GHC Day 2: Keynote
Megan Smith was the keynote speaker on Day 2. She completed her undergrad, as well as her Master’s, at MIT and she is currently the Vice President of New Business Development at Google.org.
Before she delved into her speech, she talked about the essay topic that MIT had set out in her year – to pick an animal that represents you and explain why. I thought that this was interesting because of the difference in the reasons that men and women gave for their choices. Most men picked the eagle to represent them because they wanted to see everything and to be on top of the world, whereas most women picked the dolphin for its level of communication. This reminds me of some of the issues that women face in computer science – the overconfidence of men and their portrayal as being more important than anyone else.
In her speech, she talked about the role of technology in lesser developed countries. She showed a satellite map of the world, coloured by language and showing the Google searches across the globe – Africa was grey. There, cell phones are popular, but there aren’t many broadband connections – an issue that I explored last winter in my African & Caribbean Literature class, the digital divide in Africa (“la fracture numérique en Afrique francophone”). She talked about something called M-PESA, offering telephony based money transfers, which sounded pretty cool. Google has recently opened up some new offices in Africa: in Senegal, in Ghana, and in Nairobi.
She talked about how Google.org tracks flu trends, with a 80-90% accuracy rate real-time, and showed us that there is a high trend in the U.S. now. Hospitals, on the other hand, have a 3-7 day lag in tracking these trends due to people needing to actually come in for help, compared to real-time search.
Megan made an interesting analogy comparing the usage of Twitter in the recent Iran election to fax machines back with the events at Tiananmen Square in China. She talked about how seeing other people going through the same problems helped people to realize that they weren’t actually alone.
And finally, some of her last remarks were about the effects of Google Earth and that it has both its upsides and its downsides, such as members of Al-Qaeda being able to access it as well.
I definitely enjoyed this keynote more than the one on Day 3. I found it much more relevant and intriguing to see how technology can be brought to more rural areas.
Filed under: Grace Hopper Conference | Leave a Comment
Tags: africa, conference, flu trends, gender, google earth, google.org, keynote, megan smith, twitter