Sunday, October 17, 2010

Connectivity is productivity

Recently I watched a TED talk by Iqbal Quadir and as the TED motto says, he has ideas worth spreading.  He talked about connectivity, microfinance and the idea of empowerment, and although I could speak about all of these topics at great length, I will focus on one idea he mentions.  
The idea of aiding developing countries has long been approached, however more than 60 years after embarking on the journey, we still live in a world where some do not have access to clean water.  After all the aid given, why does poverty persist?  Quadir asks the same question in his talk and it is definitely warranted.  He explains that in the past we have consistently been empowering the authorities.  We give money and aid to authorities in countries that benefit them, but not their people.  Herein lies the problem; we need to start empowering people directly rather than their authorities.  This makes sense, we can't continue to throw money at countries and hope that this will fix their problems.  Money is a part of it but we must focus on creating a better life for the future, not just today.  

About 12 years ago, Iqbal Quadir started to wrestle with the idea of implementing technology in developing nations.  His research showed him that the more connected people were, the more efficient they could be.  In essence, connectivity is productivity.  In his case he experimented with cell phones, however my idea is using the internet.

Since 2007, organizations such as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) have sent laptops to children in developing nations.  Their mission is "to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning."  Since 2007, they have sent 1,494,500 laptops to over 12 countries including: Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uraguay, Peru and Colombia.  This idea is great because it allows children to have a new way of enhancing their reading and writing skills.  However, the connection seems to end there.  We need to find a way to connect the modern world and the developing world so that we can work together.  The fact is that we have so many resources here that can easily solve problems for others.  The idea that many people in developing nations still don't have access to clean water is mindboggling, however by sharing our resources we can improve others' everyday lives.  By showing them how to make use of solar power, clean water and wood resources, just to name a few, we could dissolve their everyday problems.  From all of this came my idea to create a wiki where I compile resources from the Peace Corp, Red Cross, etc. that focus on improving healthcare, sanitation needs, as well as education.  This idea seems so simple and yet it has the potential of making a huge difference.  

Iqbal Quadir's TED talk:

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The video above is so simple to understand that it’s actually hard to believe.  Basically empathy is this idea that it is human nature to see someone doing something whether they are feeling happy, sad, angry, scared, etc. and feel it ourselves.  Although there is science to understanding that, once you accept the concept, the rest makes sense.  We are soft wired to experience another person’s plight as if we are experiencing ourselves.  However over time, humans started to only have that pertain to people of their own blood, religion, country, etc.  Once that happened we no longer had empathy towards those we don’t feel are our own kind.  This concept is sad on its own, but the fact that we have let this lead to allowing other people to suffer because we have put ourselves into groups and shut everyone out of them seems a little ridiculous when looked at it from the outside.  As Rifkin says, is it really so impossible to imagine a world where we imagine everyone as one?  This is not to say people can have their own opinions, etc. but just to think that we don’t separate ourselves and no longer support others based on religion, country of birth, and viewpoints.  Like I have said before, we ARE all human beings and as such we all deserve to live whether we are a wealthy man from New York City, or a poor man from Ghana.  In my mind, both lives are equally valuable.  People like Jacquline Novogratz, Paul Farmer, Greg Mortenson, Mohammed Yunus, and the other humanitarians are just taking a head start on our path to this empathic civilization.  This place is not a perfect world; however, it is a place where we will all think of each other as an extended family despite our tribal, religious, ethnic, and national ties.