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How Tech Can Turn a Community Into a Global Village

Folks, I received a really good letter from the Organic Health Response's IT Coordinator, Brian Mattah. He wrote about his experience with technology on Mfangano Island:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I am Brian Mattah, a native of Mfangano Island, Kenya. I began working for the Organic Health Response (OHR) in January 2010, immediately after college. This was my first time deploying hands-on skills attained from school and all seemed new and interesting.

Aside from all career domains revolving around technological advances, it’s become absolutely inevitable for people, even in villages, to survive without internet. That’s why OHR thought it wise to incept the Ekialo Kiona Centre, to make Mfangano Island, Kenya a Global Village through our Cyber-VCT program. Once receiving voluntary counseling and testing with one of our HIV Counselors, anyone from the island has free and unlimited access to broadband internet, the first of it's kind in these rural communities.

In addition to running our Cyber lab, I had the opportunity to join Inveneo in 2012 to deploy a 90-km broadband link over Lake Victoria. Through this install I have been able to gain a greater level of expertise in networking, especially since the OHR Network is purely of Last Mile Design. It was amazing when EK Centre received internet services from Kisumu – a stretch of about 90 kilometers – to provide high speed wireless access in this remote location. The wireless network has eventually provided the solution and met everyone's needs by simply avoiding laying wire and fiber optic cables which are really expensive undertaking that can be environmentally demanding and requiring high maintenance.

In the course of deploying this network, I gained really important tips and had a hands-on trial on the Installations and configurations of network devices ranging from ubiquity's Rocket M5, NanoBridges, NanoStations, mikrotik routers, and Ethernet switches. Since then I have set up three more NanoBridges, a NanoStation and a mikrotik router. I have also gained vast knowledge in network administration and been able to monitor and troubleshoot connection hitches that have come up. Each day I continue to grow and learn new skills. It is what makes my job rewarding.ITlab_2 5 14 (3)

The craigslist Charitable Fund has continued to support our Cyber-VCT program, as well as the broadband internet that has opened up Mfangano as a global village. Ero kamano (thank you!)!

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Folks, Brian's doing real good work, and I'm happy to personally support the programs and the broadband Internet on Mfangano Island, in addition to the support from craigconnects and the craigslist charitable fund to make all of this possible. More updates to come…

Why Trustworthy News Should Matter More

factcheckWe're living in a society where trustworthy news should matter more than it seems to. As I've been saying, the press should be the immune system of democracy, and needs to fulfill that role again.

And just a reminder that factchecking efforts only have value, it's felt, if:

  • Misinformation is corrected, in a way that doesn't reinforce the lie.
  • Any involved news outlets are encouraged to avoid promoting misinformation.
  • Regular people, the broad citizenry, have the means to easily help media correct misinformation and encourage news outlets to restore factchecking.

More to come, and soon…

"Saving the World" DIY Style

People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what's the most effective way to support those efforts. You can find a list of what I support specifically here. My general philosophy is to do some real good in the short run, while learning how to scale that up in the long run – to the entire planet in maybe twenty years. I'm also very committed to helping people from the bottom up, to give people a break that rarely get one, and to help give a voice to the voiceless.

When it comes to business success and money, know when enough is enough, which translates to a business model of doing well by doing good. I guess I've been real successful at that, and I've been told by a lot of startup people that this approach has influenced them.

So, in the short run, I've been doing what I can to help US veterans and military families, figuring that if someone will risk a bullet protecting me, I need to give back. Recently, people helped me understand that the family of an active service member serves the country while that service member is deployed, particularly in a war zone.

I've chosen groups to support, in government and in the nonprofit world, guided by considerations including:

  • Do they impact something I believe in?
  • Are they good at it?
  • Can I help them via serious social media consulting and engagement?
  • Can I learn from the experience how to use social media on a very large scale?
  • Just in case, does the nonprofit tell a really slick, heart-wrenching story? Have they been seriously vetted? (If not, substantial chance it's a scam.)

So, the themes here have to do with "social impact," probably mediated by social media, while watching out for compelling scams. (Sorry, but this is currently a huge problem in the nonprofit world.) For that reason, I engage with Charity Navigator,GuideStar, and GreatNonProfits.org. In particular, Charity Nav is making real progress measuring social impact, which is about how good an org is at serving its clients. Social media provides the tools that effective people use to work together to get stuff done. We're talking not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but also tools like spreadsheets used to rank "employee innovation" efforts.

Human history suggests that change begins from the networks of individuals who work together through the social media of their times, from Caesar and Cicero, to St Paul and Martin Luther, and John Locke and Tom Paine. Consider the UK Glorious Revolution which resulted in modern representative democracy, which I frequently call the Twitter Revolution of 1688. (A great history of pre-Internet social media isThe Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, who reminds us that "history retweets itself.") That history tells us that social media provides a set of tools which can effect real change. That history is one of democratization; the costs of those tools restricted them to the wealthy at first, but now the cost of entry is close to zero.

In the short term, my focus is normally on small orgs, since they can be more effective. However, I'm now working with a huge org, the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 360,000 people, and from that, I'm learning how to run large organizations – and large governments – effectively.

For the long term, I'm supporting efforts in the here and now that are fundamental to universal fairness; the intent is to give everyone a break, to treat everyone how you'd like to be treated.

One such effort involves figuring out how to get news that I can trust. I'm a news consumer, but for the past decade I've been getting training in media ethics and trust issues, as well as being shown how the news sausage is made. (It ain't pretty, particularly with all the disinfo being flung around.) The theme is that "the press is the immune system of democracy" and that a good ethical framework might lead some part of the press back to trustworthy behavior.

Another effort involves voting rights in the US. While the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we're all equal under the law, bad actors in politics can only survive if they stop certain groups of people from voting, and that ain't right.

It might occur to you that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice," and that is another articulation of what my stuff's all about. You'd be right.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by USDAgov

6 Impressive Women in Engineering

It's important to acknowledge and support the people on the backend doing good work. Too often, women engineers get little to no acknowledgement for the work they're doing. As a nerd, it's my philosophy that everyone gets a fair chance to be heard. It's one of the reasons I started craigconnects.org.

My team and I have compiled a list of women in engineering who are the real deal. These women work and build the companies that many of us use every single day, but you may have never heard of them. This is a selection that people don't hear enough about, as opposed to the notoriety that some others get. I'd like to challenge you to check out the work that these women are doing.

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1. Holly Liu, Cofounder and Chief of Staff at Kabam

Kabam is the leader in the western world for free-to-play core games. Holly also oversees Kabam’s corporate culture as head of People Operations (“People Ops”), which is responsible for driving Kabam’s vision, mission, and values for its more than 800 employees in offices around the world. Holly has helped build a world-class human resources team that is responsible for recruiting and retaining top talent and has grown Kabam’s personnel base by 500% in three years.

Holly was named to Forbes’ “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch” in 2013 and one of Fortune’s “10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming.”

2. Avni Shah, Director of Product Management at Google

Avni is in charge of Chrome development at Google. She was one of two women to present at Google's recent developer's conference I/O. During her presentation, Avni introduced the new version of Chrome coming in the next Android update dubbed Android L.

3. Nadine Harik, Engineering Manager at Pinterest

Before joining the Pinterest team, Nadine was at Google overseeing the Web and mobile Web teams

When Nadine first started working the the tech field, she described how quickly she became tired of explaining her role at the tech companies she worked for to strangers who assumed she was in HR or community management.

"Now," Nadine says, "I tend to always preface with, 'I work at Pinterest and I'm an engineer at Pinterest.'"

4. Merline Saintil, Head of Global Engineering Operations at Yahoo, and Advisor for EngageClick

Merline is an international technology executive, business advisor, and operations expert, having distinguished herself as a leader in fast growing sectors of cloud computing, mobile, online payments and commerce. She has been involved in the process of creating software as well as managing global teams to produce world-class products in a variety of positions at Sun Microsystems, Adobe, PayPal and Joyent, Inc.

Merline currently serves on the Strategic Development Board and co-leads the COO C-Suite of Watermark (leading organization for Executive Women).

Outside of her business interests, Merline said she's advising Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-18) on the first mobile app challenge for high school students sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives. She has a passion for mentoring, investing, supporting women in technology

5. Ruchi Sanghvi, Head of Operations at Dropbox

Prior to joining Dropbox, Sanghvi served as the co-founder and CEO of Cove, a collaboration, coordination and communication product for organizations and communities.

Sanghvi holds the distinction of being the first female engineer at Facebook and was instrumental in implementing the first versions of key features such as News Feed. She then led product management and strategy for Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect. She was also responsible for core product areas such as privacy and user engagement.

The BBC asked Ruchi what it was like to be the first female engineer at Facebook? She said she "'was used to being in a minority: at engineering school, she was one of the five female students in a class of 150.'

But at Facebook, she says, she truly came into her own.

'You had to be opinionated, you had to make sure your point of view was heard, you had to ask questions. Sometimes people would tell you were stupid and you'd start all over again,'" she said.

6.  Hilary Mason, Founder and Chief Executive at Fast Forward Labs

Before founding Fast Forward Labs, Hilary was chief scientist at link-shortening company Bitly for almost four years and more recently worked part-time for Accel Partners as a data scientist in residence.

A subscription to Fast Forward Labs includes quarterly R&D reports, prototypes, innovation events, and an ongoing dialogue with their team on the topics of innovation and near future technologies.

Hopefully you learned about someone new, and maybe started following that person. I'd appreciate it if you left a comment with someone you'd like to see in a 2.0 version of this list. My team and I would like to hear from you about some women in engineering who really have their boots on the ground. Thanks!

5 Voter Rights Orgs You Should Follow

Hey, the Founders of the US tell us that everyone's equal in the eyes of the law, meaning that citizens have the right to vote. However, there are politicians who don't like that, and they're attacking the integrity of the election by making it hard for people to vote. Fortunately, there are some organizations doing really good work to ensure that any barriers to voting are removed for everyone who's got the right to vote.

We also gotta vote and make sure the politicians hear our voices and know we count and we matter.

I'd like you to help out all Americans fulfill what I feel is an actual duty to our families, neighborhoods, and the country. Check out these organizations, register to vote, and maybe ask your neighbor if they're registered, too. It's pretty simple to vote by mail, nowadays, if allowable. (I've done so for most of the last twenty something years.)

5 voter rights orgs you should follow, in no particular order:

1. Voto Latino (disclaimer: I'm on their Advisory Board)


Voto Latino is a nonpartisan organization that empowers Latino Millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community. United by the belief that Latino issues are American issues and American issues are Latino issues, Voto Latino is dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices to develop leaders by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change.

Why it Matters:

• There are roughly 15 million American Latino youth in the U.S., but only a small fraction vote.
• 50% of all eligible Latino voters are under 40 and 33% are between 18 and 34.
• By 2050, Latino youth are expected to comprise 29% of the U.S. youth population.
• 66,000 American Latinos turn 18 every month.
• 90% of American Latinos under 29 consume information in English.
• Latinos make up more than 10% of the electorate in 11: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada and Texas.

2. League of Women Voters


The League of Women Voters is a citizens’ organization that has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives. They operate at national, state and local levels through more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

Formed from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the centerpiece of the League’s efforts remain to expand participation and give a voice to all Americans. They do this at all three levels of government, engaging in both broad educational efforts as well as advocacy. Their issues are grounded in our respected history of making democracy work for all citizens.

3. The Brennan Center for Justice


The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. They work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all. The Center’s work ranges from voting rights to campaign finance reform, from racial justice in criminal law to Constitutional protection in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution — part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group, part communications hub — the Brennan Center seeks meaningful, measurable change in the systems by which our nation's governed.

4. Rock the Vote rock the vote


Rock the Vote is the largest non-profit and non-partisan organization in the US driving the youth vote to the polls. Fusing pop culture, politics, and technology, Rock the Vote works to mobilize the millennial voting bloc and the youth vote, protect voting rights, and advocate for an electoral process and voting system that works for the 21st century electorate.
Since 1990, Rock the Vote has revolutionized the use of pop culture, music, art and technology to inspire political activity. Now, for almost 25 years, Rock the Vote has pioneered ways to make voting easier by simplifying and demystifying voter registration and elections for young adults.

They were early advocates for states allowing voters to register by mail and were the first organization to use a toll-free number to register voters over the phone. They were also the first organization to create a voter registration tool to register voters online.

5. Fair Elections Legal Network


The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and legal support organization whose mission is to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies and improve overall election administration through administrative, legal, and legislative reform as well as provide legal and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.

 

 

Thanks! And please comment with other groups doing good work…My team and I will check 'em out, and maybe add them to this Resource List that we're compiling.