Helen Blakesley, CRS’ regional information officer for West Africa, recently attend a CRS information and communications technology summit in Rwanda and writes this dispatch, which is featured today on the ONE Blog. ONE is the antipoverty advocacy organization co-founded by U2 lead singer and humanitarian Bono.
Guest blog post by Helen Blakesley from Catholic Relief Services.
What brings together more than 170 people, from 5 continents, 34 countries and over 64 organizations, in a room in a hotel in the Rwandan capital of Kigali? Speed dating. Seriously. But all in the name of technology and development.
I feel I should explain. If we were going from table to table listening to someone’s alluring spiel, it was because we were at the 4th CRS Global ICT4D Conference, discovering the latest innovations in Information Communications and Technology for Development.
I’d been dispatched to the conference with instructions to “unleash my inner geek”. My concern was, did I have one? I own nothing prefixed with an ‘i’. I’m a firm believer that you can’t beat the feel and smell of a real book between your hands and I’ve never downloaded a song in my life. My techie credentials were not looking good. Still, off I went, to explore this new frontier, with absolutely no idea what to expect.
First day of the conference, I’m having breakfast in the hotel restaurant, overlooking Kigali’s thousand hills, when a voice asks to join me. The voice is laced with a European accent, thick with the tones of a James Bond villain. The owner of the voice is wearing a white bow tie with blue dots on it, and proceeds to explain to me the difference between GIS and GPS technology. Gulp. Could the techie clichés be true?
But a few hours later, as the opening speeches proceeded, the revelations began. Four of the five keynote speakers were women. Some, over 60, but still passionately fired up about their subject area. Some were young and petite with funky haircuts and dangly earrings, but who evidently knew what they were talking about. I started to sit up and take notice. This was inspiring stuff.