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

Technology In The Service Of Humanity

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 19, 2009

I'm looking forward to the black-tie event of the year for Silicon Valley: The Tech Awards - celebrating technology that helps humanity.

You can watch it live at 6.45pm this evening: The Tech Awards 2009 | NBC Bay Area

There are five categories: environment, economic development, education, equality, and health.

The prize of $50,000 cash, is a little on the stingy side in my view, but significant because the recipients are usually in the developing world. (The gala costs way more than $250,000 but it also acts as a fund raiser for the Tech Museum of Innovation.)

Also, Al Gore will be there receiving the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award.

However, these winners look far more interesting:
(From The Tech Museum Awards - Technology Benefiting Humanity | Press Room)

The Tech Awards Laureates 2009:

Intel Environment Award

Dr. Joseph Adelegan, Cows to Kilowatts (Nigeria): Slaughterhouse waste is one of the most significant sources of water pollution and greenhouse gases emissions in most developing economies. The anaerobic fixed film reactor used in the Cows to Kilowatts project decontaminates the waste stream from slaughterhouses and turns this organic waste into methane that can be used to generate electricity or as inexpensive cooking gas.http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/publications/africa_casestudies/kilowatts.pdf

GRUPEDSAC (Grupo para Promover la Educaci�n y el Desarrollo Sustentable), Eco-techniques Toolkits for Self-Sufficiency (Mexico): Poor quality of life in rural Mexico includes loss of soil fertility, lack of access to clean water, adequate shelter, nutrition, and health resources. Customizable Eco-techniques Toolkits for Self-Sufficiency combine old and new sustainable technologies-from cisterns to solar ovens-to fit the needs of each community. http://www.grupedsac.org/

Sean White, Electronic Field Guide (USA): Plant species are disappearing at an alarming rate; mobile identification and classification of plant species may aid in conservation and cataloguing. The Electronic Field Guide uses photos to identify leaves with mobile, hand-held and augmented reality visualization of information. http://herbarium.cs.columbia.edu


BD Biosciences Economic Development Award

Alternative Energy Development Corp. (AEDC), Alternative Energy for Empowerment (South Africa): Fuel cell use largely avoids the lead-acid waste of solar or wind installation batteries. Inexpensive, zinc-air fuel cells can be used in poor communities lacking access to grid power. Fuel cell anodes can be removed manually in about 15 minutes and zinc oxide waste recycled as fertilizer. www.aedc.co.za

Solar Ear (Botswana, Brazil): Standard Western hearing aids cost an average of $750, with battery costs typically $1 per week. Solar Ear, an inexpensive hearing aid, suited to local conditions and manufactured by deaf workers who train one-another, costs $100 and is paired with a solar recharging unit for the batteries. www.solarear.com.br

Driptech (India): Hundreds of millions of people in the developing world face water shortages in crop production; drip irrigation delivers precisely the right amount of water and not more. Driptech's unique laser technology drills holes in one main line, thereby reducing the number of parts and the cost of a drip irrigation system. www.driptechnologies.com


Microsoft Education Award

Akshaya Patra Foundation, School Meals Program (India):
High quality, nutrient rich meals are key to the education process in poverty stricken areas. The School Meals Program uses integrated and adapted high-performance kitchen technology and food delivery systems to serve millions of Indian children a nutritious daily meal. http://www.akshayapatra.org/

GeoGebra (International): Dynamic Mathematics for Everyone is a free, open-source software to display and practice geometry and mathematics that will help achieve rapid diffusion of information and quicker comprehension. GeoGebra created web-based, open-source software to visualize and practice geometric-based mathematics. http://www.geogebra.org/

The Khan Academy (International): High school students around the world need informal, clear explanations that can be reviewed at a leisurely pace to supplement their formal learning. The Khan Academy created hundreds of free educational videos in math, statistics, physics, and finance using drawing software. The "blackboard" style videos are accessible via the internet and hosted on YouTube.http://www.khanacademy.org/


Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award

World of Good Development Organization (International): Handicraft workers around the world are generally paid per piece, often at low hourly rates. World of Good Development Organization's Fair Wage Guide Software provides localized pricing evaluation of handmade goods to improve wages of informal workers. The free web-based platform encourages ethical trade by comparing wages worldwide. http://www.fairtradecalculator.com/index.php

kiwanja.net (International): kiwanja.net's FrontlineSMS allows for SMS technology to be used by hundreds of NGOs worldwide, for activities as diverse as election monitoring and dissemination of agricultural prices. This free software for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deploys two-way SMS messaging and provides easy-to-use communications infrastructure for outreach in rural and urban areas. http://www.frontlinesms.com/

SuryaHurricane: Electrification for the Landless (Bangladesh): Providing mobile solar lighting can alleviate health problems due to smoke and CO2 emissions while establishing social enterprises. Retrofitting existing kerosene hurricane lanterns with CFL or LED lights can provide lighting for transient settlers in flood and hurricane-prone areas. SuryaHurricane also establishes infrastructure for women establishes women-oriented infrastructure for recharging lantern batteries using boats equipped with PV modules. http://www.shidhulai.org/afftechnology.html


Nokia Health Award

mPedigree (Ghana): Counterfeit drugs are ubiquitous in the developing world; up to 80 percent of drugs in pharmacies are fakes with little or no active ingredients. Pharmaceutical manufacturers label packages with an alphanumeric code, which is later confirmed when consumers send free text queries in to the mPedigree database. This low-cost, instant method for reducing drug counterfeiting is expanding from Ghana to Nigeria, Rwanda, and India. http://www.mpedigree.net

PATH, Ultra Rice (India, Brazil, Colombia): More than a billion people in developing nations suffer from dietary deficiencies in crucial micronutrients, including iron, zinc, folic acid, and vitamin A. Ultra Rice is an affordable, nutrient-fortified additive to standard rice, tailored to satisfy deficiencies common in the region where it is distributed. http://www.path.org/projects/ultra_rice.php

Village Reach, Management Information System for Vaccine (Mozambique): Poor countries bear the greatest burden of infectious diseases, and have the least infrastructure for public health programs. Village Reach worked closely with the Mozambique Ministry of Health to implement supply chain logistics management systems, utilizing portable USB drives to automatically update and share information to improve the delivery of vaccines, drugs and critical medical supplies to rural clinics.http://www.villagereach.org/


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