Activate 2010 Review

Clay Shirky by Aleks Krotoski

I think it’s easy as an agency in a B2B market to forget about the greater good and the impact digital can have in truly bringing about positive change.

Having won a ticket through Chinwag to The Guardian’s Activate Summit 2010, I experienced a day I would most likely not have otherwise enjoyed, but will certainly not miss in years to come.

I sat through each session being reminded of just what an exceptional ‘ecosystem’ (to nick Julie Meyer’s term) we are all plugged in to with the wonderful world that is the internet, and saw glimpses of what social media looks like when used to influence government decisions (Beth Noveck, White House Open Government Initiative), how aid is administered in Third World outreaches (Ethan Zuckerman, Global Voices), and even in your local neighbourhood (Steven Clift,

Of all the sessions though, the most memorable for me was Georgia Arnold, SVP of Social Responsibility at MTV Networks International and Executive Director of Staying Alive Foundation. MTV created ‘Shuga’; a 3-part African equivalent of ‘Gossip Girl’ that sought to educate young adults about the dangers of sexual networks, multiple partners, drug use and living with HIV/AIDS.

Georgia gave us a fact that blew my mind; that 70% of young Kenyans use social media, 80% have mobile phones - only 50% have an indoor toilet (which last time I checked was the top tweet of the day for #activate2010).  By engaging with the youth on social platforms MTV successfully had 60% of the young adult population in Kenya watching the show, and through monitoring the results have found that those who watched the show have proven to be more likely to make wiser decisions around the issues raised.  The full scope of their findings is being unveiled at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna in a couple weeks’ time.

Having had my whole world opened up somewhat, I camped out in the ‘technology and the developing world’ sessions for the rest of the day.  I am now a total fan of Ethan Zuckerman.  Also honourable mention to Dr David Cavallo of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), who is changing the face of education in developing worlds, and Rose Shuman of Open Mind - Question Box who in the 4 minutes given to her rocked my world with such a simple but effective way of bringing the answers technology can bring to a rural area without technology.

Thanks again to Chinwag for what was truly a fantastic day.

Picture (cc) Aleks Krotoski.