Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Dreams

Here is a paraphrase of the remarks I made at the NetHope Tenth Anniversary celebration in Dublin, Ireland.[1]

I’d like to tell two stories.

The first is about my generation.  Ten years ago, seven NGO IT leaders got together in San Jose.  Some of my colleagues around the table tonight were there at the Cisco Campus and Dipak Basu’s dining room table in September 2001.  We all faced a common problem about how to take technology out the last mile to where our organizations work in the field.  We had a shared need.  More importantly, we believed that technology could make a difference in the work our organizations were doing in the far reaches of our programs.  We could see it working. We had connected the dots in our imaginations.  And we dared to trust each other to do something about it together; because none of us was going to succeed going it alone.  This was how NetHope got started.

Our dream was that we could bring technology to where it was most needed faster, better and cheaper if we did it together.  And we believed that as a group we could be a stronger partner with the technology companies with whom we needed to work.  Both of these goals have proven to more true than we ever imagined ten years ago.  There are more than 200 professionals here tonight, and all of you are passionate about what we are doing to bring IT where it can do the most good in the world.  But this would not have come to be if we did not dare to dream around that modest table in San Jose.

The second story is about a new generation, the college students who each year compete in the Imagine Cup Competition.  I’ve been a software design judge for three of the past four years. I view this as part of my giveback to the community of IT workers in nonprofits (and beyond).  The Imagine Cup is about the IT workers of the future who focus on software that can have an impact on the Millennium Development Goals, the context for the competition. 

These are big dreams.  This year, 400,000 students registered for the competition; 3,000 made it to the country competitions, and 400 of the best went to New York to compete in the finals for 27 awards.  These are the best of the best ideas.

In one week I will see more innovation than in years before.  Why is that?  These students have no business knowledge, no marketing experience, no money, and little time.  But they also have no sense of limitation.  And it is this last one that makes all the difference in world.  They dare to dream about what technology can do.

During the NetHope Summit this week, we took a tour of the Intel fabrication plant in Kildare.  It was truly an awesome experience—a geek’s heaven, if you will.  During the tour, our guide mentioned that at Intel they talk about the big numbers, and the small numbers.  The enormous and incredibly expensive tools that create the inexpensive, tiniest circuits we know.  I think this speaks to what we know: that big dreams with small groups can change the world.

So I have a great hope here tonight: that if we dare to dream big, like we did as a small group ten years ago, as a much larger, stronger community today, we will create the greatest use of technology for good in the next ten years.  Thank you.

[1] The slide deck for my "NetHope Chairman's Report," NetHope Summit and Tenth Anniversary at Intel's Campus, Kildare, Ireland, November 10, 2011, is on my web page, here.

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