s lecture. If you’ve also watched his TED talks, then you can imagine how excited I was to see him live. He reminded us not to think of developing countries as one place. There are so many different levels of development.
He also had a very impressive pointer.
Deepak Chopra mesmerized the room when he told us that social networks are an extension of our mind. He advised us to create dynamic networks that self-organize themselves.
Here are a few more quotes from more notables, followed by my favorite tweets from the summit:
Actress America Ferrera
Actor Forest Whitaker with Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano talks to ForbesWomen President Moira Forbes (I was so impressed with Moira’s questions.) They talked about cyber security, regulation, and shared responsibility.
I was also captivated by Arturo Sarukhan, the Ambassador of Mexico to the U.S. He has a very arresting presence.
For further resources, please visit the website for Grand Challenges, Half the Sky, We Advance U, 10X10, and Connect To Learn. Connect to Learn is a global initiative designed by Hans Vestberg and the inimitable Jeffrey Sachs (below).
All photos taken by me (Aleeka Kay Edwards)