Category Archives: technology & society

Healthcare in Africa

Africa’s health workforce is facing a crisis. Millions within the sub-Saharan region of Africa face suffering and preventable or treatable diseases, because they are unable to obtain proper medical care from trained workers. Africa bears 1/4 of the burden of disease around the world and barely has 3% of all health workers. According to McKinsey consulting the region would require an additional 820,000 doctors and nurses to provide the population with the most basic of health services. This means that the region’s countries would have to increase the size of their health workforce by a staggering 140%

Unfortunately the resources to hire, train and sustain that level of increase is not expected in the foreseeable future, and much worse, even if the funding was to materialize, an additional 600 medical and nursing schools would be required to fill the current gap. McKinsey has estimated that it would take more than two decades to train the number of needed professionals. However McKinsey also takes a look at ways in which Africa could close its healthcare gap.

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Futures of Entertainment 2

Another event I wish I could go to, where geography becomes the defining limitation. MIT’s Convergence Culture

Consortium is hosting an event on Futures of Entertainment 2.

Futures of Entertainment 2 brings together key industry players who are shaping these new directions in our culture with academics exploring their implications.This year’s conference will consider developments in advertising, cult media, audience measurement, cultural labor, fan relations, and mobile platform development.

Hot on the list will be a discussion of how media players should be handling media convergence and consumer content creation culture.

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Arup on Second Life

Chris in SLsm.bmp

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Arup Foresight on Second Life

Chris Luebkeman, the director of Arup’s Global Foresight, will be giving a talk on Second Life on Future Challenges: Global Creative Contexts at 6 PM GMT. The SL site is made up of the STEEP categories of Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political, and a card for each area is depicted and shaded underneath a leafy canopy.

You must be an SL member to join in on the conversation, but membership is open to all.

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Only in the UK: Beers and Goodness 2.0

I am heading to the Goodness 2.0 event tonight. My friend Rob Purdie will be speaking as a project management trainer and technology consultant for social change organisations. I hope to heckle from the crowd. Is goodness reaching everyone that it needs to? Perhaps a sizing up of the audience tonight will help to clarify the answer. In my conference attending experience the audience is usually pale and male. Although women do increasingly show up at MiniCamps.

Description

How can wikis, blogs, social networks, virtual worlds and other web 2.0 tools become more than interesting technology? How might a ‘read/write web’ create new and innovative ways for organisations to work and to communicate? April’s Beers and Innovation looks at the way in which technological progress can and does lead to better work, and ultimately, we hope, a better world.

Who should attend according to Beers and Innovation:

“This session is relevant for charities, campaigning organisations, public sector bodies, creative and digital agencies, and anyone interested in how technology intersects with society.”

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My So Called Digital Life

If you could capture and store every minute of your life into bits, would you? The reality of creating a digital archive of one’s life may be arriving sooner than you think. Gordon Bell is making sure of it with a MyLifeBitsProject. The growth of digital storage capacity has reached new levels, and today a $600 (US) hard drive can hold up to one trillion bytes of data, which should be enough to hold all your e-mails,web pages, papers and books, oh and you might as well throw in your iPod tunes and up to 10 pictures a day or 3650 a year for the next 60 years.

And if current trends continue, within a decade we will be able to carry all of the above on our cell phone’s flash memory, while connecting wirelessly on our PCs. Fantastic, or scary, you be the judge. I can’t help but think about what it actually means to carry the entire arc of our lives on a flash card. Will we all spend more of our waking time reliving the nostalgic best moments in life, and deleting the ones that don’t live up to our expectations?

And while a new generation of inexpensive sensors are being created to record information about our health and physical movements, have the manufacturers actually investigated whether there is a latent consumer interest and demand for these products? While I can see the potential benefit of reading all of my body’s vitals, often times (to my parents’ disappointment) I don’t get around to reading the daily newspaper, and wonder whether this will establish itself as the multi-vitamin in my life that I forget to take every morning. Vitabits, you might say, for the well-informed and well-connected.

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LIFT 2007: social technofrenzy

Last week I attended the LIFT2007 conference in Geneva. It was a mind fulfilling experience, although I am not sure what it did to my emotional intelligence. I think it was buried under the information flow.

Speakers that I heard included:

Thursday February 8th

Florence Devouard, Chair of the board, Wikipedia

Ferran Moreno, CEO, Whisher, Wifi reloaded

Sampo Karjalainen, Habbo, Open-ended play in Habbo

Lee Bryant, Headshift, Collective Intelligence inside the enterprise

Christophe Guignard, Contemporary Space

Paola Ghillani, What kind of Humanity do we want?

Suren Erkman, Resource Optimization Ecology, Industrial Ecology

Jan Chipchase, Nokia, Literacy, Communication & design

Nathan Eagle, MIT, Fast, cheap, and out of control

Lara Srivastava, Programme Director, ITU

Julian Bleeker, Techwondo, How to live in a pervasively networked world

Ben Cerveny, The luminous bath

Adam Greenfield, Everyware

Friday February 9th:

Jaewoong Lee, CEO and founder, Daum

Panel: The New Economics of Creation

John Buckman, Founder, Magnatune

Patrick Chappatte, Cartoonist and Journalist

Zhang Ga, Artistic Director, China International New Media Arts Exhibition 2008

Rodrigo Sepulveda Schulz, vpod.tv

Panel: Facing the Digital Divide

Sugata Mitra, Professor, Newcastle University

Nathan Eagle, MIT

Pukul Rana, Communications Officer, British Council

Lara Srivastava, Senior Policy Analyst, ITU

Panel: User/Citizen-Centred Society

Robert Scoble, VP. Podtech

Beth Krasna

Brian Cox, Cern, The Big Bang

Daniel Kaplan, Wrap-Up

I am still trying to wrap my head around the major highlights, and I think it would help me to work my way backwards and start with Daniel Kaplan’s very own wrap-up of the two days.

His themes included:

Technologies of Disorder

Assertive Technologies

Technologies of Identity

Transparency

Fluid/Organic World

Self-Organizing, Self-Solving

Power Borders Conflicts

Fun Deception

Handles on the future

It is interesting to see these themes, because personally they strike me as very Western world. The Digital Divide does not seem to get captured here, unless you want to include it under power border conflicts or assertive techologies. In some ways ubiquitous technolgy is now such a strong presence that we have gone the extra step of internalizing the technology. We no longer just wear our technology, we actually perform it and behave it. And our cells are externalizing. Patterns of behaviour that behave unseen at the molecular level are now manifested digitally and physically on the social network level. Are we undergoing an absolute synergy? Is this osmosis as we have never seen it before?

I keep thinking of an image that Brian Cox played for us, when he was explaining Cern’s studies of the Big Bang. One planet approached another in slow motion and they literally passed through each other in opposite directions. The slow-mo actually captured the dark halo of an after effect result of the two planets crossing through each other, and I can’t help but wonder whether we are all now swimming through the luminous bath (credit to Ben Cerveny for coining the concept) of some form of dark matter.

I have thirty three pages of notes, and I am not sure how best to share what I captured. This is when I wish for a de.licio.us filter on my word doc to spot the trends and meta tag them. But one way to start is by looking at the general themes:

- shaping and harnessing collective intelligence with software

- influence of second life on first life

- human centred design

- redefinition of environments: virtual environments and physical environments interacting

- technology vs humanity: where is the real tension

- Design as a solution to deeper societal issues: moving beyond communication to solve cognitive and educational gaps

- long tailing it: the rise of alternative channels and businesses on the Internet

- hyrbids: ubiquitous computing goes mainstream: the collapse of borders: humantechnologyhumantechnology

- false assumptions: we are so Interneted out, that we confuse ubiquity with actual knowledge and understanding how to use the tools

any questions?

me too.

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reaching kids with CGI

I had the pleasure of seeing Happy Feet on Imax yesterday afternoon (the movie trailer can also be found on MySpace). I had to convince my friend Rob, but I think my childish tugs at his arm finally persuaded him, and we joined the throngs of children and obliging parents. Let it be known, that if someone needs me to take their children to see an animation, I am very happy to do the job. I can’t believe the high quality of computer generated imagery. The snow, the looming ice floats, and the turbulent ocean in motion looked fantastically realistic. I was pleased to see the producer trying to reach a younger target (Inconvenient Truth was better for the adults) regarding the threats of climate change and human expansion.

While the cynics among us would like to think that children are only interested in the latest Nintendo playstation, at tail end of the movie I did notice a few young ones on the stairwell tapping their feet echoing the happy moves of Mumble the penguin.

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Social and Human Ideas for Technology in Lisbon

Live Notes from the SHIFT conference in Lisbon:

Quick. Before my computer goes down. As usual FB is facing a lot of challenges, or making challenges of many things. In the ongoing battle between the sexy Mac and the old fashioned PC, it appears to be easier for macs to go online at this conference. The majority in attendance are from the Portuguese community, but the Bay area is being represented by Yahoo’s Design team and Adaptive Path is also here from the US. Popular tech guru Stowe Boyd is speaking today, and I am looking forward to finally hearing him in person. JK is always telling me what an interesting speaker he is and his topic reminded me faintly of good old M McLuhan: “We shape technology, technology shapes us”.

For now some quick recaps. The hot conference topics from this society and technology conference are:

- Augmentation: Human IQ, Ubiquitous computing, consumer experience

- Design: experience, systems “the system is the product”, problem solving, key differentiator

As I tried to make my way back to the small hotel where I am staying located in the Alto Bairro – Old Town – I lost my way. The taxis always drop me off at the edge as they can’t enter the cobbled streets. Eventually a kind couple pointed me in the right direction, although the fellow seemed surprised that I was staying at Anjo Azul – the Blue Angel – at first he would not explain his confusion but finally he disclosed that apparently it is very popular among male travellers. Eventually after a few more wrong turns I found myself there and finally melted in bed. I had wakened at 2 AM to catch the 3:30 am train to Gatwick for my 6: 25 flight, where security seemed to enjoy their job too much as a woman physically checked me and then removed my lip gloss, which apparently could have undermined and been a threat to Gatwick Airport. I never realized what a threat female cosmetics could be. They also announced that we were only allowed one carry-on item and for women the purse was considered as such. This meant that if you are a nerd like me and carry a purse and a computer bag overloaded with your clothing, you had to make a choice, your purse with wallet or your computer. I would say that is a little unfairly weighted against women, but maybe that is just me. A warning to all women travelling thru Gatwick put your wallet in your computer bag and leave the purse at home, or stuffed and empty in your checked-in bag. And a warning to all other travellers, going through Gatwick is about as fun as going looking for four leaf clovers.

Luke Wroblewski’s presentation on the Shifting Role in Design.

Kevin Cheng’s OK/Cancel comic strip on user interface.

And to download Peter Me’s presentation on “Stop Designing Products” go to September 29th on his blog.

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Media and Politics

I just read an interview with Roberto Civita the chairman and CEO of The Abril Group, one of Latin America’s largest and most influential communications companies. The Sao-Paulo-based company publishes close to 100 magazines, including its flagship Veja, the fourth largest news weekly. But what fascinated me was the alignment of his publication Veja to the unveiling of political corruption. Political corruption is most definitely a theme in South America, and not because it is the only continent where corruption occurs, but it is more of a preocupation there than it is even in North America. Where we focus on corporate corruption, it is interesting to note the south’s focus on political corruption. Is this tied to our respective histories? Does it have to do with North America and the Western world’s obsession with growth and capitalism? Perhaps too simplistic.

What fascinates me is that while the interviewer from Wharton tries to get Civita to comment on the decline of print circulation, the CEO seems hardly concerned with print or ink vs electronic. He is more concerned with the development of the people and children of Brazil as a sustainable developed country vs business or economy. He would rather that the 97% of children enrolled in school are reading something from whichever format and preparing themselves as active citizens, as opposed to not reading at all. It is a rather refreshing response to the ongoing debate between old media vs new media. Maybe we to the North should be taking notes. Should we not be focusing on the development of our people rather than the sales of our publications? Is growth of business really the only motivator?

Civita also points that the sales of magazines have not declined. If you take a look at the number of magazines that now grace most newspaper and magazine stands, you would have to say magazines have proliferated. Between design, home decor, organic and lifestyle, I feel that the proliferation of magazine print has steadily increased. Whether people are actually picking up and reading the new assortment, I cannot say. But this seems to be a category of print that we are neglecting. And the last time I checked these specialized magazines had advertising. The advertising however is much more targeted for the unique readership expected to read the specialized magazine.

Image courtesy of flickr

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