February 24, 2006
Two Workshops in planning (242)

I'm working on an Uplift Academy Workshop in Paris, France, Apr. 27-28, 2006, "How can we help 6 billion people help each other help themselves?"

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 02:29 PM
My interview for Pew/Internet Predictions Study (241)

I was interviewed as part of the PEW/Internet Visionaries project at the Accelerating Change 2005 conference. This is an audio recording of my interview

The group was quite technical (one measure of a civilization, according to Kurzweil, is the aggregate number of CPU cycles available to it). I was somewhat a lone wolf in mentioning love as a factor in the future of civilization.

It's a little scarry being asked to go on record for predictions, particularly early one morning before I was fully caffienated. [opening up a wormhole for folks from 2050 to come back and read what I said]: Ready or not, here are my predictions.

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 02:09 PM
February 22, 2006
Google.org announces Executive Director Larry Brilliant (240)

Google has finally made its choice for an Executive Director Larry Brilliant. This certainly looks like a good choice to me... he's has quite a track record in public health.


I am particularly interested in his background as an epidemiologist. I am intrigued by the notion of philanthropy as infectious good, spreading via the network effect. I've also long been interested in Jonas Salk's notion of Creating an Epidemic of Health. At my last workshop, David Reed gave a wonderful discussion of viral communications.

I met Sergy Brin, cofounder of Google, when I was a fellow at Stanford's Digital Visions Program. I jotted down my impression of him, "Sergy thinks about scale the way a teenager thinks about sex." The words scale or scalability seemed to come up every minute or so.

Larry's past work has been directed at large scale, strategically planned activities. This is great - for domains in which this is appropriate. We can't expect poor women to form solidarity groups to figure out a way to fight smallpox, for example.

However, there are many areas that are best addressed from the bottom up, involving a very large number of small things... I call this "getting small in a big way." This is a different model of transformation, focussing on the individual or small group.

Obviously, there is a balance between these two approaches, between Planning and Searching for solutions. The planning end of the spectrum is well represented in the world's foundations.

I would hope that Google could extend its Google Magic into the searching end of the spectrum. I'm working on a new (not ready for prime time) web site for Uplift Academy just to do this.

Congrats, Google. Let's hope you do for uplift what you did for search.

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 07:54 AM
February 15, 2006
What's working in Belize (238)

I was at a Botanical Garden in Belize last December, and asked my usual "what's working here?" question. She spoke of a 7 million Euro grant from the European Union for some community development projects, but held little hope for the money getting past the "sticky fingers" of government officials. I asked, "what else is working?" and she said that farmers were getting long term contracts from Cadbury to grow organic cacao. These provided the farmers with a steady income, and got them to stop engaging in slash and burn farming techniques.

Seems like a win-win-win situation for all concerned. Farmers get income, learn sustainable agricultural practices, Cadbury gets its profits, and chocolate lovers around the world get their chocolate.

Speaking of Chocolate, check out Chocolate Dividends being set up by Greg Wolf, my fellow fellow at Stanford's Digital Visions Program.

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 11:46 PM
February 06, 2006
Do Proprietary Publishers Kill Children in Africa? (237)

I am researching the Measles Initiative and great work of the Rotary Model in eradicating Polio globally. This seems like a fantastic opportunity to learn what works and how to do more of it. However, every time I start digging into more information, I run into proprietary journals that require that I buy a subscription to access the scientific data.

Not only does this inhibit my understanding of the situation (not being in a position to buy a subscription to every journal I run into) but it limits my ability to blog or post what I discover.

This is insanity. Why are locking up information that could potentially save the lives of children around the world? Why is research that is funded publicly or foundation money locked up behind proprietary journals?

We should be systematically *encouraging* the free distribution of this valuable information and encouraging the open discussion and debate of what's working. Academics who take grant money from public agencies should be ashamed of their decision to lock up their studies behind these closed doors.

For starters: Shame on University of Chicago:

"A special supplement of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, "Global Measles Mortality Reduction and Regional Elimination: Status Report," (Volume 187, supplement 1) is now available. Published in May 2003, this report compiles the most current scientific findings from measles research and results from measles control programs in one document."

"This report is available at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JID/journal/. (Note: a subscription to the electronic version of the Journal of Infectious Diseases is necessary to access the supplement on-line.)"

"Print copies of the supplement can be ordered starting May 15 from the University of Chicago Press by calling 1-877-705-1878 or by sending an e-mail to: subscriptions@press.uchicago.edu. "

Seems to me that this is even more reason to support the Public Library of Science.

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 10:09 AM
February 02, 2006
Kudos - Cato Unbound (235)

I just ran across Cato Unbound Internet Liberation: Alive or Dead?. I really like this format for discussion. It is great to see thoughtful, focused conversation between folks who have done a lot of thinking on a given topic.

I've often noticed that those who have the least to say talk the most. Check out any chat room or open forum. This seems to be a great way to flip this around, to giving folks who have a lot to say a chance to say it.

Kudos, Cato.

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 07:40 AM
February 01, 2006
$200 Billion Telecommunications Scandal? (234)

Bruce Kushnick is on a mission with his new book, TeleTruth:

"The case is simple: Do you have a 45 Mbps, bi-directional service to your home, paying around $40? Do you have 500+ channels and can choose any competitive service? You paid an estimated $2000 for this product even though you did not receive it and it may never be available. Do you want your money back and the companies held accountable?"

"Background: Starting in the early 1990's, the Clinton-Gore Administration had aggressive plans to create the "National Infrastructure Initiative" to rewire ALL of America with fiber optic wiring, replacing the 100 year old copper wire. The Bell companies SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and Qwest, claimed that they would step up to the plate and rewire homes, schools, libraries, government agencies, businesses and hospitals, etc. if they received financial incentives."

It seems we funded this promise, but the reality has yet to appear.

From 200 Billion Broadband Scandal:

"a powerful critique documenting the trail of broken promises and misinformation perpetrated by many broadband service providers in order to get favorable treatment, special dispensation, and competition-free access to residents across the United States."

Posted by Tom Munnecke at 07:40 AM