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I recently received a text message from my friend Karim in Niger, asking “Keski ce passe?” (What’s happening?). Those of you who know French might notice his text is an abbreviation of the much longer expression for “Qu’est-ce qui se passe”, which is formal and proper but a bit long when you only have 140 characters. Such abbreviations in French, English and other languages have caused teachers and parents alike to blame texting for corrupting our language and “degrading [the] spelling of [our] youth.” Existing studies in the UK and elsewhere have debunked these claims, and, the National Adult Literacy Database called on people to celebrate International Literacy Day by “reading or writing, tweeting or texting.” In fact, mobile phones and texting might be a new tool in the arsenal against illiteracy: our new research in Niger suggests that mobile phones could promote literacy and numeracy skills in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Innovation” is popping up everywhere you turn these days. In her recent speech at the Center for Global Development, Secretary Clinton cited “innovation” as one of the priorities of U.S. development policy. Both the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Treasury are exploring ways to more systematically include “innovation” in the development agenda. The G8 is rumored to be launching an “innovation and development” initiative for Africa at its next meeting.
Mead Over recently wrote compellingly about the importance of collective action to strengthen surveillance of the swine flu and other contagious diseases. A major issue, of course, is the cost of such surveillance measures, the timely receipt of data on potential infections, and the accuracy (and completeness) of such information. Mobile phones may be part of the solution.
McNealy arrived late, delayed by a meeting at the Pentagon. You could tell he was tired. He’d flown to DC from California with a stopover in Dallas where he stayed up late watching hockey as his beloved San Jose Sharks fell to the Stars in the 4th overtime. Nonetheless, by the time lunch was finished at 1:30pm we had made good progress answering moderator Lawrence MacDonald’s query – does sharing and openness really matter for development?
Scott McNealy is Chairman of Sun Microsystems a company he co-founded in 1982. He is a fierce competitor in business and in a hockey rink. He can be abrasive and outspoken explaining that "diplomacy has never been my middle name." He is an avowed capitalist and self-proclaimed libertarian. Nonetheless, his bio page says he's a "Champion for Sharing." In fact, Sun, as part of its business strategy shares almost everything. Its Java software platform and Open Office applications suite are open source.