Wednesday, September 01, 2004

a village named kuppam ....

HP's chief executive carly fiorina gave the commencement address earlier this summer at caltech. here is an excerpt from the transcript of her speech titled Dare to dream
Let me tell you about two women named Saraswati and Gowri. They live in a rural community called Kuppam, India, and it is about 100 miles from Bangalore. It is a place where one in three citizens is illiterate; more than half of the households have no electricity, and most of the able-bodied adults are HIV-positive.

These young women were forced to leave school after the fifth and seventh grades respectively, because their families could not afford their schooling.

Now, one of the questions we ask at HP is, “How do we use technology to bring opportunity to places like Kuppam, India?” And we had a number of inventors, probably including some Caltech grads in this village in India, and they came up with the idea in observing the village around them of a solar-powered digital camera, and a solar- powered printer, and this equipment fits into a backpack.

So Saraswati and Gowri were chosen among 10 young women to be trained as village photographers and given this digital, solar-powered camera and other equipment, and after two weeks of training, they were able to serve as official photographers for a launch event that we did that was overseen by the region’s Chief Minister. And seeing how people loved having their pictures taken with their elected officials, these two young women seized on a business opportunity: they decided to follow the minister on his rounds, selling inexpensive photo opportunities. In less than a week, they had earned the equivalent of a month’s income. For both of them, it meant that they would be able to better educate their children and finally bring tap water into their homes.

And today not only do they photograph engagement ceremonies and many other important family occasions – occasions that in the past were not recorded because it was too expensive – they are now working to set up a fund so that other young women in their village can use it to start up their own businesses. And these two young women have become so successful in their villages that their husbands now tag along with them.

To me, this is just a tiny, perhaps even prosaic example of the billions of ways that science and technology can and will change lives and solve problems in the 21st century. As science moves to the mainstream of peoples’ lives, scientists and inventors have to move to the mainstream as well. Technology cannot be mysterious to people any more. Science cannot just be an experiment; something cloistered in a back room or a dark lab. Science and technology need to be understandable and you need to our guides.

1 comment:

Selva said...

terrific story! you may have heard about too - using the think cycles of students at institutions like MIT to help design developmental technologies.