The Silicon Valley Challenge Summit: Sharing Technological Innovation for Global Benefit

Santa Clara University Center for Science, Technology and Society, November 16, 2006

Sylvia Caras, PhD

I left home at 6:30 and as I drove onto the access ramp I saw lots of brake lights. There had been an accident, both lanes were blocked, I waited half an hour as four lanes merged to one and passed the accident scene. But then, all the rest of the 40 mile trip, because that one lane had then expanded to two, we all just drove smoothly along at 60 miles an hour, no commute traffic at all.

275 well-dressed middle-class ethnically diverse men and women are seated in a comfortable cold auditorium eager for the day. I see no visible disabilities. I feel very excited to be here, noting how many things in my life have come together and how much I enjoy being with techies.

A message from Kofi Annan was read challenging Silicon valley to make the benefits of the information age available to all humanity by 2015.

People are held back by inadequate infrastructure.

Craig Barrett , the first chair of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, (education, health, entrepreneurship, and e-governance; work program coordinated by the World Bank) also appeals to Silicon Valley for participation. Accessibility, connectivity (broadband, WiMax), content, education (start with the teachers).

Sarbuland Khan, Executive Coordinator, GAID, emphasized market driven solutions, but noted that endemic poverty defies the market, that better business practices are needed, more socially oriented. He said we must simplify projects and adapt to local conditions. The conference sponsor RiOS is also working with UN.

Here they are talking about catalytic communities. In Athens the new words were dynamic coalitions. Both terms suggest to me motion, change, fluidity.

scale keeps getting mention - from story to structure

(But I wondering if maybe it isn`t necessary that the project itself scale but rather that the belief that the problem can be solved propagates. Sylvia)

Coleman, Chair, Silicon Valley Leadership Group: UN must lead this; there is a shift towards protection; free trade is a driver of globalization, how scale up what we already have (instead of so much focus on new), content is inherently local. (He didn’t mention intellectual property rights, not sure where he would put that or other knowledge-related rights. Sylvia)

Fruchterman, Benetech Initiative, reading machines for the blind, applying technology to human rights, technology is the ultimate leveler, allowing disadvantaged people to achieve more equality in society, technologists like solving problems, not every problem needs a business as a solution, there are also social entrepreneurs, there are no defective customers

collective intelligence

create social value while breaking even financially, how measure social return on investment (instead of economic value). (I think this must be anecdotal, story. Sylvia)

replicable, scale, close down things that aren`t working (they used the term "killing" projects, enterprises that weren’t producing)

specialization, winner-take-all is the survival strategy in a heavily networked society - Wal-Mart, Microsoft, ...

projects have a beginning and an end/goal, and then engineer a solution; Silicon Valley has a culture of engineering

clearinghouse so as to not reinvent the wheel (I`m not sure that all that is still a good idea; there is a value in bottom-up we-did-it-ourselves. Sylvia)

diffusion into society

centers of excellence (compared to best practices (good practices))

but there are no networks there yet

as the group exited the large auditorium for lunch, many people stepped aside to check their cell phone messages, return calls.

lunch was universally designed - at each place was a large salad - greens, olives, beans - pitcher of dressing, plate of grilled chicken breasts for the table; also rolls, pear tart, water, coffee ... all ready to go as soon as people sat down. Then wait-staff cleared promptly so that space was ready for discussion group

oral technologies

where is the value really happening?

human-driven design research looks at local practices, participatory (community involvement), local politics

community projects - start with trust, you can`t learn a community/culture in two weeks - challenges of communication

discussion of home-grown solutions, scale, reinventing the wheel, database of ideas, ...

digital diaspora

Presentation of One Laptop Per Child (Negroponte’s $100 computer). "Transparency is empowering. Open-source software gives children - and their teachers - the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, hardware, and content." I was sitting next to Lee Felsenstein (remember the Home-Brew Club? He thinks this is a bad idea, will ruin computing in the developing world.

"You can`t get anything done if you don`t have partners."

developing world wants expertise.

scale and reach

social mind

Tech Museum Awardees "empower people without collapsing personal or cultural differences" using "tools for positive social change and creating a more just and equitable world." Appropriate technologies that are characterized by affordability, as well as deployability and maintainability in the most adverse of contexts. Last-mile distribution considerations. Scaled from proof of concept to wider adoption. Deep understanding of the beneficiary markets. Technologies that enable a less skilled, less wealthy population to do things in a more convenient or accessible setting. Cooperatives as business model, market creation, licensing and partnering as scaling strategies. Non-real-time local access.

Campus School EagleEyes figured out how to connect those with tiny eye movements to a computer screen so that people with limited physical mobility can successfully use a PC.

The Perceptual Science Laboratory is engaged in a variety of experimental and theoretical inquiries in perception and cognition. A major research area concerns speech perception by ear and eye, and facial animation. We also have tested a general fuzzy logical model of perception in a variety of domains, including perception and understanding of language, memory, object, shape and depth perception, learning, and decision making. Research is also being carried out in reading.

Cognitive Support Technologies - public places where people can access computers, the Internet and other technologies