02 June 2009

Adding My Voice

It's no secret that I've been singing the praises of Global Voices Online and its advocacy arm for some time now. So when I saw this - even though it's a contest run by organization that's working closely with a competitor - I thought it was important to add my voice to a global chorus in support of Global Voices Advocacy.

Zemanta has a new add-on tool for blogs, and they're trying to promote blogging for a cause. The cause that gets the most blog posts will win $3,000.

I vote for Global Voices Advocacy, because they represent the future of activism and communication in a newly-wired developing world.

There are dozens of great causes participating in this contest, and each deserves support. For at least part of my career I spent time focusing on the developing world and trying to find solutions through trade and intellectual property rules to the enormous public health challenges in the poorest countries. I quickly learned that there are far more urgent priorities than a rulebook and a tariff schedule updated regularly in Geneva, and the top priority can be summed up in a single word: infrastructure.

When most people hear the word "infrastructure" they think roads and bridges and ports. When they hear "communications infrastructure" they usually think about fiber-optic cables or cellphone towers. And they're right. But infrastructure is also about people. It's about people with the right training, in the right place, at the right time. Bridges don't get built without engineers and construction workers. Communications networks don't get utilized without people who know how to use them.

You could make medicines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria available for free, but they're useless if there isn't a system in place to distribute and administer those medicines. That means you need working ports to unload the vaccines and the medical supplies, but you also need everyone from the person who knows how to drive a truck on rough terrain without tipping over to the person who knows how to give a vaccine to the person who knows how to convince others to come back regularly for care. In too many places that's all the same person, and if anything happens to her or him, the entire infrastructure is gone.

History has shown that the key to preventing disease - as well as addressing any number of injustices - is the free flow of information.

Global Voices Advocacy is providing that channel for information to flow both ways - they're quite literally building and training a network of advocates and communicators where they're needed most, and they're helping those whose voices haven't been heard before share their stories and solutions. They're building the links between those "in the field" and those in the boardrooms and the broadcast booth. Global Voices Advocacy is the human global communications infrastructure of the 21st century. It is the foundation upon which large-scale grassroots campaigns will be built.

On top of that, they're redefining the "business of journalism." The global news network of the future is going to look a lot more like Global Voices than it will BBC or CNN - a loose coalition of smart people leveraging low-cost technology for high-concept results with sound production values. They'll circumvent censorship and oppression with flip-phones and portable solar chargers. They'll download data and conduct research from internet cafes in Ghana. They'll produce compelling, high-definition content with laptops and $200 cameras. Language barriers will be virtually meaningless. Most importantly, they'll be constantly growing their ranks as people understand the value of telling their own stories and learning from others.

How can you raise awareness about a specific disease, or recruit people to address a tragedy, or offer a solution to a problem, if there's no way to tell your story to the world in your own words?

This blog post is part of Zemanta's “Blogging For a Cause” (http://www.zemanta.com/bloggingforacause/) campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.