I believe that technology can benefit all of humanity,
not just the richest 10%. That we can use technology tools to solve human problems,
and raise the technology floor for everyone.
Back in college, at Caltech,
I learned how to build a “smart bomb”
that could spot a tank at a distance in the battlefield –
using pattern recognition technology –
and blow it up.
“Cool technology!” I thought.
“But how could we use it to help instead of hurt people?”
My answer was to create the first affordable reading machine for the blind. It used that same technology to recognize letters and words, opening the world of reading to people who had been without equal access to books.
at my deliberately nonprofit company in the Silicon Valley,
we’re using that same technology
to make books –
information! ideas! inspiration! –
accessible to tens of thousands of people with disabilities.
The opportunity to make a difference with technology
especially for the billions of people
at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
As Muhammad Yunus says,
”the poor have as much energy,
and as much creativity as any human beings on this planet.”
They just lack crucial information tools
to help harness that energy and creativity
to make a better life for themselves and their children.
We simply need to build the last social mile to have these existing tools meet the needs of everybody.
Cell phone technology is one tool we could be using TODAY
to raise the technology floor.
Cell phones have already reached
three out of the six billion people on the planet.
Cell phones could bring
essential health information to for prevention, and
digital textbooks to students too poor to afford print books.
The cell phone will see for those who cannot see,
listen for those who cannot hear,
speak for those who cannot speak,
remember for those who cannot remember,
translate for those who do not understand,
and guide those who are lost.
Everybody needs access to information
to be successful in education, employment, health, and social inclusion. Everybody.
Yet too many life-enhancing social applications of technology
simply don’t get produced,
because they don’t make enough money.
So I believe that when the market fails to deliver to everyone
the tools that are crucial for participation in modern life,
that basic foundation, that basic floor
we need to think beyond
the traditional for-profit business model.
Social entrepreneurship –
blending the best of BOTH business AND social action –
is the new model for technologists making change.
Fortunately, the barriers to solving social problems
are getting smaller every day.
Today’s students are drawn to these needs,
because they LOVE to solve problems, —
and the more challenging, the better.
Technology can benefit all of humanity,
Whether it’s helping to deliver better medicine,
clean water, a healthier environment,
or providing knowledge
for better education and employment,
technologists – and technology available TODAY –
can raise the floor for everyone!
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