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Showing posts from June, 2014

Martus 4.5: Lowering the Barrier to Better Information Security through Strong Crypto

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Last week, the Benetech Human Rights Program released version 4.5 of Martus—our free, open source, secure information collection and management software—which includes major updates and usability improvements. Our goal is to make it far easier for groups that work with vulnerable populations keep the sensitive information they collect confidential. Having long supported human rights activists, we know the importance of confidentiality when working with victims and witnesses.

The biggest highlight of this release is that Martus 4.5 can now be configured in less than 10 minutes by anyone with basic digital literacy skills, so that even less tech-savvy users can easily and quickly implement Martus’ secure documentation capabilities with distributed backup. Martus 4.5 features a new Configuration Wizard for account setup, offering fresh look-and-feel and greatly improved user experience. Additionally, major enhancements to its architecture simplify the secure backup, sharing, and distrib…

Reimagining the Power of One Billion Dollars

“What would you do with a billion dollars to combat economic inequality?” asked Chris Anderson, head of TED, at the closing session of this year’s conference. More specifically: “how would you audaciously reinvest that amount of money to best help the world’s 3.5 billion poorest people?” he probed. Having just heard the new director of MIT’s Media Lab, Joi Ito, present the Labs’ latest approach to innovation—“Deploy or Die”—I was inspired to answer the question.

Bottom-Up Innovation Joi’s new motto underscores the need for more than just tech demos to change the world. To make them truly count, we must put our technology innovations into the hands of real people and see what actually works. Technology has advanced to a point where it is easy to do so. Whether it’s software, hardware, or even biotech, the cost of prototyping and deploying new tools, then adapting them and iterating, is now extremely low. As I previously described in a Huffington Post op-ed, it was then that …

10X: CEO’s Update: Spring 2014

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10X: ten times the impact. That’s what’s been on my mind lately. How can our existing successful programs reach ten times more people? How can we use technology in a new way to improve people’s lives that is an order of magnitude better? Can we help stimulate the creation of far more technology-for-good ventures?

The Benetech team has already accomplished great things for our users, but there is so much more we can do. Technology currently serves privileged groups through tools that provide access to education, literacy, health, and justice. But what about everybody else? While it’s not a panacea, technology has been the engine of so many improvements in society.

The time has never been better to think 10X bigger! I have disruptive approaches to social innovation in mind, with an increasingly connected society where the cost of prototyping and deploying new products is extremely low, and where innovation is no longer the sole purview of well-funded for-profit corporations. We deliver…

The Last Walk

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On rare occasions, I choose to share something personal on my blog, which focuses normally on Benetech, technology for good and social entrepreneurship.  Two weeks ago, I wrote the following to friends and family:
Our beloved Australian shepherd, Calypso, turned 14 years old today. I just took her on a walk around the block. It was bittersweet. Time has been kind to her looks, but not her mind. Her coloration is such that gray doesn't show: she looks the same as she did ten years ago, except a bit thinner. But, our bright, vivacious dog has slowly gone away. She's lost most of her vision, and most of her hearing, and it seems like she has the dog equivalent of Alzheimer's. Formerly a fiend for toys, and an avid playmate for other dogs, she doesn't notice them anymore. As she slowly went around the block, limping and stumbling over cracks in the sidewalk, I began to realize that this might be the last time I get to take her on a walk around the block. A…

Fair Use Victory Advances a Future of Accessibility for All

Two days ago, on Tuesday, June 10, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York made a major ruling that emphasizes the legality of fair use for book digitization. In Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, a unanimous three-judge panel concluded that digitizing books in order to enhance research and provide access to individuals with print disabilities is lawful on the grounds of fair use—that is, a limitation and exception to the exclusive rights granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work (Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law). This is an immense victory for fair use as the basis of a balanced intellectual property system, and we, at Benetech, are delighted by it and by its tremendous positive implications for the public interest.

What is this court case and why do we care so much about it? As a non-lawyer, let me explain from the point of view of a technologist who cares passionately about accessibility for people with disabilities.

The HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) is …

Philanthropy Delivers New Promise of Quality Education for All

Investing in education has an incredible multiplier effect as it leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals, but also for their communities and societies. It provides returns for decades.

This topic was center-stage at this year’s Global Philanthropy Forum.

The Forum, which has been bringing philanthropists as well as political and social sector leaders from around the world to Silicon Valley since 2001, hosted the Presidents of two foundations: Robert Gallucci of the MacArthur Foundation and Reeta Roy of The MasterCard Foundation. Gallucci and Roy jointly announced a partnership of philanthropic organizations investing more than $15 million in grants to 23 projects as well as an additional $13 million available in the coming year for innovative projects that will increase the participation, quality, and relevance of secondary education.

I had the opportunity to speak with both Gallucci and Roy about this unique funder collaborative and more specifically about how the Par…