28.10.11

If You Bump Into The Richest Man In The World, What do you do?

Answer: Innovate...

I seldom knew (and so do my other Digital World Fellows), that during the intensive last few days of our workshops in readiness for the final ITU International open fray, in Geneva, we could be met with Carlos Slim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Slim who "as of 2011 is the richest person in the world, for the second year in a row. He is the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil and has extensive holdings in other Mexican companies through his conglomerate, Grupo Carso SAB, as well as business interests elsewhere in the world."

That´s just what technology does. It has the magical wand to bring people polarized by geographic difference, cultures and economic status. In an Entourage with another high profiled person; Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) a trio of personalities, walked into the small hall guided by a professional camera crew. In this small hall charged with new ideas and vision, we experienced that it has a pressure proof for us to fine tune our ideas that were yet raw and crude and needed some refinery.

Both Carlos Slim and Dr Hamadoun Touré, agreed that the young leaders in that room, have the responsibility to make technology meaningful for the lives of others and that we all in that room, were ambassadors of our countries, working hard to change the world in a positive way via technology. There messages remained ingrained in our minds if not our hearts.

I was one of those who thanked the entourage for initiating the idea of bringing the best brains in the world to pit their wits against one an other in a true competitive spirit in a bid to find divergent solutions in solving global problems through tele communications technology.



Carlos Slim and the ITU World Digital Fellows 2011









Andrew and Dr Hamadoun Touré, (ITU Secretary General)









Several weeks before the final notifications were sent across to deserving finalists and when the shortlist numbers of ITU Digital Fellows was announced on the Official ITU Telecom Website, I have been focusing and set my mind on how technology can help give a new and fresh thinking to the whole notion of digital divide, but this time, with a little twist on how it could be a salve in the wounds. Indeed, it is a real ease of pain.

My project entitled ´Digital Hope´, like the rest of the presentations came off from our PowerPoint, as needed much trimming to the rules of 6 minutes, 10 words per slide and a specific PowerPoint format. All of the participants in one way or the other had to change their initial style of presentation and even content to meet the standardized criteria set in motion for the contest. Several pitching were done and fellows scrutinized, analyzed, criticized and edited the work of one another to come to some form of perfection.










My pain is that from 1991 to 2002, the people of Sierra Leone suffered the consequences of a brutal civil war. Amputation was used as a Weapon of war. The amputation of Civilians portrays the long years of fighting. During the war, terror tactics was physical mutilation. Although there are as yet no reliable statistics, an estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation of became wounded by machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears. Victims of amputation have not only been the direct victims of several years of conflict, but have suffered from social stigmatization and marginalized from the mainstream of technology and the information society.In these amputee camps, I saw firsthand, the misery, hunger, and humiliation that smoulder after a decade of war and violence. I saw the maimed, the diseased, the broken-hearted, these amputees made forlorn by machetes of brutal rebel onslaught. I also saw bare-footed children, with swollen, protruded stomachs, amputee fathers with heads bowed, pale amputee mothers, with sickly babies, (some of these children are also amputees), themselves, and grandparents in utter despair. I saw the grave meaning of human rights violation, poverty, hunger, and could have easily felt forlorn and despairing like the amputees themselves. But some inner strength overrides this feeling. That strength is inspired by my vision for change in the plight of these victims by the magic of telecommunication technology. These amputees felt deprivation and marginalization to the bones. But I did not shy away at the sight of what I fathomed at these amputee camps. I could not be deterred by the sounds and horrendous stories of death, utter savagery and brutality, and gross human rights violation. I instantaneously thought that much like the Holocaust Genocide, and their victims and survivors, these survivors of amputation, these amputees in Sierra Leone can recount their stories and experiences, even though sordid and bitter to the rest of the world via new multimedia tele-communication technologies so that the society will learn from this and that such violations will never be repeated again. Through this idea, technology can also be used as a vehicle to examine the social, personal, and historical issues surrounding disfigurements resulting from war and conflict.

My Idea.
My idea is to provide tele communication technologies and multi media technologies to amputee victims of the war. It may sound weird if you view it from a short sighted prism. That is exactly what sets me apart. I realized that amputees can use their extra limbs to access computers. These technologies can give them a powerful voice in the mass media, and become an extra ordinary tool, that they can use to bear witness to their plight, thereby bringing about attention, hope and healing to people who are almost forgotten victims.

I believe that in providing them these technologies, we are giving them an extra arm, that can somehow, atone for their missing arms. These technologies will allow them to reach-out, in a way that has never been experienced before. Technology literally becomes a virtual outstretching arm that provides the leverage for the amputees to overcome their difficult situation. In so doing, we are giving them a true and authentic voice in the mass media, untainted by the lens of mass media journalism. We are undoubtedly bringing full blown attention to their plight which seems to be always forgotten.
We are thus providing them with the tools that supersede their crutches, wheel chairs, prosthesis, and providing a kind of disability supplement. We are bringing those once marginalized to use the vehicle of technology which they otherwise will not have. We are affirming that modern technologies does not discriminate against those who are poor, the vulnerable, those who are marginalized, and those who can ill afford as a result of the overwhelming difficulties they face.

I once told some of my colleagues at a workshop that ´we need to innovate, explore and experiment new technologies that are user friendly, and that can help the physically challenge and suit their daily needs. We have to adapt technologies that can allow these categories of end users apply the technology to suit their situation and for their diurnal needs.´

These technologies can create a ´Middle Path´where all of us can work through devoid of our physical conditions and circumstances. In taking them through that path, and through that journey, we are taking away from them their physical disabilities and through technology and interaction, they will feel a sense of normalcy, online community support, through networking, sharing and communicating.


If Carlos Slim could have come closer, I could have whispered in his ears, the words, ´´We innovate´.







Andrew Benson Greene
ITU Digital World Fellow 2011 (WINNER)
Jeane Sauve Scholar - McGill university Canada 2004.
Founder at bGifted Foundation

http://youtu.be/AQzaM_jUBrI

4 comments:

Christina Stewart said...

An incredible innovative project, going beyond our limitations.
"what can we give to LIFE ?"
What can we give to life, beyond our limitations.
I trust and know, your innovative project will facilitate the genius to communicate,share and contribute to this world.
In admiration
Christina Stewart

BGifted -Benson Greene International Foundation Towards Enhancing Development said...

Thanks a lot Chris for your inspiring comments that motivates me to do more

BGifted -Benson Greene International Foundation Towards Enhancing Development said...

Thanks a lot Chris for your inspiring comments that motivates me to do more

BGifted -Benson Greene International Foundation Towards Enhancing Development said...

Thanks a lot Chris for your inspiring comments that motivates me to do more