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Ken Banks (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast

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POP!TECH [♪ POP!TECH Theme Music ♪] Brings Together The World's Leading Thinkers To Share Inspiration and Ideas Igniting Change And Unlocking Human Potential This Is Part Of Their Ongoing Conversation POP!TECH POP!CAST Good morning! So, it's been an amazing day already. Thanks to Andrew and everybody at Pop!Tech for this amazing opportunity. So far, we've had conductors, cellos, poets, and perfume. So I thought I'd like to add a bit of science fiction. Anyone know who this guy is? Hey, great, OK! So, for those that don't know, Doctor Who is a crazy eccentric English time lord who travels through time and space in a police box, telephone box, pretty crazy stuff. But Doctor Who's archenemy were these fellows. These guys used to scare me to death when I was a kid. These are Daleks. Inside there is a little squidgy alien, that drives this little thing which is on wheels he's got a little plunger thing and a little thing that zaps people, and they go around saying basically, "Exterminate! Exterminate!" They're pretty scary. These fellows were pretty much lined up to dominate and take over the entire universe. They were pretty much there. They came to Earth, but we had a secret weapon. The most advanced technology in the universe came up against this: stairs! These guys couldn't get up stairs! So people just legged it upstairs and they were safe. And the point of this is not really about Daleks, but it's about technology, however good it is, doesn't work everywhere. You know, it doesn't matter how great it is in one area, it might not work in another. The developing world is literally littered with the carcasses of dead Daleks. There are 3.5 billion mobile phones in the world today and many are in the hands of some of the poorest and marginalized members of society. The next billion, a majority of those will be sold to those people. There's a huge opportunity here to deliver really useful, relevant content to those people: health information, economic empowerment information, information about jobs, to give them voice in countries where they have no voice, to allow them to report human rights abuses. But you know, with all that going on, we have a problem. A lot of the technologies that nonprofits can use don't work in the countries where they operate. A lot of technologies, a lot of solutions, require the Internet, which is not easy to get to; requires expensive, big hardware -- not easy to get to; money -- pretty rare. So, many can't join the party. Frontline SMS is some software I developed 3 years ago which turns a laptop computer -- it can be a Mac, Linux, or a PC -- a mobile phone with a cable, into a 2-way group messaging hub. It can work anywhere there's a mobile signal. Very low barrier to entry, as you can see. The software, you put your contacts in -- it's the farmers, the nurses, whoever -- and you pump messages out through those phones, and they can reply -- crucially. Today, right now, as I stand here, the software is being used all around the world for a whole range of different things. It's being used in Afghanistan to send security alerts to field workers. It's being used in Iraq, to send news out to news agencies. It's being used in Aceh by the UN and Mercy Corps, among others, to send market prices to farmers to help increase their incomes. It was used in Nigeria early last year to monitor the Nigerian elections -- It was the first time an election has been monitored with the help of civilians. And it's been used in Pakistan. It's also being used in Malawi to drive a healthcare network for a quarter of a million people. Until yesterday, this meant empowerment. I have no idea really what it means anymore, because it means, "how wonderful!" "how amazing!" and all sorts of other things. These are Frontline SMS users around the world being empowered, and this is catching on, you know: this guy's even doing it. I mean, it's pretty amazing. I think his arms had to be winched down, there. But you know, this whole empowerment thing, it really catches on. So, Frontline SMS is free software, it's downloadable off the Web, so there's obviously a little challenge of NGOs getting to the Web, but once they have it, they do really, really cool stuff. For me, the idea is to give these people the tools they need to do the work they do. I've never monitored an election, I've never run a rural healthcare network, I've never been involved in any direct human rights work. But many NGOs are, and they're working in pretty tough places. And I think, where there's a technology like mobile around, which can help them, it's our right and our duty to actually make it work for them. To not leave them behind. The project in Malawi which I mentioned to you, the health network helping a quarter of a million people, was set up by a Stanford student in his summer holidays, with $2,000. An amazing guy called Josh Nesbit. He went to a hospital, saw the problem, wanted to do something, went there with a laptop, 100 recycled phones, and he trained them how to use it in 2 weeks and they're now running an entire rural healthcare network. That can happen anywhere. It's not difficult. It's cheap, and it's easy. For me, this software needs to get into more hands. It really, really, does. It can be hugely empowering. And I'm hoping by being here and talking to you that some of you -- hopefully some wearing those badges I've been throwing at people for the last day -- can join me on that journey. I'm Ken Banks, and I approve this message. This work is licensable under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License For details please visit POP!TECH For more Pop!Casts, information on Pop!Tech or to learn how to participate, visit

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 54 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pop!Tech
Director: Pop!Tech
Views: 94
Posted by: beth on Nov 20, 2008

Social Innovation fellow Ken Banks talks about Frontline SMS at Pop!Tech 2008

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