Posted by Ray Ozzie 
Chief Software Architect

Today I had the privilege of kicking off the worldwide finals of the seventh annual Imagine Cup in Cairo, Egypt.  The event is an inspiring culmination to a six-month, global technology competition that has included more than 300,000 students from over 100 countries and regions. You can read myopening ceremony remarks here.

The Imagine Cup grows each year and is one of the most powerful demonstrations of our belief that students must have the educational foundation and access to technology required to pursue their dreams and contribute to improving the human condition.  Initiatives like the Imagine Cup give students the opportunities and confidence to experiment and explore what’s possible.

This year, the competition challenged students to develop technology solutions that address some of the toughest problems facing us today.  The energy and excitement among the students is infectious, but I’m most impressed by their unmistakable spirit of innovation and desire to make a difference.  For example:

  • The all-female Egyptian team is developing a low-cost solution for addressing air pollution in developing countries;
  • A team from India has developed a solution called Pearl to address that country’s high percentage of child and neonatal deaths among rural populations; and
  • A team from Uganda has created an innovative phone application that could help small farmers get better prices for their harvests in a country where more than 70% of the population earns less than $8 per day.

As these students are demonstrating, the great thing about software is that it’s the ultimate ‘pliable medium.’ If you can dream it and if you can imagine it, you can build it…and the students here in Cairo are doing just that.

During his recent speech here in Cairo, President Obama said that young people, more than anyone, have the ability to re-imagine and remake this world.  It’s too bad he couldn’t be in Cairo this week.  He’d be inspired to see his words being put into action by the 444 incredibly creative and passionate students who have traveled from around the globe to share their talents for utilizing technology to address some of our world’s most pressing challenges.

You can stay apprised of the competition at the Imagine Cup blog.  You might enjoy it because, if you’re like me, you’ll come away more hopeful about our future.