Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The NTEN conference was great. It was especially good to meet many international eRiders, the technology folks who work with nonprofit groups (often known in North America as circuit riders). We had great conversations with people from Africa and other regions. The NTEN conference was immediately followed by Penguin Day, a conference of free and open source software developers (such as Benetech, Debian and OpenACS) with nonprofit groups and eRiders.

Today is also the day that a major article of mine was published by the Association for Computing Machinery, the main computer society (aka ACM). Entitled Technology Benefiting Humanity, this article gave me a chance to make the case for technology social enterprise. I hope you get a chance to read it and spread it around. The technology community is ready to get more engaged!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

There is no substitute for travel, unfortunately. To make real progress as a field, people need to get together and interact. To a great extent my job is going to conferences and meetings!

My team at Benetech then help with the winnowing process of which of the myriad possibilities should be pursued. They are my tether to reality, because there is far more that needs to be done than Benetech can possibly take on.

Right now I am in the middle of a run of major conferences. A couple of weeks ago, it was the Social Enterprise Alliance's annual meeting, the Gathering, which I blogged at the time.

Last week, it was the CSUN Disability and Technology conference, the biggest conference of the year in North America on this topic. Highlights for me were the small meetings with leaders in the field, which I'll spotlight just a few.

My good friend, Gilles Pepin, is the head of VisuAide in Quebec. Gilles and I have worked on numerous projects together, including our Strider talking GPS project (which led to VisuAide's Trekker product), and Bookshare.org, where every subscriber receives a copy of VisuAide's Victor Reader software to read their digital books aloud. Gilles was showing off an extremely cool adaptation of a standard HP iPAQ for blind people. Very impressive!

I also met with another good friend, Professor Paul Blenkhorn of UMIST in the UK, who I've know for 15 years. Paul is the UK's only full professor of adaptive technology. Paul is working on expanding technology access for people in countries that aren't as rich as the U.S. and UK. He's working on screen readers for the blind in Eastern Europe and has an array of inexpensive software for people with severe cognitive disabilities.

The Bookshare.org advisory committee had its annual meeting, and as usual, came up with a number of insights that will help shape our Bookshare.org strategies in the coming year, especially as we rapidly expand into serving students with visual and learning disabilities.

And then there were the meetings that will lead to new announcements in the coming months. Stay tuned!

This week, it's the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference, formerly known as the Round-up. More on that as it unfolds!

Friday, March 12, 2004

Our work to expand access to educational material has a new partner! Indiana University has been scanning many books for its students, and we're excited that Margaret Londergan and her team have decided to share those books with other universities in the U.S., using our Bookshare.org service as a legally authorized intermediary. Bookshare.org and Indiana U. Partner for Greater Access.

This announcement comes on the heels of our launch of Institutional Access, a Bookshare.org program developed specifically for educators to meet the needs they have identified to serve their students with disabilities.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

One of the side effects of Benetech's growth is that it's getting harder to keep track of all our activities. I just saw a reference to our new HRDAG team's work with Human Rights Watch, a relationship that we value very much. Thanks to the work of HRW, we've been given the opportunity to analyze the workings of a secret police prison under Chad's former dictator.

Our work in Chad is an affirmation that all human rights violations matter, and that science and technology can play a role in seeking the truth. Here's a report on our preliminary work on this data.

Hissene Habre - The Political Police Files.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I will be spending the rest of this week at the Fifth Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance, here in San Francisco. The conference actually sold out for the first time ever! The excitement around nonprofit social enterprise is energizing.

My speaking gigs will be on intellectual property and the nonprofit (protect those assets!) and "Making the Pitch," which is about how to convey the opportunities presented by social entrepreneurship. I am also running for re-election to the board of the SEA: I've been on the board since the original organization, the National Gathering of Social Entrepreneurs, was formally organized in 2000.

The SEA is a home for Benetech and its team: it's our peer group. These are the people in the nonprofit sector who are excited about using the power of business to make effective social change happen. We face many of the same challenges, and the opportunity for peer learning exchange is at the core of the attraction to be involved in SEA.