Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mohammad Yunus Challenge to Silicon Valley and beyond: Let's Put Poverty Into A Museum

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 13, 2008

I'm not washing my right hand for a while because I used it to shake the hand of Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and a person that I've held in the highest regard for many years.

200811130036.jpgMr Yunus gave the keynote speech at the Tech Museum's Tech Awards 2008 which gives five $50K cash prizes to people and organizations using technology to make a difference in the world. Applied Materials has been the founding sponsor for these excellent awards for the past eight years through good times and not.

I got the chance to thank Mike Splinter, the CEO of Applied Materials, for the company's stalwart support of The Tech Museum of Innovation and the Tech Awards for Humanity.

"It's really great to see the support here tonight, this event gets larger every year," said Mr Splinter.

Microsoft, Accenture, Intel, and other companies sponsored the five $50k cash awards. And the turnout was huge this year which is why the event had to be moved to the cavernous trade show space of the San Jose Convention Center.

A challenge to Silicon Valley . . .

The Tech Awards was the place to be Wednesday evening as Silicon Valley's elite gathered in black-tie and glamorous gowns to show their support.

Mr Yunus gave an inspiring speech and issued a challenge to Silicon Valley and the world, to erase poverty. "Let's put poverty into a museum so that we can take our children and show them how billions of people used to live."

Mr Yunus is one of the world's top innovators. He founded the Grameen Bank with a $27 investment. It was the first micro-loan, a novel approach to banking that has helped to pull millions of people out of poverty.

His actions and those of his organizations have helped to create a tremendous amount of value in the world. It is a story that resonates in Silicon Valley where thousands of startups hope to make a big difference in the world.

A triple A rating for the poorest of the poor

Grameen Bank has made billions of dollars in loans and 97 per cent of all loans have been repaid with interest. Grameen Bank has also made home loans averaging $300 with similar repayment rates. "We haven't had to worry about the sub prime crisis," said Mr Yunus.

The Grameen loans are made to the poorest of the poor largely in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world. It is a fitting tribute to Mr Yunus and his organizations that they recognized that poorest of the poor are a better credit risk than borrowers in the developing world where mortgage defaults have far exceed the Grameen Bank's default rate by several degrees of magnitude.

Unlocking unlimited potential

Mr Yunus believes that every person has unlimited potential. "Our work has clearly shown that the poor do not create poverty, it is the system that creates poverty."

He invited Silicon Valley to join him in erasing poverty forever and making it a part of history, putting it into a museum. He said that he was honored to be in SIlicon Valley because the technologies produced here can make a big difference in the world.

He received two standing ovations from the audience.

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Here is more info:

Global Humanitarian Recipient 2008

Dr. Muhammad Yunus For more information Global Humanitarian View 2008 Global Humanitarian Press Release

Professor Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of microcredit and founder of Grameen Bank, is the recipient of the 2008 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award. Dr. Yunus will accept this distinguished honor during The Tech Awards Gala on November 12, 2008 where he and 25 innovators from around the world will be celebrated for applying technology to solve the most urgent issues facing humanity.

"For more than three decades, Muhammad Yunus' broad vision, creativity and leadership have improved the lives of millions through innovative, micro-financing practices," said Mike Splinter, president and chief executive officer of Applied Materials. "We are pleased to honor Muhammad Yunus, whose selfless mission and ability to inspire others to take action exemplifies the spirit of The Tech Awards."

Often referred to as "the world's banker to the poor," Yunus developed a benchmark microcredit application through his Grameen Bank which allows the rural poor access to micro-loans for entrepreneurial enterprises such as purchasing livestock and procuring weaving materials. Yunus' vision of a world without poverty has been the inspiration for his life's work. Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their significant contributions in the field of microcredit.

In 1976, Yunus determined that a mere $27 loan could transform the lives of many of the poorest villagers in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Since then, under Yunus' leadership his bank has provided more than $6.8 billion in small loans to would-be entrepreneurs who conventionally would not qualify for such loans from traditional banks, the majority of whom are women in businesses such as street vending and farming. Today, Grameen Bank operates 2,499 branches in more than 81,000 villages throughout rural Bangladesh.

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2008 Prize Laureates

Intel Environment Award

Cheetah Conservation Fund
Namibia
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Accenture Economic Development Award

DESI Power: Decentralised Energy Systems India
India
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Microsoft Education Award

Digital StudyHall
Bangladesh, India
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Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award

Build Change
United States
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Fogarty Institute for Innovation Health Award

Marc Koska, Star Syringe
41 countries including Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Denmark, Myanmar, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka
Learn more about this laureate

Laureates 2008

Intel Environment Award Laureates

Accenture Economic Development Award Laureates

Microsoft Education Award Laureates

Katherine M. Swanson Award Laureates

The Health Award Laureates

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