How would you go about building a better future by leveraging the power of the Internet?
That was the question my friend Matt McAlister brought to his employers at the Guardian and from that question was created the Activate ’09 Summit. I attended the inaugural event held at the Guardian’s headquarters in London on July 1st. As one of their editors so ably states, "The Guardian has a clear purpose to deliver high quality independent liberal journalism in the pursuit of social justice.” The summit was designed to get into the heads of the people (activators) driving the most important changes in politics, society, technology and the economy. It was a day meant to balance technological achievement against developing world need. There were a number of fascinating talks and panels, but related to philanthropy and social change, a few were truly inspiring.
Dr. Sugata Mitra spoke passionately about his “hole in the wall” experiments in learning methodologies, underway in rural areas and urban slums of India and Cambodia. The driving force behind this effort is the concept of minimally invasive education. Children learn computer skills on their own without direct intervention from teachers via self-taught methods such as exploration, discovery and peer coaching from other students. Highly motivational learning environments are fostered which leverage a child’s natural curiosity and helps to develop their problem solving skills.
Dr. Richard Baraniuk of Rice University spoke about the open source education platform Connexions that he founded that provides free textbooks and course materials to millions of students yearly. There is a mentoring aspect to his initiative, which is fascinating; some basic skills that our western civilization takes for granted when exposed within developing communities are helping to dramatically transform these communities. Programs such as Connexions would not be possible without earth flattening technologies such as the Internet, web and emerging media innovations.
There were many other topics discussed on this great day. I’ve included links to some sites mentioned above and some very good write-ups others have published regarding the summit. At the end of the day Matt and I were discussing the potential agenda for Activate ’10. His initial idea was to bring together developing world opportunities such as the two I mentioned above (and many others available via the links below) and attempt to partner them with solutions providers such as philanthropic individuals and organizations. Now this is not all about throwing cash at problems. It’s also about providing exposure to issues that skilled folks can contribute to personally by sharing their knowledge. I thoroughly look forward to the event next year and beyond.
Primary site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/activate
Dr. Sugata Mitra: http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com
Dr. Richard Baraniuk: http://cnx.org
Matt McAlister: http://twitter.com/mattmcalister
Roo Reynolds: http://rooreynolds.com/2009/07/01/guardian-activate-09/
Martin Belam: http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2009/07/guardian_activate_1.php
finally here's an audioboo snippet i did at the end of the day at activate: