Non-Governmental Imagination


Humaninet / Techreach Sim Day Recap
September 21, 2006, 8:44 am
Filed under: Imagination, International Aid, Resources

Demos, demos and more demos, originally uploaded by HumaniNet.

Two days ago I spoke at Humaninet / TechReach Sim Day at the Intuit campus in Mountain View. It was an interesting collection of people, most of them being white men in business casual clothes involved in supplying NGOs, governments and the like tech tools to aid disaster relief work.

Most of the presenters were groups like Green Wifi, Telenor, The Red Cross, and UUplus. With the exception of the Red Cross, all of these groups are involved in creating/improving wireless communications for the NGOs/gov’ts large enough to afford them. They asked Interplast to present our work, and while I enjoyed being there and talking about Interplast Grand Rounds, we were definitely an outlier as the only (intentionally) nonprofit organization.

Nonetheless, it was interesting to see the solar powered wifi nodes and other assorted gadgetry. The Red Cross’s badass truck was a definite highlight. For the first few hours folks circulated around booths such as those shown here. Then we all went inside for 15 minute presentations.

I was struck by the wide variety of attendees. Only about 50-75 people showed up, but they ranged from official-looking folks from Mozilla and World Vision to a volunteer from Project Vietnam. Most had a very heavy tech/ICT background and seemed pretty devoted to questions of how aid organizations do their job when they arrive on the scene with no power/connectivity.

Ironically enough, the wifi access was spotty and/or terrible. For being blocks away from Google’s HQ, well within the free Mountain View wifi system, and being within 30 feet of several compaines that claim to provide connectivity in the most remote corners of the world, I had a very hard time logging on to the internet.

Oh well. As those of us in development know well, problems arise. The San Jose Mercury News had a reporter who was able to roam around a bit, so his piece is pretty accurate. I was at the Interplast booth repeating myself for hours on end, so unfortunately I didn’t get to learn too much about the other groups.

There will be another Sim Day in Washington, D.C. soon, so if you’re in the area you should get your geek on and stop by.

Update:  A note from Gregg Swanson–

“My only question about your blog post is that you (sic) weren’t the only nonprofit, if I am reading your second paragraph right.  HumaniNet and Inveneo are nonprofits – and the Red Cross of course – and TechReach is being organized as a nonprofit.  Green WiFi is small and has a social conscience.  VVAF couldn’t make it with their OASIS software, but they’re a nonprofit.  Telenor, our sponsor, was the only corporation represented.” 

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[…] I got the chance to go to Humaninet’s Silicon Valley SimDay a couple weeks ago, and looking back at it…it was probably one of the major rumblings of the hi-tech humanitarian movement in Silicon Valley. These days I’m working at SAP investigating software for humanitarian aid organizations. Quite interesting stuff really, but on this particular SimDay I also wore my hat as a volunteer for Project Vietnam. Seth Mazow (from Interplast), who wrote about the event didn’t entirely catch my SAP-affiliation but hey, I put one out there for Project Vietnam. […]

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