Saturday, September 25, 2010

Health-care Books: Digital benefits

UnaMesa has opened office in Palo Alto as a hub for service innovations, including new approaches to health care, education; it provides free software tools and web services for schools, clinics, and other community organizations. When I first heard of UnaMesa in 2006 from fellow Digital Vision'er Greg Wolff it was a vision but today "UnaMesa acts as an R&D organization with projects that bring together industry, academia, and NGO's to develop and distribute effective tools for social services. UnaMesa maintains the educational materials, software, and other "intellectual property" developed by these projects as a public trust. Much like organizations that acquire and preserve land on behalf of the public, UnaMesa acquires copyrights and related intellectual property and promotes the use of those materials for the public interest."
Technology can change the game when it comes to social impact but so far, research and development has been too expensive for non-profits to take advantage of. UnaMesa is changing that. At the launch party I attended earlier this month, the story told by Sarah Shannon of Hesperian Foundation provided a vision for the future. The foundation has been around for a while and has developed health related books. These books were in English and would get out of date by the time they would get published. Working with UnaMesa, Hesperian has gone digital: books translated into 32 languages, regular updates available instantly for download and a repository that continues to grow because the staff can focus on creating the content. For example the publication "Where There is No Doctor" empowers communities who may have no health-care professional in the area with access to basic medical information.
Congratulations Greg - a DV changemaker.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lessons from Panel- Emerging Markets: Greening Tech

Emerging Markets: Greening Tech was the theme of a panel moderated by Joel Makower of at the annual WITI (Women in Technology International) Summit earlier this week. Panelists Lorie Wigle (GM, Eco-Technology Program INTEL), Melody Haller (CEO, Antenna Group) and Bill Weihl (Google with the kick-ass title of Green Energy Czar) presented credible stories of how they got into the green energy space. Lorie said she took advantage of the Intel culture- If you see a problem own it.Her program is about exploring the smart grid for Intel products (new or existing). Her team is a lens into the opportunity area - the typical team profile is a person with a key skill, rounded out by an ability to see the whole solution - what role Intel plays what roles others play - Once an opportunity is identified the standard Intel businesses take it on. She said she had a hard time finding the right mix of skilled people (even though it seems that today everyone ants to be in the green space) - since the job is so new - they are called solution architect - the closest she could find in Intel HR nomenclature.
Melody said her job is propaganda for the good guys - technology for good. She says a number of folks she gets are "technology refugees" - people tired of doing technology that makes no difference. Such people make great hires because they have the technical skills but want change. She had hired 12 people from Her advice - identify one strong entry point (your skill) as an entry into the field and then build out the rest.
Bill came to Google from MIT from a CS background wanting to get  into the green space. The .org part of Google is investing in renewable - about 9 companies with a total of about 65mil. The .org is 1% of Google (money, hr etc). Often .org arm searches the opportunity and google company may take on product development also. He said Google is not hiring since they already have projects in the pipeline.

With a title like Emerging markets I had expected to hear more about innovation with developing countries. When asked all said that they had projects in emerging economies. Intel had an initiative around Concierge services and satellite based water management. Google, besides google earth had agriculture, cook-stoves etc on their radar. Bill agreed that the faster adoption of renewable technologies would happen in emerging markets (leapfrog effect). Melody had connections in Kubera and a couple of other funds.

In sum, the activity in green-space has ramped up considerably in the last 4 years- it means more competition but  also more opportunity for the right person.

Make a STEM Difference: Hands-on Learning

Education is opportunity. Science education is infrastructure innovation opportunity. USA faces aging roads, pipes, transportation; developed a while back with technologies that we now know to be unsustainable. In true Silicon Valley style, we want to turn the challenge into an opportunity to invent completely new methods of building roads, bridges, supply pipes, aeroplanes; not only create environmental benefit, but even build in the IT infrastructure (can't do without computers now can we?) right into it - adding tomorrow to yesterday for a better future for all.

The message was heard loud and clear by about 70 junior scientists (5th-7th graders) with the help of some 20 senior scientists (volunteers from HP, Google and others) at the bay area National Lab Day back to school event. The scientists sat on tables of 10 with the assignment of discovering "What is OOBLECK? Solid, Liquid or Gas?" by doing experiments collaboratively. Josh Becker of New Cycle Capital led the afternoon which included a fun speech from Chandrakant Patel of HP Labs exhorting the junior scientists to get back to tinkering and getting their hands dirty. Speaking from the the trenches (i.e. us senior scientists amidst  budding future inventors), the energy generated from the OOBLECK experiment exceeded our wildest expectations . In just a few hours I saw the following:
- some grasped the notion of doing an experiment to validate/invalidate a theory
- some saw the importance of writing their findings
- all were engaged: one child who had been sitting with his head down interacting with no one - started talking and sharing once the lab got started
- all had fun: simply because real life intervened - when OOBLECK was "poured" into plastic bags - many bags had tiny leaks - for some OOBLECK flowed out - for others it dripped. As junior scientists started stopping the dripping - they learned and they got their hands and lab coats messy - creating much mirth and merriment.
- many junior scientists came up with "tests" of their own to try
- the senior scientists didn't have any better clue about what oobleck was than the junior - emphasising the importance of gathering your own data (and documenting - in case you got into an argument).

I thought the experiment design was really good and I hope gets replicated in other forums. It all worked at so many levels.  I have been engaged with STEM education in various capacities for many many years now - I saw an excitement from the children in short 3 hours that I have not seen before.

Hands-on, challenge based learning works. It also brought the kids together and it is FUN!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

National Lab day: Back to School launch event

On Sept. 15, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View I have the opportunity to spend an afternoon of interactive hands-on learning with 75 fifth and sixth graders. HP is hosting the National Lab Day (NLD) Back to School launch event here in the Bay Area and participating in events like this reminds me why I am still loyal to HP.  HP’s support for NLD is part of a new social innovation in education program to help build the future generations of innovators. When I was director , Imaging Systems Lab at HP Labs I became convinced of the power of digital in attracting the young to Science and Technology Education (we did studies with K-12 through a grass roots effort called EIEIO) and this newest initiative gladdens my heart no end.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Listen to the Pauses: Power Communication

Pause and Presence: For powerful communication, active understanding  or getting your message across: listen to the pauses. If you are the speaker, pay attention to when you pause, how long and what you do when you pause. Learn from speakers you find yourself drawn to by observing their pauses, what they do to retain your eyeballs. I have come up with a way to practise that is working for me: I listen and look for the pauses in my dance class. Perhaps, as every dancer knows, if you just go from one movement to another, without a proper transition - all you do is look floppy - there is no grace no beauty - no grabbing attention of viewer. Initially I used to just notice that my Zumba instructor looks great - so I went to the class. Now, with audio plus visual cues- I am able to observe when she transitions from one step into another- the split second pause that gives her balance and purpose - effortless, graceful; elbows - if meant to be 90 degrees are 90 not flopping halfway; movement alternates between fast(er) and slow(er) and so do the pauses.
I still can't do what she does, but now I can see what she does. Of course even if I knew it all in my head I couldn't do what she does - I am just not physically fit enough.
Fortunately for communication - while fitness helps greatly, it is less of a requirement. But in the absence of music and dance - Pauses and Presence are the rhythm of powerful communication.
Find any activity you enjoy (even cooking, dining) and listen to the pauses. Besides -it is so much fun -give it a try.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Power of Image

GE’s Ecomagination Challenge Powering the Grid - a $200 million call to action to share ideas to take on building the next-generation power grid - is coming to a close in a few days (Sep 30). With so many ideas to share, I found the info-graphic most useful. Besides its a great illustration for the power of image as a means of communication. The highest vote-getter so far - solar roadways is also my favourite. Don't forget to turn the wheel for full impact.