Blog Your Way to India! A Social Tech Blogger’s Competition

Posted by on November 16, 2009 in Asia, Entrepreneurship, Featured, PR+Social Media, Tech

Madurai River

If you’ve been following the news over on Social Earth and Ashoka Tech, you know that we are running a blogger’s competition to find our official blogger for the Ashoka Tech 4 Society event happening in Hyderabad, India, February 11-13, 2010. We are half-way to our November 30th deadline and that means we want YOU to start thinking about what you would want to write about to enter this competition.

All you have to do is click here for more information, fill out a short application, and write us a blog post before November 30th. Then, stay tuned to find out if you are one of our shortlisted finalists. These finalists will be judged by Keith Hammonds (of Ashoka’s News and Knowledge Program and former Fast Company writer and editor) Emeka Okafor (entrepreneur, former TED global director for Africa, and author of the Timbuktu Chronicles) and David Bornstein (author of How to Change the World. After being chosen by these three judges, the winner of the competition will receive a free ticket to Hyderabad, India and accommodations to cover the three day Tech4Society event in blog posts, tweets, and through other social-media avenues.

By way of encouragement, and to celebrate some of the great entries we’ve been receiving, we’ll be featuring posts by the competition entrants both here and on Ashoka Tech over the next few weeks. So take a look, think about why you want to come to India, and write us a post!

Today’s featured post comes from Ali Llewellyn. You can also check out her blog here.

“I’ve always been sensitive about water. I remember camp counselors amused when I would turn off the shower to take the time to shampoo my hair; it felt like a waste to just let it run. I almost had a panic attack at a water fountain in a Barnes and Noble once, the first summer I came back from Afghanistan. The water was running continuously for some reason, and it wouldn’t stop. I had just been in a place where so many didn’t have access to water, where we saved the last inch of our daily bottle to brush our teeth at night – and here we wasted it so mindlessly.

I remember walking through rice paddies in rural Java with other women who had traveled long distances with long-reused containers to get clean water. We were very careful about what we consumed there, but I left Indonesia with a case of giardia that took weeks to get over.

1 in 8 people in the world lack access to clean water supplies. 3.57 million people die each year from water-related diseases. It’s not just that they get sick – it’s that they die. 98% of these deaths are in the developing world.

Now I work for NASA, and we can turn urine into water and have a big party to celebrate it. There isn’t available water in space, either, just like in many parts of the world, but the six astronauts who live on the space station can create their own water – and it’s more pure than many of us get out of the tap.

One of my colleagues plans and implements community water purification systems in Rwanda and applies the lessons learned there to creating water out of lunar regolith. The moon isn’t that different from parts of rural Africa: bare, rocky, little water, no infrastructure. Clean, efficient technologies are providing clean water for Rwanda, and those same experiences will be applied to water production and life support on the moon.

Creativity, technology, and commitment to a purpose make all the difference.

Many of you know that I don’t think technology is the answer to everything; often it is the less technical solution that is most sustainable. My daily life is teaching me, though, that we have an abundance of readily available technology that could meet all sorts of human needs, if we will be inventive in our methodology and our application.

Last week I attended a conference at Rice about transitioning technologies from the lab to the developing world. The day was filled with amazing stories of students, businesspeople and scientists collaborating to meet social needs. What most affected me, though, was the constant reminder to not just find a technology, but to engage your users to find a solution. Technology is not the agent of change – people are.

But technology can sometimes put all the right tools in their hands to change their world… and maybe their whole universe.

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public are hosting Tech 4 Society, a conference exploring technology, invention and social change, in Hyderabad, India, in February 2009. Find out more about the conference here. This blog post is an entry in their competition to find the official blogger to travel to and cover the event. Photo from Ali Llewellyn.


Danielle is the event coordinator for the Ashoka-Lemelson Tech4Society international event series as well as a writer for both the Ashoka Tech and Ashoka News and Knowledge blogs.

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