30 April 2009
The US needs a Secretary of Development of equal rank to Secretaries of Defense and State (and, btw, Commerce and Homeland Security and Treasury and Labor, etc). Thanks to Nancy Birdsall from the Center for Global Development for spotlighting the basic issues in her piece After 100 Days, What about Development? If the Three D’s -- the three-legged foreign policy stool of Defense, Diplomacy, and Development -- are to be truly enabled as independently effective voices for Smart Power, then the chief of USAID + PEPFAR + MCC needs to be equally and properly empowered by Secretarial rank and all that that entails. This is the change we all need.
Congratulations to MIT Sloan alumna Robin Chase for being named a 2009 Time 100 Builder & Titan! The salute is written by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark who notes...
"The culture of the internet, at its best, involves people working together to make life better. Sometimes called cooperative capitalism or social entrepreneurship, it is practiced every day by millions of individuals and a small but growing number of for-profit companies. [...] Robin's work [founding Zipcar carshare and GoLoco rideshare] illustrates what's best about people using the Internet: not well-intentioned yet futile do-goodism but business that's also a community service. It's about people using the Internet to work together in the service of one another."Great stuff. We need many more such shared solutions!
29 April 2009
On Tuesday May 5th Ramji Raghavan, founder of Agastya International Foundation is visiting MIT. Ramji provides creative, hands-on education to poor children and teachers -- education that's quite distinct from the dominant theoretical, rote-based learning -- and is instead hands-on science which sparks curiosity and engages children in creative thinking and inquiry. In addition to working with a wide net of scientists and engineers on learning modules, they have a mobile Science Lab that they take around to schools...
28 April 2009
Great to read piece by Tony Fitzpatrick at Washington University (WUSTL) on Ultrasound imaging now possible with a smartphone...
"William D. Richard, Ph.D., WUSTL associate professor of computer science and engineering, and David Zar, research associate in computer science and engineering, have made commercial USB ultrasound probes compatible with Microsoft Windows mobile-based smartphones."This is great because it's one more specific example of mobile smartphones as a platform for plugging in peripherals to enable a whole host of applications, something several of our students in our MIT seminars MAS.964 Imaging Ventures and NextLab II are also pursuing. This is an everywhere technology useful worldwide...
"Twenty-first century medicine is defined by medical imaging," said Zar. "Yet 70 percent of the world's population has no access to medical imaging. It's hard to take an MRI or CT scanner to a rural community without power." Richard and Zar have discussed a potential collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about integrating their probe-smartphone concept into a suite of field trials for medical applications in developing countries. "We're at the point of wanting to leverage what we've done with this technology and find as many applications as possible," Richard said."Smart!
27 April 2009
One of my earliest conversations about international development with my MIT alumna friend Julianne Zimmerman concerned her avid support for Heifer International. Heifer gifts livestock and plants and education about sustainable agriculture to underserved families around the world. Founded by midwestern farmer Dan West, Heifer has helped millions grow their way out of poverty. As Julianne emphasized to me...
"The great thing about their model is that they don't just give out the livestock, they also educate the recipients on animal husbandry, kitchen gardening, and in some cases general nutrition. They further require that the recipients extend the benefit by giving one or more animal offspring to other families in need, and sharing their newly acquired knowledge. So one gift multiplies and expands to lift many households."Fantastic!
26 April 2009
Very interesting to visit the Global Development Matters campaign and some of their compelling video snippets, including this one on leveling the playing field for farmers in developing countries by rethinking and adjusting the troubling subsidies paid to Western agribusinesses...
25 April 2009
Thanks to Paul at GeekPress for pointing me to the New Yorker article by Margaret Talbot about the Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs. This is a good survey piece of the phenomenon, the social circumstances for users, the ethical implications and emergent legal crackdown, the competitive context and business dimensions, and more.
24 April 2009
Creative MIT students and friends have decided to livecast their Build Party at MITERS, the exploratory research society! Stay tuned for more live broadcasts from this epicenter of student inventiveness!
Today's MIT Sustainability Summit is about exploring the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to a more sustainable world. A compelling mix of speakers and panels discussing the different dimensions of sustainability, including issues of poverty alleviation, clean and secure energy, urban renewal and regeneration, balancing eco-nomics with eco-logics, measuring success, the role of technological and organizational innovations, the role of design, and building capacity generally.
23 April 2009
22 April 2009
Excellent to have Justin.tv co-founder Kyle Vogt speak about his experiences in our MIT Imaging Ventures class (which is all about the commercial and cultural opportunities enabled by cameras, displays, and visual computing innovations). Kyle left MIT in late 2006 to start Justin.tv, which originally focused on the idea of Lifecasting via 24/7 head-mounted live cameras. Over the last couple of years, they have made Lifecasting a new form of pop-culture, and built a platform for anyone to do it. Millions are using their technology, and it has had some very interesting psychological and social effects on both the broadcasters and their viewers. This is a fantastically interesting new phenomenon with a wide-open future with regard to mobile devices. They are now...
...the largest online community for people to broadcast, watch and interact around live video. With more than 41 million unique visitors per month and 428,000 channels broadcasting live video, Justin.tv is the leading live video site on the Web, enabling users to create real-time connections with others around the world.Check it out. P.S. Uber props to MIT's pervasively essential Anne Hunter for both linking Kyle with his co-founders and for connecting him with Ramesh Raskar and me! Plus interesting historical tidbits: Kyle worked for iRobot before starting as MIT Freshman and worked for Brontes before founding Justin.tv!
21 April 2009
Driven by both Carrot & Stick, we as humanity need to go -- and I personally want to go -- Beyond Our Cradle to seek the planets and the stars! The Carrot are all the amazing discoveries yet to be made and the glorious prospect of exploring vistas such as these recently shared in The Big Picture on Cassini's Continued Mission... The Stick is what Professor Stephen Hawking describes as the urgent need for us to execute our ultimate back-up plan, getting off-planet to minimize the chances of cataclysmic civilization-loss, noting...
"We must colonize space in order to survive..."
20 April 2009
I was just getting my weekly dose of Classic Trek when what should flash by on screen... Was that the MIT Great Dome?! In an episode called Bread & Circuses about a decadent 20th Century Roman Empire with slaves, gladiators, TV, and machine guns... and MIT? Yes, indeed!-)
Writing about Mercy Ships got me thinking again about floating power plants and that in turn got me thinking about other urgent solutions which can be deployed relatively rapidly -- and moved easily. Last summer at MIT's IDDS, Jock Brandis proposed a containerized Jatropha-to-biodiesel plantoleum processing facility. It turns out a quickie search shows several players making such turnkey systems. But the idea of containerized infrastructure extends to many things:
See Paul Collier of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford at TED on providing Credible Hope to the bottom billion people in Earth's poorest countries. Collier draws from the historical precedence of the US investing in post-WWII Europe. As I've written about before in Paul Collier on How to Tackle Africa's Challenges, he spotlights four pillars of Aid, Trade, Security, and Governance and especially focuses on strengthening governance, mutual systems of support. He's optimistic because of the commodity boom which -- even with global economic downturn -- still flows an enormous amount of money into developing countries. But how can this money be maximally effective? He wants international standards to stick with in order to harness resource boom in a way that's transparent, verified, and beneficial to the people. Persuasive stuff. As one wag put it...
"Collier is not charismatic, but his arguments are compelling."
19 April 2009
Reading about Sierra Leone infrastructure and Mercy Ships got me thinking about the West African region generally, ports and cities especially, and wondering about their growth. So it's very timely that Journeyman has published this Lost Freetown video by Bright Star about the tremendous in-migration to the city, the downstream slums, and the deforestation upstream. In short, it's unplanned and unsustainable. Viable Better Pathways are urgently needed...
I just read A taste of Sierra Leone: A student report posted on the MIT Global Health Initiative blog by my colleague Anjali Sastry. Anusuya Das shared class-field experiences observing the fragmented and undercapitalized Sierra Leone hospital and care infrastructure. This got me thinking about how to uplift such infrastructure rapidly and effectively and with enduring consequences. Partly this is a larger challenge of accelerating development in exponential increments over time. But we need transitional solutions now. So in the case of healthcare, perhaps a greater role for hospital ships? I remembered that post Indian Ocean tsunami and post-Katrina, there were stories about US Navy hospital ships. Sure enough, the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort. But it also turns out there's a wonderful organization called Mercy Ships which runs the largest non-governmental hospital ship, the M/V Africa Mercy which after visiting Liberia is now in Benin. What a great idea! To get an informal day-to-day sense of the inspirational work by the doctors, nurses, crew, and staff, check out Mercy Ship Adventure by South African Murray Tristan Crawford or Love for Liberia by American Katie O'Hara!
18 April 2009
I'm happy to be reminded yesterday of a very interesting MIT-spinoff company MagneMotion which makes modular, scalable Linear Synchronous Motors (LSM) for uses ranging from mass transit, factory flow, elevators, and more. They get rid of the need for chain & belt, hydraulic actuators, screws & gears and other mechanical failure modes and so is along a macro-trendline I find fascinating -- i.e. ever more things going towards digital, solid-state, electromechanical and scalable-modular and away from analog, fluidic, etc. They give a summary technical overview. And here's just one video example of their demo material handling system. Note the lack of rollers and the incredibly zippy interleaving of the packets...
17 April 2009
Right, I too agree Susan Boyle's epic performance in that UK talent contest is worth saluting as authenticity incarnate! Seemingly unlikely but totally delightful! Or in any case, bloody good acting.
Two related recent themes: Urban Farmscrapers and Robogardeners! Columbia Professor Dickson Despommier advances the concept of vertical farming -- large-scale urban agriculture via specialty greenscrapers known as farmscrapers... MIT Professor Daniela Rus and students are seeking to perfect Precision Agriculture: Sustainable Farming in the Age of Robotics...
Thanks to MIT Media Lab colleague Vinay Gidwaney for pointing out Anand Agarawala's BumpTop, an intuitive 3D desktop that's more like being puppetmaster on a stage in a theater with your files and photos as props and sets and actors, all movable and arrangeable. Check out Agarawala's killer TED talk... And a more general BumpTop promo video...
16 April 2009
15 April 2009
In breaking news, the BBC reveals that Man bites snake in epic struggle...
"The serpent seized farm worker Ben Nyaumbe in the Malindi area of Kenya's Indian Ocean coast at the weekend. Mr Nyaumbe bit the snake on the tip of the tail during the exhausting battle in the village of Sabaki. Police rescued Mr Nyaumbe and captured the 13ft (4m) reptile, before taking it to a sanctuary, but it later escaped. The victim told police he managed to reach his mobile phone from his pocket to raise the alarm when the python momentarily eased its grip after hauling him up a tree on Saturday evening. [...] The police officer said they took the snake to a sanctuary in Malindi town but it escaped overnight, probably from a gap under the door in the room where it was kept."The punch line...
"We are still seriously looking for the snake," said Supt Katam. "We want to arrest the snake because any one of us could fall a victim." ;-)
14 April 2009
Excellent to see that the MIT Sloan Business in Gaming (BiG) Conference is dialing up for delivery on May 8th, 2009. All about the future of Gaming, a multi-billion US$ economic sector with long MIT roots, including...
- First Computer Game in MIT Lab
- First Video Game in MIT spinoff company
- Creators of games such as Ms Pacman and more
- Alum Founders of Looking Glass, MaK, Turbine, Harmonix, etc
- Professor Jay Forrester's Urban Dynamics model is behind Will Wright's SimCity
- Creators of first Management Flight Simulators like Beer Game and People's Express
Very interesting to read of Damietta, a strikingly prosperous Egyptian port city in the Nile Delta with an especially booming woodworking sector, in today's BBC article by Christian Fraser titled Egypt town boasts 'zero unemployment'. Says Fraser...
"Their success is remarkable and they cannot help boasting it is all down to this town's work ethic -- something the company's sales director Hani Hayat believes his compatriots would do well to emulate. "We have worked all our lives, since we were children," said Mr Hayat. "I used to come home from school at lunchtime to work in my father's shop. In this town we are taught not to waste our time."This is a great example of an entrepreneurial Industry Cluster, one which other cities in Egypt and other regions could draw useful lessons from and perhaps seek to emulate.
13 April 2009
I had seen a couple TED talks on emerging prospects in Africa -- and indeed, posted some, including talks by Euvin Naidoo and Eleni Gabre-Madhin -- but after a recent revisit, I realized there's more gold in that vein! Starting with journalist Andrew Mwenda, who spoke on taking a new look at African aid, with a focus on creating wealth and happiness throughout the region. He describes his talk "like a mini-skirt: short enough to arouse interest, long enough to cover the subject";-)
And second, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister of Nigeria who summarized and shared personal story of commitment...
And second, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister of Nigeria who summarized and shared personal story of commitment...
12 April 2009
Thanks to MIT colleague Anjali Sastry for pointing out Charlie Rose's interview of Dambisa Moyo. Moyo's the author of Dead Aid which argues that the more than $1 trillion in development-related aid transferred from rich countries to Africa over the past 5 decades has not worked and that there's a better way going forward...
"...drawing a sharp contrast between African countries that have rejected the aid route and prospered and others that have become aid-dependent and seen poverty increase, Moyo illuminates the way in which overreliance on aid has trapped developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid. Debunking the current model of international aid promoted by both Hollywood celebrities and policy makers, Moyo offers a bold new road map for financing development of the world’s poorest countries that guarantees economic growth and a significant decline in poverty -- without reliance on foreign aid or aid-related assistance."Rose interviewed Moyo and then Acumen's Jacqueline Novogratz... Be sure also to read Moyo's piece in the WSJournal Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa.
11 April 2009
A texting entrepreneur embodies spirit of a new Rwanda writes Matthew Clark in the CSMonitor about Jeff Gasana's regional cellphone-banking aspirations in East Africa for his Rwandan mobile services company SMS Media...
"...the past few years have seen remarkable economic progress -- skyrocketing Rwanda from a regional backwater to a can-do hub for technology and trade. Now, Rwanda's butter-smooth roads are the envy of Africa, investors are pouring money in, and modern glass office buildings line the hills of the capital, Kigali, helping the country earn its status as the "Singapore of Africa."As Clark and other CSMonitor pieces about 15 Years After Genocide note, there are still deep-seated challenges in Rwanda, but the promise and progress of recent years is tremendous. Also, be sure to check out the in-depth Fast Company Special Report Rwanda Rising: A New Model of Economic Development by Jeff Chu.
09 April 2009
Fascinating video opinion piece in the NYTimes by Lance Izumi on Sweden's Choice looking at the voucher-based competition between schools for kids to educate and parents to choose. Here's yet another situation where a nominally "socialist" country is far more entrepreneurial and liberty-oriented than US...
It was excellent to have MIT IDEAS Competition leader Nick Fontaine on my MaximizingProgress.tv show (f.k.a. HighTechFever) where he shared some of the exciting things afoot. The students have deadlines next week and then everyone can see the range of ideas at the Awards Ceremony on May 4th, 2009. Over the eight years of the IDEAS Competition, there have been hundreds of entries and dozens of projects and people who have gone on to make their ideas real, including XoutTB, InnovatorsInHealth, Ghonsla, AssuredLabor, Aerovax, CellBazaar, and more! Two of last year's IDEAS winners -- SHE Sustainable Health Enterprises & OneEarthDesigns / SolSource -- are this year Semifinalists in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition D-Track, which is also fantastic progress!
07 April 2009
Thanks to John Ellis for pointing out Micro-Billing, Byte by Byte, Suits the World of Cellphones article by Matt Richtel and Bob Tedeschi. Why is it that...
"Consumers are using their mobile phones to download tens of millions of games, songs, ring tones and video programs. And they shell out money for these items, even as they resist paying for similar digital goodies online using their computers. It is a curious equation: pay for stuff on a tiny, low-resolution screen while getting some of the very same games and video free on a fancy widescreen monitor. [...] the phone industry has had a micropayment system for decades. Ever since the local telephone company charged a customer an extra 35 cents to hear a recorded weather forecast, the phone industry has been charging for content. Couple that pervasive billing culture with the ability of consumers to get what they want, whenever and wherever they want it (playing Tetris while waiting in line at Starbucks, for example) and you have a powerful alchemy."But why? Read the article...
06 April 2009
It was wonderful to see IIM Professor Anil K Gupta speaking today at the MIT Media Lab on the theme of Grassroots Innovation and how he and colleagues are empowering such innovators and spreading their ideas via the Honey Bee Network! I first met Dr Gupta back in the Development by Design conference in 2001 organized by Nitin Sawhney and colleagues at the Media Lab. The Honey Bee Network just continues to grow and is increasingly becoming mobiles-powered, thus engaging some of the 80-100 Million new phone users per year in India alone!
05 April 2009
Dictatorial communist Chinese-puppet rogue state North Korea's unwelcome launch of a ballistic missile -- er, a "scientific exploration rocket" -- has put a spotlight on nuclear weaponry generally. And thankfully, US President Obama is keen to eliminate them altogether. Good riddance, I say, since they -- and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction -- are Fundamentally Immoral armaments. The indiscriminant killing of random humans is neither self-defense nor wise offense under any circumstance. And by this I deliberately lump together Bin Laden's butchery on 9/11 with American anihilation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were neither necessary nor rationalizable. In the WWII case, the Allies -- knowing they had atomic explosives -- could have waited and even demonstrated their power in a way non-lethal to innocent civilians. And "innocent" is the key word. The average Japanese was no more responsible for Tojo's authoritarian terrors than the average German was for Hitler's hypocrisy or the average Russian was for Stalin's mass slaughter. As I pointed out after hearing of Tsutomu Yamaguchi who was Nuked Twice (as were two others; see TimesOnline Asia Exile for more info), what we need now are rather Tools of Mass Construction!
04 April 2009
03 April 2009
Since I was helping with organizing the 2009 International Development Night over at the MIT Museum (check out photos!) -- our fourth since I started these IDNights back in 2005 with Fleming Ray and Michael Brown and Beryl Rosenthal! -- I missed the IDC Keynote address by John Wood, founder of Room to Read. Thankfully the Harvard-MIT COOP was not only a generous financial sponsor of the IDNight but they also were selling books connected to the conference, so I decided to buy Wood's book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World and read it afterwards. Fantastic stuff! His saga of starting and growing a global kids-focused education-oriented social enterprise was alone interesting, but I especially liked his tips, including these:
- Think Big -- Boldness is a self-fulfilling prophecy and incremental solutions don't solve the immense problems facing the world;
- Share Results -- Quantify, constantly update, and widely share your impact;
- Seek Passionate & Prepared Talent -- Hire only the most motivated people who immerse themselves in everything relevant to the organization and mission;
- Ask For the Order -- Spontaneous commitments to pay or donate are rare (although delightful) so ask for support (and don't settle for "No" as an answer;-);
- Organizations Scale, Individuals Don't -- To have a shot at achieving impact at scale, attract talent and build an organization that can grow beyond your personal capacity;
02 April 2009
Join us at the Fourth Annual International Development Night 2009 @ the MIT Museum this Friday, April 3rd from 5:30-7:30pm! This fascinating expo and reception features the latest Prosperity Innovations coming out of MIT. These events are in conjunction with the International Development Conference at Harvard.
01 April 2009
Join me in reveling in the EPIC saga of humanity's global dynamics and tremendous progress in health and wealth over the past two centuries as shown here by Gapminder über dataguru Hans Rosling... Still more work to be done before we have a First World, Worldwide.