Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: TED2010

TED 2010: Session 1 Highlights

Session 1 at TED just ended, and it can only be described as an “only at TED” moment for me.


Simply because it showcased just how eclectic and fascinating this event is. Where else do you start with a talk by professor Daniel Khaneman who originated the study of Behavioral Economics, move on to the London and here a talk live from David Cameron who is leading the Conservative party in the UK, and then on to Jake Shimabukuro an amazing ukelele player…


Khaneman gave an engaging talk on “happiness”, where he talked about the difference between “being happy with your life versus being happy in your life.” There’s a difference between how we experience life and how we remember our experiences of life.

“If you knew that all of your pictures would be destroyed and that you would get amnesia, would you choose the same vacation?”

David Cameron is expected to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, he was the surprise talk this morning, telecasting in from London. He asked, “How do we make things better without spending more money?”. Pointing out that the global debt level is over 32 trillion (Pounds?).

His answer: use behavioral economics plus the information revolution and let’s see how we can change society.

Cameron’s prescription for this comes in three parts:

  1. He wants to see greater transparency of government data. Stating that we have only scratched the surface of what can be done with open government data.
  2. Choice. What happens if the government doesn’t mandate, but allows people to choose? He uses examples of web-based shopping engines and wonders how that can be applied to things like healthcare.
  3. Accountability. Using an example of the Chicago crime map he wonders what will happen as we give the people power to see what is happening and hold the government and police to account for what happens.


Esther Duflo, from the Poverty Action Lab at MIT, gave a mesmerizing talk on the aid and development sphere, using examples from Africa and India. She’s asking the hard questions and trying to answer them scientifically, pointing out that much of the arguments (ie, Easterly vs Sachs) being made for/against things like bed nets in Africa are more emotional than substantial.

“It’s not the middle ages any more, it’s the 21st century.”

We can find answers to these questions using randomized control trials. She gave examples like the one where they ran test of 130+ communities using a control, camps and camps with incentives to test if children would be brought in more/less often for immunizations if they were given an incentive of a kilo of lentils.

The answer: they were, 38% more actually. That, and the fact that it was actually cheaper to run the incentivized camps than the normal ones.

TED 2010 – Fellows Program

TED 2010 Fellows

I’m in Long Beach, California for the annual TED conference. This year I’m a Senior Fellow, which means that I get to see and spend time with old friends like Jon Gosier and Juliana Rotich, other Fellows from year’s past and enjoy some first class discussions and mentoring from groups like McKinsey and Duarte Design.

I’ve been taking pictures of the TED Fellows, you can find them on my Flickr set. The really great shots are by the TED photographers, and you can find those here and the TED Blog. More on the amazing and eclectic group that is this years TED Fellows.

Some TED Fellows Talks highlights:

I met Hugo Van Vuuren, a fellow white African, at PopTech last year. He’s doing some amazing work in Africa around creating energy with off-grid technologies. Figuring out how to use simple things like dirt to create power at Lebone. Hugo says that they’ll be ready to sell this type of product by summer 2010.

I was mesmerized by Angelo Vermeulen‘s talk on “Biomodd“, which is a riff off of the gaming communities case modding trend.

Nigerian Ndubuisi Ekekwe, an engineer, inventor, author and founder of the African Institution of Technology, an organization seeking to develop microelectronics in Africa.

TED 2010 Fellows - Talks

Kellee Santiago is a gamer and creates games based on emotions. She gave a great talk on what her company “That Game Company” does, with games like Flower.

Ben Gulak is a 20 year old inventor. He’s created the UNO, an electronic motorized unicycle and the DTV (Dual Tracked Vehicle), taking the best characteristics of a snow mobile, a skateboard and motorcross bike.

This new TED Fellows class is an eclectic group of polymaths. People who have expertise and interest in multiple areas. What sets them apart though is the fact that they actually “DO” things, not just talk about them. Seeing their work, talking to them about their projects and realizing just how special it is to be able to do that is what makes being a TED Fellow an amazing experience.

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