I'm happy to say I'm back in sunny Seattle after spending a really interesting week in Europe. Yesterday wrapped the second day of Zeitgeist. An overview of the whole conference can be seen here.
Day two's theme was People Power. Presentations were given by everyday people (as well as a Prince) describing how they use technology to bring awareness to their global issues. Chief Almir Narayamogs Surui, leader of the Surui Tribe of the Amazon explained how indigenous people are using technology to bring awareness to the plight of his people and their rainforest. 1.2M acres of the Amazon rainforest were destroyed last year by loggers. The rainforest has reached the limit of the allowable deforestation. The Surui tribe has discovered a way to monitor their forest by using Google maps and GPS to build a multilayered map of the rainforest. They can monitor activities in the rainforest with the satellite images on Google maps and defend their more than 300K acres of rainforest from continued destruction. This is a tribe that only first made contact with the outside world in 1969. What they have taught themselves about communication and using technology to enable their survival is nothing short of amazing.
Oscar Morales, founder of One Million Voices against FARC explained how using Facebook, Gmail, Google Apps and MSN Messenger they were able to mobilize 12M in 40 countries on February 4, 2008 to come together in rallies showing their opposition to FARC. This was one person who was passionate about a cause and using the world of technology today reached across borders, languages, time zones and cultures to bring people together for one day. He didn't have money or fame but he had passion and technology.
There were other discussions from global leaders of banks and media companies but I didn't find their situations near has inspiring as Chief Surui and Oscar Morales. Media companies are struggling in the current economic environment but the economy only exacerbated what technology was already doing to their business models. Sonal Shah, Deputy Assistant to President Obama explained how their hang a large part of their success to two things; message distribution and data collection. Everyday thousands of pieces of data would be uploaded from Obama supporters identifying who they'd talked to, who was committed, uncommitted, supporters and possible supporters. This vast amount of data allowed the teams to be as effective with their time and resources during their outreach as possible. With 1000's of offices around the country and millions of people participating there was no way they could have managed the data or message distribution without their extensive use of web technologies.
The real message from the day was that every person has power whether you are a citizen journalist or political activist the web technologies of today and tomorrow allow us all the ability to make our voices heard and bring about change. It doesn't take money or fame, but rather passion and ingenuity. No business is immune from the new landscape of technologies. Whether you run a multi billion dollar bank as Deutsche Bank spoke about or an international media company like Vivendi or the BBC technology has changed everything. Businesses must adapt and embrace it or become irrelevant – it's realy quite that simply.
One last funny note, Larry Page, co-founder of Google said he thinks Google should be working on problems like that of a toothbrush; meaning Google should be focusing on issues that affect people as much as their toothbrush affects them everyday. Interesting analogy, and I think I'll just leave it at that.
You can see all the sessions compliments of YouTube. Thanks for a great two days Google. I appreciate the invitation and inclusion in your very interesting event.