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Tech for aiding the world's neediest gains attention; Gates and Grameen lead the way: video, too

The idea of using technology to help solve global problems is gaining steam. On Sept. 20, Mashable, 92nd Street Y and UN Foundation will host the Social Good Summit, which will gather digital media players, philanthropists and policy wonks to explore ways to use social media, crowd sourcing, and mobile technology to global development and aid.

It'll be streamed live, and here are some of the participants:

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and founder of Jumo, an online site to launch this fall that links individuals to aid and development organizations. Hughes also directed online organizing for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Howard W. Buffett, policy adviser in the Executive Office of the President
Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, a peer-to-peer online microlending Web site
Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV networks
Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable
Ray Chambers, the UN special envoy for Malaria, and founder of “Malaria No More”
Susan Smith Ellis, CEO of (RED), who has partnered with Apple and Nike to raise funds to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Ted Turner, chairman of Turner Enterprises, who created the UN Foundation in 1998 with his historic gift in support of the United Nations

As promised, here is our expanded takeout on our post last week on technology and global development. Please Check out the accompanying video of Grameen Foundation's David Edelstein and The Gates Foundation's Iganacio Mas.

SEATTLE - For the world's poorest, cellphone technology carries opportunity, aid groups say, as text messages and other mobile applications have created a new platform to reach the most remote farms and crowded urban slums of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Grameen Foundation, a Washington-based group known for helping women with the smallest of business loans, has two dozen people in a technology lab here developing mobile Internet applications to help spread its microfinance model. It's warning farmers in Uganda about banana crop rot through text messages and collecting data on spreadsheet applications on smartphones.

And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has dedicated $12 million to help village farmers in Tanzania, Cameroon and Rwanda save money through electronic mobile phone deposits. It has launched a $10 million contest in Haiti to fund the best mobile banking ideas to channel earthquake relief to people who would otherwise stand in long lines at overwhelmed bank branches to collect cash. (Melinda Gates is on The Washington Post Co. board of directors.)

In all, 5 billion cellphones are in use globally and the most aggressive adoption is coming from low-income and poor communities, where the low cost of phones and the availability of cell networks even in remote areas has fueled the rapid growth. The innovations in development programs are relatively new, and it's too early to predict their success. Political instability and dictatorships make it hard to work with telecom service providers, and some central banks are reluctant to cooperate with companies that could take away their control over their citizens' finances.

For full story, read here.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 7, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  International , Mobile  
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