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John Gage's Ad-Hoc Keynote - WCIT2006

Posted by johnreynolds on May 5, 2006 at 5:55 PM PDT

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R. Texas) was not able to make it to Austin's WCIT2006 for her Friday Keynote Address (due to a late Senate vote), so John Gage (Chief Researcher and Vice President of the Science Office for Sun Microsystems) pitched in with a delightful Ad-Hoc presentation.

John had spoken at earlier sessions, and given that he has a lot to say he took full advantage of the opportunity to engage a larger audience (the hall was packed in anticipation of a speech by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell)... John easily filled his alloted time, and had to be gently ushered away from the microphone by WCIT2006 CEO Glyn Meek.

John took us on a journey to many of the countries represented at the convention by enlisting Google Earth. As he flew between continents, he pointed out and zoomed in on the homes of fellow presenters and on the future site of 2008's WCIT in Kuala Lampur... and then he demonstrated how the tool could be used to visualize important data... for example the locations of reported Avian Flu incidents.

If Avian Flu spreads as many fear, the first signs are going to be from the undeveloped nations, from the mostly remote rural areas where people live in closer proximity to animals... For our own sakes we need to build out the world's networking infrastructure - starting with the poorest countries first - to insure that we know what is going on in those locales... We need to hear the news of disease outbreaks as soon as possible to prevent the feared pandemic (a compelling argument).


John went on to demonstrate another wonderful tool from www.gapminder.org that can be used to visualize Human Development Trends from around the world over the last four decades. Words Cannot Begin To Describe This Tool --- VISIT THE SITE AND SPEND A FEW HOURS EXPLORING ON YOUR OWN!

Pardon the dramatic all caps of the previous sentence... but you really ought to check this tool out... By graphing Child Survival Rates and GDP per capita income for regions (and individual countries), you can visualize dramatic trends that have taken place over the last several years. You can see countries that were once poor with high child mortality rates blossom in both wealth and health... and you can also see countries where wealth has increased, but health has not.

John makes a compelling point that tools like this can be used to strip away deciet and expose the truth... it is painfully clear which countries have successful health/wealth policies, and which do not. Knowledge (not raw information) is power, and gapminder's tools help transform raw information into knowledge that people and governments can use to the benefit of all...

John's passion for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) as a tool for a better world is contagious, and nobody seemed to mind that he over-ran his allotted time slot... We all wish he could have spoken longer, and with respect to Senator Hutchinson... I was kind of glad that she missed her plane.

Thanks John... You've helped rekindle hope that ICT really can make a difference.


(cross-posted at The Thoughtful Programmer)

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