Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stump Speech for "The Capacitor Challenge"

The group behind the Crazy Green Idea? Video "The Capacitor Challenge" has their stump speech in. Have a read, and then head over to the X PRIZE website to vote for your favorite Crazy Green Idea!


When we first imagined The Capacitor Challenge, I was busy with other film projects and my friend Bryan Le was busy putting together ideas for his research concept. He wanted inspiration to develop a long-term technology that would change the course of the environmental crises looming in the future, so he searched through papers, publications, and technologies among universities and companies until he happened to re-discover the X Prize Foundation.

And that’s how he found the Crazy Green Idea contest; here was a chance to send a unified grand challenge to the scientific and engineering communities across the globe. He came to me knowing together we could voice our idea with clarity and resolution.

Capacitors can recharge nearly instantaneously and survive the entire life-time of the electric device. They are durable, non-explosive and easily reused due to their incredibly long lifespan. On top of that, they provide electricity at nearly 99% efficiency. And unlike their electrochemical counterparts, capacitors hold no toxic compounds that will leech into the ground and damage the environment after disposal.

An ultra-capacitor capable of storing energy at the level of a common battery has obvious benefits for portable electric devices. However, we envision major revolutions in energy with wide-spread use of electric vehicles and energy storage stations as a result of capacitor breakthroughs. We cannot continue to see valuable petroleum resources be atrociously burned without regard for the pollution it produces or the political turmoil it inflicts. Nor can we endure the inefficiency of power stations that must wastefully operate in times of low-use while unable to keep up demand during high-use of electricity.

Focus on energy storage will pave the way for on-demand electrical energy systems. When electricity is not in use, it can be stored efficiently and safely. When electricity is needed, it can be reliably called upon in a matter of seconds. Electrical efficiency is necessary for a world that will rely on new energy sources to fuel our societies.

Our intention is to impact a world that has been ravaged by toxic pollutants, chemical waste, and harmful emissions. We are a team of undergraduates from the University of California in Irvine working to change the course of the environmental damage that exists today, so we may live in hope for a sustainable future.

--Kyle Good
--Bryan Le

Child Soldiers: Guns and Ammo


Where are all the guns and ammo for these wars coming from?? (photo source: UN.org)

PF
sent me an email this morning with an excellent question. He says, "I have greatly enjoyed your post on child soldiers...its disturbing on so many levels. My question is about the weapons. Where are they coming from? How do they have weapons, but no money or food?"

In response, I will point you to two excellent sources - one a movie and the other a documentary - that explain the issue better than I ever could.

1. Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage. Its the enormously and disturbingly honest story of gunrunners, people who are the arms dealers and peddlers. Trailer is here (and below):


2. A FAR better source of information is this PBS Frontline/World documentary about gunrunners in Sierra Leone. Check out the website for scripts, exclusive interviews with the UN detectives who uncovered the story, the filmmakers, and other resources. Unfortunately, the video is not embeddable. But you can watch the video and other resources here.

Anyone want a SpaceShipOne for a holiday gift?

A replica rocket of SpaceShipOne was listed by Dvice as #2 on a list of toys that both adults and kids would love.



Model rockets are always fun, and launching SpaceShipOne up to 400ft seems like it would be a lot of fun. I think it would be more fun if there was a miniature Brian Binnie action figure that you could pop inside to go along for the ride.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Child Soldiers: Newton Aduaka's TEDTalk


Filmmaker Newton Aduaka discusses his powerful film "Ezra" at the 2007 TED Africa Conference (photo courtesy: Afromusing)

Continuing on yesterday's theme, watch filmmaker Newton Aduaka's talk at the TED Africa Conference in 2007. In his talk, he showcases three clips of how interprets film, and finally mid-way through the talk, he shows us a clip from his award-winning film Ezra The Story of a Boy Soldier. Aduaka ends his talk with a very powerful point..."Africa should go forward, but we must look backwards so we don’t forget...so that we never go back there again!"

Here is the trailer to "Ezra" (also see below):



And here is Aduaka's excellent talk from the TED Africa Conference in 2007:

Can X PRIZEs Spur Innovation?


Dr Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, muses about innovation in the latest issue of BusinessWeek magazine. (photo courtesy: BusinessWeek)

Can X PRIZEs spur innovation?? In this BusinessWeek article, Peter Diamandis, Chairman/CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, muses the topic. Here's a snippet:

His X Prize, moreover, has become a template for organizations, companies, and even the federal government. The format: Announce an attention-grabbing goal, find a benefactor who'll put up the prize money or pay for it yourself, wait as the brightest minds race each other to come up with the answer, and then bask when you declare a winner. Today there are dozens of copycat contests in the U.S. and Europe for everything from curing Lou Gehrig's disease to solving age-old math conundrums. Awards run from $75,000 to $50 million.

But as contests have proliferated, so, too, have questions about their ability to push forward the boundaries of technology. Are they better at yielding breakthroughs than traditional research and development? Can Lotto-size payouts solve monstrously complex problems? Or are they a fad that stokes vanity-driven entrepreneurs focused on smaller-scale challenges?

Diamandis, not surprisingly, predicts that cash competitions will resolve some of "the world's grand challenges." When he proposed a prize for space travel, he recalls, "a lot of people also told me it was a stupid idea and that no one could win it." But he concedes there are problems that you can't simply "throw a prize at." And at least some scientists see contests as ultimately immaterial in their fields. Richard Gibbs, director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, notes that researchers have made huge advances in understanding DNA without the lure of a sweepstakes. "The X Prize is cute," he says, "but is not really the driver." Still, he and others say what's the harm if contests generate excitement about science. [...]

[read more]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Child Soldiers: A Long Way Gone...


In his riveting autobiography, Ishmael Beah tells of his previous life as a child soldier (photo source: John Madere)

I've spent the few precious moments of free time I've had in the past week engrossed in Ishmael Beah's autobiography A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, the true story of a child soldier in Sierra Leone. War is often so glamorized - the idea of patriotic sacrifice, the G.I Joe notion of playing with guns, testosterone, the idea of avenging your blood or whatever else, etc - that this offered a rare glimpse into the absolute inhumanity of war. The first half of the book is about life before and during Sierra Leone's civil war; the second half is about rehabilitation. You can venture a guess about which one is more painful to read about. It was also very educational. I never understood how children became soldiers, but Ishmael sheds light on this issue as well. Now I understand how easy it is to be sucked into that world.

Here
, Beah reflects and analyzes the psychology behind his experiences:


[related post: Child Soldier turned Rapper Emmanuel Jal]

A Singularity University?

The next Board Member that I want to introduce you to is Dr. Ray Kurzweil. I was inspired to write about him this morning because of an article I found on a potential "Singularity University."


Dr. Ray Kurzweil is a prolific writer, inventor and futurist. As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.

Among Ray's many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world's largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, established by the US Patent Office.

He has received thirteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.

Among the many reasons that you might know Ray are some of his books. I've read two of them: The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near. These futuristic predictions are based around the idea that as the processing speed of computers increases exponentially, eventually computers will become more intelligent than humans, and possibly even become fully conscious. The books go on to explore the potential implications of such an event. I don't know enough about what he was talking about to offer any sort of opinion on whether this is feasible or not, but Dr. Kurzweil certainly presented a convincing argument.

The article that inspired me to write about Dr. Kurzweil was in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and talks about what a University would look like in a post-Singularity world, where computers are actually intelligent enough to be the teachers, rather than just a tool. I won't ruin the article for you, so I'd suggest reading it.

Once you've read the article, I want to know what you think of the Singularity! Either let me know here, or contact me on twitter: xprize.

Have fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cool Rainwater Harvesting Video

This video about rainwater harvesting is making its rounds around the Indian web culture. I LOVED it. We need more things like this...



Hat tip to Shekhar Kapur.

New Facebook Group

The X PRIZE Foundation finally has a group on facebook, joining all of our active prizes. Not sure why it took so long, but better late than never, right?

Here's the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/X-PRIZE-Foundation/35962698116

At the time of writing, we're at about 12 fans (it's only been up for an hour). We're looking for a lot more, so please join up!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blog Spotlight: WhiteAfrican


Erik Hersman (aka WhiteAfrican, aka HASH) presents at a conference.

Emeka, my colleague at the X PRIZE Foundation , introduced me to White African, a blog by a mzungu (East African term for caucasian) who spent most of his formative years in different parts of rural Africa. As a result, Erik is a wonderful blend of two cultures - American and African (he's somebody I would call African-American!).

I've now spoken to Erik a few times and have been struck by his depth of knowledge, commitment to developing Africa into an innovation hub, and passion for making the world better. He's a man of action, something I respect deeply. Follow his blog to keep up with the growth of African technology innovation. It provides a distinctly different picture to the typical Africa that's depicted in the media. His blog happily depicts the continent as being a vibrant, growing hub of activity.

Below is a video from his latest post that speaks to his own passion as well as links to two other projects that he is working on: Afrigadget (another blog I would highly recommend) and Ushahidi (crowd sourcing information network).



I'm proud to say that Erik (blogger name HASH) is part of our African advisory council for the X PRIZE in Global Development. If you know other people, including yourself, who could be valuable additions to our advisory council, PLEASE let us know. We are always on the lookout for the right people.

Thanks!

Board Member: Will Wright

I'd like to introduce you all to another one of our Board Members: Will Wright.



Will is a video game designer who's been in the news a lot lately for his new video game Spore. I haven't played it yet, but I heard it's quite a bit of fun. The idea is that you control the evolution of a species from bacteria to space faring civilization. I've had a lot of fun looking at the Spore: Creature Creator contests that have been springing up all over the internet.

Many of you will probably know Will better for another video game series that he created: Sim City and the Sims.



These games essentially revolutionized the video game industry. I remember playing Sim City in my seventh grade science class, and trying to create a better game than the rest of the kids in my class. And of course, controlling the lives of families in the Sims was like taking "playing house" to the next level.

The great thing about Will's games is that while they're fun, there's also an educational component built into all of them. In Spore, you get to explore an understand the concept of evolution, and try to find ways to make sure that the species you create survives. In Sim City, you learned about things like management and multi-tasking. As we're starting to see more and more I think, video games can be more than just entertainment; they can teach us things in a unique and fun way.

Which games that Will Wright created did/do you play? What are your favorites?

What are the best educational video games out there?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Globes are Made


(photo source: Bill in Ash Vegas)

I'm really enjoying this Chicago History Museum Youtube channel. Most of the videos are too Chicago-centric, but there are some that are generally interesting. Being a big traveler myself, and considering the nature of the prize that I'm working on, I thought this video about how globes are made would be of interest to you.

Another typical day in the office

I was inspired by prazz'z blog describing her typical day in the office, so I thought I'd share another perspective. I'm a Communications Specialist for the X PRIZE Foundation, so my typical day includes a huge amount of two things: reading and writing. Obviously reading and writing e-mails is a large part of it (does anyone's job anymore not include a lot of e-mailing?), but I also have a lot of other things to read and write. BEcause I work across so many different areas (energy, exploration, life sciences, global development), I have to keep up on news from all of them, so I know what the trends are in the media. I also read a lot about social networking, and how to make the most of it in a business scenario.

If you have been to our website, you'll notice a scrolling newsfeed on the right side of the page. I also read all of those articles (and more) and pick which ones go in that feed. Though I must admit I've been a bit lax in that area lately. Maybe I'll go read them all when I finish writing this.

Then, I spend a lot of time writing; either blogs like this, twitter posts, or more formal things like press releases, pitch letters, or web content.

As most of you know, the X PRIZE Foundation also does a far number of events, and as a member of the Communications team, I help to plan and organize those. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the job. I really enjoy the attention to detail that's required to plan something like the Progressive Autmotive X PRIZE announcement at the New York Auto Show last March. Also, typically I get to go to these events to help coordinate with the press, which is always fun. I love to travel.

Then of course there's the day to day things: answering questions, organizing files, getting water, editing documents.

All in all it's a great place to work.

Here's a picture of my desk, because I know how interesting that will be for people:




Oh, and I can't forget the most important part of my job: taking pictures of the awesome socks my co-workers wear.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A typical day for me


(photo source: Mike Rohde)

Q. What's a typical day like for you in the office?

(this question came courtesy of a friend of mine who has been reading this blog and doesn't get what I do in the office all day!)

A. Firstly, I speak only for myself...as everyone in the organization has a different role and therefore different responsibilities and types of work.

There isn't really a "typical day in the office." I have something called an "ideal day," and then there's the reality of what my day is like.

An "ideal day" would be an 8-hour workday with clearly outlined tasks and deliverables that I'm able to get through, go home and have a life. More importantly, it would mean that with everyday I would get slowly and methodically closer to finding this X PRIZE.

The reality of what my day is like is quite different. I'm often traveling, or preparing for a trip, or compiling the notes and minutes from a trip I just came back from. I often have phone meetings or in-person meetings with people/organizations who are interested, can potentially advise or provide significant value to the project. There's a lot of documentation, which takes up quite a bit of my time. And then there's the research, thinking, and formulating of a strategy and prize concept.

Because we run a very lean operation, I have many roles to fulfill. Granted I am a project manager...but largely, I'm a project manager of myself and the project. There's Emeka, who dedicates approximately 20% of his time to this project, and myself. Between the two of us, we need to engage the world and push forward a well-thought-out project that will ultimately have a significant impact on the world's poor. Essentially, no two days are alike. Most days I'm grateful for where I am and humbled by the responsibilities I have been given. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I can fulfill them. Because...done right, this project could really change things for the world, in a very good way.

Stump Speech for "The Energy Independence X PRIZE"

Localthinktank, creator of "The Energy Independence X PRIZE" video finalist to the "What's Your Crazy Green Idea?" Video Contest, has written a blog entry explaining his idea, and why he thinks it will make a good X PRIZE.

To vote for your favorite Crazy Green Idea, visit our voting page: http://www.xprize.org/crazy-green-idea

We'll have more "Stump Speeches" from the other finalists soon!


"The Energy Independence XPrize is the idea that will affect the greatest number of people around the world and help solve the most pressing and important issues of our time.

Energy is the life blood of the world. Our progress as a society rises and falls on our ability to effectively and safely create and use energy. This is the most revolutionary Xprize idea because it provides 3 fundamental benefits:

1. Energy Independence: The ability to create and produce large amounts of energy in a confined space will not only directly benefit the average family (in this case in their monthly budget by creating a completely energy independent home), but open the door to many areas, including but not limited to:

A. Community and Cities: The blackouts that so plaque large cities like Los Angeles (and cost billions in lost productivity) will become a thing of the past as the technologies developed from this Xprize are expanded to cover larger and larger areas.

B. 3rd world development: Communities in 3rd world countries that currently do not have access to power due to infrastructure and transmission costs will, through this Xprize, be able to develop and grow in ways that will benefit millions around the world.

C. So many other benefits: If each home had an independent supply of power, how much easier would it be to create and sell electric cars? How much pollution would that reduce? The potential benefits are staggering!


2. Safeguard against the effects of Natural Disasters and Terrorism: In this age where terrorism and natural disasters are now commonplace worries, having decentralized power is not only critical for national security, but to the social and financial health of all nations. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, one of the worst problems was that when the centralized power grid went down, it shut down all the water filtration stations, water pumps and hospitals in the city. If every pumping station, hospital, and home in the future is individually powered, it will make a huge difference in the outcome of these disasters.

3. 20% Reduction in Nationwide pollution levels: Balancing the effects of pollution and Energy creation is an issue that affects us all. The United States has been hesitant to enter into the 1997 Kyoto agreement in large part because the 33 percent reduction in pollution levels would have directly affected the economy. Residential pollution accounts of over 20% of the nations’ pollution level. An Xprize that helps to eliminate this is something that needs to be taken seriously.

When Spaceship One crossed the threshold of space, we saw a small company do two things that many thought could not be done. We saw a quantum leap in both technology and cost reduction in a field that badly needed both. This Xprize will create leaps in technologies that control Energy Creation, Storage and Transmission. Vote for the Energy Independence Xprize and make a difference that will ultimately affect you, your family, your community and the world!

LocalThinkTank.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What the heck is going on in Congo


(photo courtesy: lonely planet)

There is a LOT going on in the Congo and I've gotten a few questions from confused friends and family who get their news from very Americo-centric sources. Here are some resources to help out:

1. How to Become an Expert on Congo in just Five Minutes by

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peer Water Exchange at Blue Planet Run




On the theme of drinking water, here's another organizational methodology to chew on. You've probably heard of Blue Planet Run (BPR), and if not, its a good time to check them out.

BPR's mission is straightforward: Create global awareness of the world's safe drinking water and mobilize the citizens of the world to solve the problem. And they want to provide 200 million people with safe drinking water by 2027.

They've definitely been doing an excellent job with their awareness campaign. They came to my attention after I saw copies of their excellent book of the same name (Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water for the World) on everyone's coffee table - in my doctor's office, the waiting room of a magazine company, at the airport lounge.

Then I talked to Lisa Nash, their dynamic CEO, and loved another of their projects they had going on - a novel concept called the Peer Water Exchange (PWX). Every few months, members of the peer group (which can consist of anyone who wants to be involved in this decision making) review the grant applications that come in and then vote to allot money as they see fit. Think academic peer-review or open-source allocation. Makes for a transparent, participatory, and democratic process. I don't know how well its working, but it looks interesting and I would encourage more people to get involved.

Quote of the Day and Picture of the Week

I regularly subscribe to a blog called "quotes of the day." Today's quote was particularly apt. Its something I try hard to avoid doing in my own work because it is so dangerously true, and just too easy to go down the path of.

Andrew Carnegie said:
One of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity.
All charity is not good. Its not enough to just try to do good. It must be done and it must be done well. I encourage you to call me out if you think at any point that this Prize is going down the path of "indiscriminate charity." That is worse than doing nothing at all.

Also, our picture of the week. There is something heartbreaking and yet endearing about this picture. Unfortunately I have no reference for who took this picture. It was sent to me by a friend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dean Kamen's water machine on the Colbert Report

Yes, as PL pointed out, Dean Kamen had demo-ed his water machine on the The Colbert Report on World Water Day. I looked all over for it and found it here. Hopefully you can see it.



PL, who wishes to remain anonymous, also asked what my thoughts on Kamen's machine were. I haven't studied his machine, so its hard for me to comment intelligently. I have a lot of respect for Dean Kamen and what he is attempting to do, but having worked several years in this field, I can say with great certainty that it isn't the fancy technology that solves the world's water problems, its the simple things. Too many times I've come across technology that was inappropriately designed for the poor, and these died miserable deaths. Often they sat on shelves, unused for years and/or quickly fell into disrepair because of high operation and maintenance costs. Its not that I doubt Kamen's machine works. Hardly the case...infact i'm certain it is technically very sound. The question is, will it sustain in the villages I've worked in...that is a completely different answer.

From what I can see, Kamen's machine is a distiller. Distiller's are high energy technologies (essentially it uses distillation to clean the water), which makes it very expensive. I'm curious about the cost of the machine and how much energy it uses. That will decide whether its a worthy investment or not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Innovate: Interview with Dean Kamen


Inventor extraordinaire, Dean Kamen addressed an audience from his Segway.

U.K newspaper The Telegraph recently did a major write-up and interview with X PRIZE Board Member and inventor extraordinaire Dean Kamen. Part of it covers his dreams to address the problems of the "third world."

Kamen's latest project may well be his most ambitious yet: he wants to bring electricity and clean water to the Third World. His plan is not the creation of centralised infrastructure for power grids and sewage treatment, but a small-scale and, relatively, cheap solution. 'Like, how about a device that a couple of people can haul into a village that can turn any source of water - which is typically toxic these days, that kills two million kids a year - into a thousand litres of water a day. How about if we could carry something into a village that could give people a way to make electricity?'

After 12 years working on these two problems, the engineers at Deka now have their solutions on show at the workshops in Manchester. The first is the 'Slingshot', a large box about the size of an office photocopier, sheathed in black protective foam, that can cleanse water of any contaminant from radionuclides to sewage, and run for years at a time without maintenance. The second is another metal box, five feet square, connected to a bottle of compressed gas, which emits a low murmur of humming energy. This is a Stirling engine, similar to the one installed in his electric car, but large and efficient enough to electrify an entire village, which can be driven by any locally available source of heat. Both devices have already been proved amazingly effective: one six-month test has used a Stirling engine to provide electric light to a village in Bangladesh, powered by burning the methane from a pit filled with cow dung; Slingshot has undergone similar tests in a settlement in rural Guatemala. But Kamen has yet to find a commercial partner to manufacture either of the devices for the customers that need them most. 'The big companies,' he says, 'long ago figured out - the people in the world that have no water and have no electricity have no money.' He's tried the United Nations, too, but discovered a Catch-22: non-governmental organisations won't buy the devices until they're in full production.

[read more]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Committing to Good


Greg Carr, dot com millionaire, has quietly and steadily invested his personal wealth into transforming countries slowly and surely. (photo source: Harvard Crimson)


Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Good travels at a snail's pace. Those who want to do good are not selfish, they are not in a hurry, they know that to impregnate people with good requires a long time."

Last weekend, I saw this video (also embedded below) on 60 Minutes, a respected American news magazine program, that told the story of Greg Carr's dedication to lifting Mozambique out of poverty. He doesn't have impractical dreams. He is committed, and he is in it for the long haul. In all he has invested $40 million of his own money over 20 years to develop the Gorongosa National Park, and the people that survive on it for sustenance, by trucking in animals to rehabilitate the place and bring in tourists, as well as employing and training the villagers in the vicinity to protect and conserve. Along the way, Carr has learned some powerful lessons about doing good well which he shares in his interview. Its a beautiful and powerful story. If you can't see the video below or have low bandwidth, you can read a transcript of the story here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blog Spotlight: Blood and Milk


Lots of blogs to choose from...so what's the best?? (photo source: Annie Mole)

I regularly read several blogs on my feed (thank god for Google Reader!). Not all are good or even remotely interesting...most are just noise...but it takes time to determine this. It can be overwhelming!

As I come across really good and relevant blogs particularly with regards to global development, I'll highlight them here. I hope that you will do the same for me.

One of the blogs that I've stumbled across and greatly enjoy, is this extremely well-written blog called Blood and Milk. Written and maintained by Alanna Shaikh, an experienced international aid worker, it provides a perspective on field work, and examines ideas and practices that work in the field of international aid. I particularly like how honest and analytical she is (both rare traits in this field) and how she is trying to open up the often glamorized, and secretive world of aid and disaster relief to the public.

Here is a sample of one of her posts, titled Ethics and International Development. It highlights issues that have personally frustrated me, and few others realize...
On the surface, relief and development seems like the simplest, most ethical work in the world. Helping people in need looks easy. Like most work worth doing, though, it’s extraordinarily complicated.

These are just a few, representative, ethical dilemmas:
1. Giving stuff instead of training and capacity building creates a culture of dependency. People rely on what you are giving them instead of finding a way to get it themselves. They get in the habit of looking outside their communities for positive change. And when you stop providing aid, they’ll have lost the skill of providing for themselves. Providing training and technical assistance requires huge amounts of money to be paid to outside experts, while leaving immediate needs unmet.

2. Hiring your staff locally and paying them well distorts the local labor market and pulls local talent away from government, local NGOs, and other domestic institutions. Paying market average salaries makes it hard to recruit and retain staff. It leaves your staff struggling to survive, and guarantees resentment of expatriate employees. Programs based on expat labor don’t help the local economy, and they cost a fortune.

3. Following host government policy will often require you to move so slowly that people suffer, waiting for your programs to get going. You may be forced to use outdated models for your programs. Ignoring host government policy erodes local capacity and weakens the government, which can lead to mass suffering if the government loses control of the country.

4. Paying bribes to get things done promotes a culture of corruption and is illegal under US law. Refusing to pay bribes will get you kicked out of the country, abandoning your partner communities.
[read more...]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Picture of the week



I saw this picture on Time Magazine's Pictures of the Week. I think it explains why one of the many areas we are focusing on is transportation. :-)

Comments on a Health Care X PRIZE

When we announced our partnership with WellPoint, Inc. to explore the possibility of an X PRIZE in Health Care, we opened up a section of the "Health Care page to get ideas from the public about what they think we should be trying to fix. We've received a number of great ideas already, and I want to share some of them with you over the coming days.

The first one I want to share is this:


"I see 3 categories for this challenge:

1) Behavior change: What are the best methods for clinicians, payers, or other entities to encourage people to make better choices about their health that prevent long-term cost burdens on the system?

2) Administration and delivery of care: It's no longer economical for physicians to oversee all aspects of a patient's cycle of care. What are the largest administrative and consultation burdens for MDs that can be done by more cost effective players like health coaches, disease management providers, and NPs and PAs? In other words, how can we use MDs to set the direction for a patient's care, and have other more cost effective entities see it through?

3) Value-driven competition: How do we set up systems where providers and payers compete on outcomes in addition to cost. Member facing quality and cost transparency is a third rail for some doctors and payers. How do we get them to get over their paranoia and allow patients to see how effective and safe hospitals and doctors are?"


What do the rest of you think of these categories? Aree these the right areas to explore? Especially for a prize? Do you think that a prize can change behavior?


Let us know here, or on the Health Care page: http://www.xprize.org/wellpoint

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's Your Crazy Green Idea? Contest

So, for those of you who don't know, the "What's Your Crazy Green Idea?" Contest on YouTube has stopped accepting submissions. The deadline was October 31. We received 133 eligible entries, and are in the process of judging the entries to find the top three videos. There were a number of great videos submitted, and we're very proud of all of them. The public voting session will start on November 15th, so keep an eye out on http://www.xprize.org to find out more details about how to do that.

I'd encourage all of you to check out our submissions, because there were a ton of great ideas. For some blogging fun, if people want to submit their favorite videos in a comment, I'll embed those videos in this blog post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Elon Musk of SpaceX

One part of the Foundation that we don't always talk about enough is our Board Members. We really do have an extraordinary collection of people on our Board of Trustees, all of whom are an integral part of making the X PRIZE Foundation work.

I think I'm going to start giving a brief overview of some of our Board Members, in no particular order, but as I think of them, or find something interesting that they've done.

Starting with Elon Musk, who was the gracious host of this past Board Meeting, which I had the pleasure of attending.



Elon Musk, from South Africa, is a computer programer who came to fame and fortune by co-founding the online payment system PayPal. After PayPal was sold to eBay, Elon moved on to start and run several exciting companies. Elon is the CEO & Chief Technology Officer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of access to space ultimately by a factor of ten. SpaceX launched Falcon 1 into orbit on September 28, 2008, which was the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket. They are also the preferred launch provider for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Elon will offer rides to anyone competing in the prize at cost, which is a great deal. One of my favorite parts of the Board meeting was getting a tour of the SpaceX facitility from Elon himself.

Elon is also the Chairman of Tesla Motors, a builder of electric vehicles. You've probably seen the sleek looking Tesla, either in person if you live in So. Cal., or floating around the Internet. It's a beautiful looking car. Tesla is planning to enter the Progressive Insurance Autmotive X PRIZE.



Elon is also the Chairman of Solar City, solar energy system design, financing, installation and related services.

It's been awhile...

Since I posted last. I have been lax. As I'm sure pragzz has been keeping you informed about, along with the twitter feed which I've tried to update, we've had a busy past few weeks at the Foundation. We had our Board meeting, hosted graciously by Elon Musk at SpaceX. We had the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge down in New Mexico, which was a lot of fun. Will Pomerantz took a number of great pictures, which we have on the Space site.

As I have posted already, a few weeks ago, we announced our partnership with WellPoint as well, to explore the potential of a Health Care X PRIZE. If you haven't seen them already, we've released a number of videos from people supporting the idea. I've embedded a few here:


Virginia Proestakes of GE provides a corporate perspective.


Former US Senator Bill Bradley


Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich


We've also want to hear from you about this idea: http://www.xprize.org/wellpoint. Leave us a comment!

I'll be posting a lot more hopefully over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The global vote for America. II

More thoughts about the US Election that caught my eye: (there's a lot more where this came from...I'm just keeping it short!)

1. In Uganda, Obama pins are a hot ticket item

2. Why the world's poor deserve better US Leadership.

3. Bloggers from around the world have something to say about the upcoming election.

4. Current TV has an excellent film of random people from around the world talk about who they would vote for.

Global Live blogging about the elections

I've already been harassed by friends across South Asia enough...who, I'm embarrassed to say, know far more about U.S politics than I. Yes, I'm excited about these elections. Everyone is expecting record turn-outs today. That in itself makes me happy...democracy at its best!

From Jackfruity:

Globally liveblogging the American elections

As I mentioned last week, Columbia University's international affairs blog, The Morningside Post, is hosting a global liveblog of the election returns today.

Columbia professors David Epstein, Andrew Gelman, Brigitte Nacos and Sharyn O'Halloran will join bloggers from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Singapore, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Russia, India, Switzerland, Canada and Brazil to comment as results come in and to offer opinions and analysis on the election's domestic and international implications. We'll also be posting election-related photos, videos and polls throughout the day.

Stop by any time between now and midnight EST (8:00 am Wednesday, Kampala time) to add your thoughts:

Monday, November 3, 2008

The global vote for America.


Come on people, VOTE! (photo source: ldcross)

I just turned in my ballot and I'm feeling mighty proud of myself. I encourage any Americans out there to exercise their right to vote and to vote responsibly. Your vote counts more than you know.

I had blogged before about my experiences in Kenya and other parts of the world where people were always asking me about my voting preference. I just returned from South Africa where things were not any different. In the ten days that I was there, US political news made the headlines every single day. In every conversation that I had with a stranger during those ten days - taxi drivers, people sitting next to me in the food court or restaurant, waiters, people I was meeting with for work - I was asked if I had voted and who I was voting for. South Africans seem to have a clear bias and preference for one candidate in this matter. I won't say who it is (but if you are really interested, here's a hint), but you can venture a guess and I am sure you aren't wrong. (though, I seriously think that if Bill Clinton ran for President, he would have a landslide victory...he is more popular than any other American!).

On my way back to O.R Tambo International Airport in Jo'burg, Tebogo, my driver and I got into my final conversation that day on the subject. I asked Tebogo why he was so interested in what happened in the U.S.

"Because what happens in America, affects the world," he said.

"How so?" I asked.

"You Americans don't understand how much we want to vote in your elections...and I wish we could," he said after a pause, "because the world would be very different." He continued, "For me, America is a symbol of hope. When you are healthy, the world is healthy. When you are sick, we are sick. Look at our stock market...struggling these days. Its because your stock market is sick."

"Do you think we are sick, Tebogo?" I prompted him.

Tebogo thought for a while and said, "Yes. But you can make it better. Vote for the right person and it will get better." He was silent for a bit longer and continued..."You see, in many of our African countries, we don't have this choice. You can vote and the government fights, and everyone fights, and then the country goes to hell [he was referring to Zimbabwe]. But its not like that for you."

At this point, we were getting close to the airport. I told Tebogo who I was voting for and why. He had a big smile on his face. " You chose well, ma'am. You chose for Africa." I think I did.

Remember, you are voting on behalf of the world. So please vote intelligently.