Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
In the original truck used by Padre Alberto Hurtado, the founder of Hogar de Cristo, with (left to right) Father Moreira, myself, Susana Tonda, Gerardo Villalpando, Marcelo Bahamonde
Today I had the opportunity to get out and visit some of our partners in Chile. We started about 50 kilometers south of Santiago is the small town of Paine and the community of Pintue. A massive earthquake here in this rural setting last February wrought terrible destruction. Almost half of all the structures were destroyed. As with any earthquake there was little pattern to the destruction, homes fully upright are interspersed with empty lots - the rubble has all been cleared. The school is still standing but the police station next door was completely destroyed. Between the two is a bright red container which is part of the ChileConect@Chile project undertaken by Fundacion de Vida Rural as part of their effort to bring connectivity to the affected communities following the earthquake. This organization has been setting up community technology centers in rural communities across Chile with Microsoft support since 2003.
Our visit started at the school in their computer lab where I spoke to the teacher and students. They are using the lab for learning but with limited connectivity they have to go next door to the 'container' if they need an internet connection. This is because of signal strength as the school is just a few meters too far from the antenna across the road. The students are all using the center for their homework and other activities.
When I was there the center was fully occupied with kids, women and men using the computers to look up all sorts of information and resources such as online government services. I had the opportunity to speak with a number of people in the center and I think two of their stories are a great illustration of how the center is being used.
Consuelo, a young woman who spoke English amazingly well - she taught herself - was searching the web to find information on bullying which she felt was on the rise in her community. She was very excited to talk with us and share her story. She is an aspiring writer and has written on her own challenging life experiences despite her young age. Rebecca is a middle aged lady who makes artisan soap from natural vegetables and oils and sells them in the local market. She is looking to expand her business and wants to sell her soap on-line and in shops Santiago. She was searching for information and also looking for government loans to help her business grow. She was applying for a small loan program via the internet.
In front of the ChileConect@Chile container center in Pintue, Chile, with Consuelo
The local police chief whose staff also uses the center for online training online summed up the impact of the ChileConect@Chile center as "this center has made us more cultural". What he meant was that after the earthquake this center gives them hope that with information they can rebuild their lives one meter at a time.
Our next stop was at Hogar de Christo, a major foundation that provides a comprehensive set of services to the most vulnerable in the country. They have programs across the country providing early education, elderly services to the homeless, hospice services to the mentally and physically disabled and microloans and entrepreneurial training. Started by the Jesuit priest Alberto Hurtadoin the 1940s the organization serves more than 70,000 people directly.
What makes Hogar de Christo unique is that they have integrated IT into all of their services so that they can serve the most vulnerable in society in the most effective way. As I stated in my previous blog their IT Director Marcelo Bahamonde has deployed Dynamics CRM to increase their effectiveness. He told me that nonprofits are great at getting their hands dirty and serving the community and must become equally proficient in using technology to support that work. There is just no way around this.
As we walked around the complex and visited with people being supported by Hogar de Christo the dignity, compassion and empathy of the care-givers became clear to me. I have never been received with such joy.
It was indeed a heartwarming visit. On my ride back to the airport - where I am now writing this blog - I kept thinking how just a few meters separate us from fully living our lives or being subjected to eternal struggle. How do we bridge this gap? Nonprofits try their best to do so. But it's up to all of us. We must support and partners with nonprofits, and bring our skills and resources to bear so we can all help make the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society more bearable, and hopefully more joyful. What I saw and experienced is that if applied with a human touch, technology can make a major difference and does become the bridge.
For more information check out the news published on Paine's municipal Website (in Spanish).
I am spending three days this week in and around Santiago, Chile, at the foot of the Andes with a packed schedule of meetings and events. I must say that while the wine and food are fantastic (recommendation: come to Chile on a wine tour as soon as you can), what I am really impressed with is the ongoing partnerships we have with a number of organizations in Chile, the Latin America region and globally.
This video gives more detail about what I am doing here this week.
Yesterday, we held a roundtable with our NGO partners from across Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. Last time we had a similar meeting was in Cartagena over two years ago, so it was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues to hear what is happening in the programs they are implementing in places ranging from the most remote rural regions, to urban slums, to disaster zones.
As you might expect, we wanted to hear about how they are using technology to strengthen their organizations and achieve their missions more efficiently and effectively. I must say that I am deeply impressed and very optimistic that a new era of innovation in the NGO world is upon us. Social media serves as one example - these NGOs are using social media tools to track program impacts, reach out to new stakeholder groups and plan events. We learned about a wide range of great examples:
There's incredible optimism.
I am also meeting with several of our local NGOs independently. Our partnership with Fundacion de Vida Rural is really a great example. We met with a colleague from Vida Rural, along with other members of the partnership Entel (a local telecomm) and Olidata (a local computer manufacturer) to review the Chile Conect@Chile project. This effort has actually been in place since 2003, but the value of our long-term partnership became immediately clear on February 27th last year.
Within days of the devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake, Chile Conect@Chile delivered the first mobile Community Technology Center in the disaster zone. Since then, 16 other centers have been delivered, with three more on the way. These centers provide a vital link in the impacted communities, helping residents find lost friends and family, stay in communication, access public resources available to them, and perhaps most importantly complete skills training to help them find jobs when their former jobs have disappeared (literally, in some cases). Tomorrow, we will make a site visit to one of these communities, so stay tuned on that front.
Finally, I am attending the 3rd Global Telecentre Forum, being held at the impressive Gabriela Mistral Center in Santiago. Telecentre.org represents a group of people committed to bringing technology to underserved individuals around the world. There has been much debate about the role of community technology centers (telecenters) in the face of rapidly advancing internet connectivity even in the poorest and most remote areas of the world. I think this video created by the Telecentre Europe team tells a compelling story, highlighting that as societies we simply cannot afford to exclude people from the digital revolution, from both the social and economic perspective. The conference theme is employment, productivity and empowerment - all tangible outcomes that go well beyond simply providing access to the internet. This is another area where innovation is the name of the game - in a multitude of scenarios, these organizations are creating and providing relevant services and content to individuals and communities to facilitate creation of small business, prepare people for the workforce and give people a voice in their country and in the world. Our colleagues from Egypt are here with us and the positive role of telecenters in recent events there is undeniable.
Coming to Santiago has been an eye opener in many fronts - the beauty of the environment is there for all to see but clearly this corner of the world is at the forefront of innovation especially with regards to bringing the benefits of information technology to underserved communities. From innovation through government agencies, businesses, academia and the nonprofit sector, there is vast movement. My friend and colleague Claudio Orrego who has been at the forefront of this effort in Chile and is the Vice President of ATACH, the network of telecenters in Chile, said in his opening remarks ''information technology is here to stay and we have to make the best use of for the community at large".
Over the last two days it's become apparent that there's more to life than good wine.
We all remember what we wanted to be when we grew up. In fact, I think most of us probably had different fantasy jobs as we moved through our childhood. I'll never forget a trip to the Ringling Circus when I was eight; it left me with an intense desire to pursue a career in horse vaulting. Unfortunately, as the years passed reality set in.
Last summer, Lili Cheng invited Microsoft employees to come and checkout the summer camp her team was hosting. The camp was focused around a program they were developing for kids called Kodu.
Lili is the General Manager for FUSE Labs here at Microsoft and her very smart team built this wonderful free PC application that enables kids to actually build their very own video games without any prior programming knowledge. Imagine that, without any previous coding experience, a kid can actually create their own unique digital virtual world.
I was very excited to go see this program because, as the mother of a preschooler, I am filled by thoughts of, "what will my child be when he grows up?"
When I walked into the room I was immediately struck by a couple of dozen kids - as young as 9 - sitting at desks, staring at their instructor, and hanging on his every word. They were engaged; they asked phenomenal questions of the teacher (kids as young as 9) as he walked them through the details around building games through Kodu. These kids were glued to their seats and actively using their imaginations, but most importantly... they were using logic!
I chatted with Lili while I was there and I told her how impressed I was with the whole experience, not to mention the ice cream melting in the corner of the room, but also how great it was to see older kids acting as enthusiastic tutors for the younger children.
I imagine that if you asked parents what they wish their child to be when they grow up; the majority would still say a doctor or a lawyer. But as a parent, one of the things you might want to consider is exploring programs like Kodu which not only encourages studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines but helps them to develop useful skills such as problem solving and creativity which are applicable to any profession or job.
With more than 2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2014, we need new innovators to fuel our U.S. economic competitiveness.
So now, even though I am a grown up, I would like to revisit my statement for when I grow up. I want to be Lili Cheng.
Download Microsoft Kodu Game Lab for the PC (at no cost) and learn more about the nationwide Kodu Cup competition. We're inviting students, aged nine to 17 to design, build and submit their own video games.
Editor’s Note: On this blog we often highlight how technology can be used for the greater good; This story showcases how the use of innovative technology can help everyday consumers to give back though common purchases. Let us know what you think.
Cross posted from the Microsoft Tag Blog, UNICEF Raises Funds Using Tag
Post by Abbey Wolfe, Content Manager, Microsoft Tag
What if you could help a child in need simply by scanning a Microsoft Tag at the supermarket with your mobile phone? Or provide clean water to a third-world community by snapping a Tag on your office water cooler?
When marketing-trend company PSFK released its Future of Mobile Tagging report in January, it partnered with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to challenge design agencies around the world to create innovative fund-raising campaigns using Microsoft Tag.
“We love PSFK and Microsoft Tag for bringing so much creative brainpower to our fund-raising challenges,” says Kelli Peterson, director of Corporate Partnership Development at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “Not only did we get a treasure chest of fun ideas that we’re already running with, but the concepts are smart, intuitive and easy to implement — a tribute to the Microsoft Tag technology.”
Today, PSFK and UNICEF announced that WABI-SABI Inspiration Lab’s “1x2” concept won for its simplistic, thoughtful integration of Tag and scalability.
WABI-SABI’s 1x2 campaign turns the typical “buy one, get one free” supermarket sale into a fund-raising opportunity for UNICEF, connecting people to the realities of childhood hunger and encouraging easy action using their mobile phones. Shoppers scan a Microsoft Tag on products such as milk, water, books, medicines, or clothes, and are prompted to donate the monetary equivalent of a second item to support a child in need. They’ll also be encouraged to share their activity through social networks to encourage others to donate.
PSFK also posted the top 10 concepts and asked readers and event attendees to vote for their favorite. As reported in MediaPost's coverage of the contest, the “people’s choice” was advertising agency BBH’s concept to raise women’s rights awareness through the use of Microsoft Tags on clothing.
“People can now harness the power of their mobile phones to help ‘do good’ in the world, and this creative contest brought out many compelling ways to do so,” says Marja Koopmans, general manager of marketing for Microsoft’s Startup Business Group. “We’re delighted that Tag can play an inventive role in UNICEF’s fund-raising efforts.”
What do you think of the winning concepts? Will they encourage you to donate to UNICEF programs? Let us know in the Comments below or on Tag’s Facebook or Twitter pages.
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