Thursday, October 1, 2009

GHC09: Welcome Session!

I'm in the Welcoming Session at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and just saw the coolest short video, "I am a Woman in Technology" - how inspiring! Please check it out - it will only take a few minutes!

One of our opening speakers is Dame Wendy Hall! She just became a Dame this year as well as a Fellow of Royal Sciences. Dame Hall got to sign her name, with a quill pen, in the same book that Charles the II and Isaac Newton did. Guess she had to be *very* careful not to smear anything :-) I don't think I've ever seen a Dame in person before!

Our keynote speaker, Megan Smith, VP of New Business Development at Google! She's so full of energy - and at such an early hour! She has a really cool graphic that shows search queries around the globe (color coded by language). It's neat to see all the rays of color shooting out of Europe, but what's interesting is the complete lack of "light" coming out of Africa. Africans, in general, just do not have access to the Internet - the infrastructure is just not there. Seems hard to imagine, here I am complaining about the constant drops of my connection that is happening in this session, when entire countries would be thrilled to have this much access.

Smith shows us many examples of people using technology to better their lives - like using SMS in Kenya to manage banking, which before was rather inaccessible which came people from using banks in the past. Building on that, she showed us a great picture of a march in Columbia against the FARC druglords that was organized solely on Facebook. Wow!