Continuing on from my previous article, a major theme of WIRED 2016 was humanitarianism and the refugee crisis.
Roya Mahboob is an Afghani tech entrepreneur who had her eyes opened on a trip to an internet cafe in Herat. She talked passionately about how the internet offered her a life outside of domesticity via a tech career. She became the first tech CEO in Afghanistan, hiring female employees (many of whom worked from home) and spoke of the challenges in firstly obtaining clients (due to a lack of confidence in the abilities of women in her country, who are largely deemed fit only for domestic life), and once she did obtain clients, a battle to be paid because her work was not valued as she is a woman. Tension arose and she and her family received death threats from the Taliban due to her breakout career and creation of local centres to teach girls computing. She was then forced to leave Kabul, where she had moved to from Herat. She found an Italian/American investor (via LinkedIn) and is now based in the US and declares herself a “global digital citizen”, sharing a door to the world to women and girls in Afghanistan. For more information about Roya’s work follow her on Twitter and see the Digital Citizen Fund.
Regina Catrambone, along with her family, founded the first search and rescue boat for those fleeing danger and persecution to make the journey to southern Italy from neighbouring countries. So devastated was she that hundreds of children and adults were being left to die on this treacherous passage that she co-founded MOAS – Migrant Offshore Aid Station. Since 2014 MOAS has saved more than 30,000 people, the youngest being four days old. Regina says “you cannot stop the might and the will of those looking for a chance to live. It is impossible. You can’t stop them. You have to help them”. Her speech was incredibly moving and showed how harnessing compassion and empathy can create powerful solutions and implore governments and other agencies to help solve the refugee crisis.
Brooklyn-based Jessica O. Matthews presented an ingenious creation – a football that stores energy from kinetic movement which then provides electricity for devices and appliances. A game changing (I couldn’t help the pun) and simple piece of technology, it allows kids in off-grid areas to kick around a football during the day and then read books at night, continuing their studies and affording them a better chance in life. Jessica is extending her invention to other objects such as suitcases with wheels, into which you can plug your mobile phone to charge whilst on the go. See Uncharted Play for more information.
Psychiatrist and Aviator, Bertrand Piccard, piloted the Solar Impulse aircraft and declared that the “old world and new world are a state of mind”. Elaborating on this, he gave a thought provoking talk that explained how a boat building company, Alinghi, created an aircraft and how the coming together of teams from diverse disciplines allowed them solve problems never before tackled. “If you want to innovate you have to get out of the system. What you know is a handicap”, says Bertrand. He and his team completed an around the world journey, travelling 40,000 km without fuel, proving that the capabilities of solar power are beyond our current usage. He provided inspiration, and a challenge, to those dismissing renewable energies and highlighted the current work of Elon Musk in bringing solar power into the transportation industry on a commercial level.
Wired has come to a close, leaving an echo that says I can’t keep doing things the same way. Knowing what I now know, and looking at how I have done things in the past, it’s time to adjust and apply new ways of thinking and creating. The talks catalyse new trains of thought and ignite the will to try new technologies, or apply existing ones in new ways.
Wired joins some of the biggest global moving dots with speakers from all over the world giving us a picture of where we are right now in terms of advancing new medical technologies, solving environmental issues, achieving universally acceptable levels of education, battling the refugee crisis, reaching space commercially, using AI to diagnose diseases, fighting hate, racial discrimination and sexism, and connecting people using VR to solve social issues – and it provides the inspiration to contribute to solving these problems.
I’m going to stop talking and start doing. The effects of the above paragraph will be revealed over the coming weeks and months on these pages, my Huffington Post blog and in a soon to be launched new venture.
What will you do today?
Watch snippets and read summaries of all the speakers at Wired here
Headline image: COLLAPSE PROJECT Photo: Techstyler