TEDx Launched in Karachi, Pakistan
TED is run by Chris Anderson, a Pakistani-born Oxford-educated journalist, who recently returned to the land of his birth to launch TEDx Karachi conference. Organized by Dr. Awab Alvi, aka Teethmaestro, and others, the theme of the Karachi conference held on June 4, 2010 was "What Pakistan Needs Now". Chris Anderson, Curator, TED, Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder/CEO, Acumen Fund, Roshaneh Zafar, Founder/CEO, Kashf Foundation, Asad Umar, CEO, Engro, Monis Rahman, Founder/CEO, Naseeb Networks, Asad Rezzvi, CEO, e-Cube Global and Joshinder Chaggar, Theater Artist. It was attended by a very diverse crowd of 500 people.
According to reports from a number of citizen journalists who attended the conference, Chris talked about the power of the technology and connectivity to transform lives in the developing world. He expects that ubiquitous cell phones will have all the capabilities to connect to the Internet in the developing world. Ubiquitous Internet access combined with online applications and videos will help change how most of us learn, play, think, act and contribute to society.
Some of what Chris talked about is already happening via YouTube. Though it was not mentioned by him, an example of it is the Khan Academy, established by a Pakistani-American Salman Khan in Silicon Valley, which uses Youtube videos to teach a variety of subjects ranging from math to science to personal finance. Availability of these videos via cell phones will enhance opportunities for teaching a much larger number of young people.
TEDx Karachi featured Asad Umar of Engro Power, an appropriate choice in the midst of a major energy crisis requiring creative solutions in Pakistan. Engro is working on clean power plant using flared gas, a CDM project, to produce 225 MW power. In addition, there is a 1200 MW coal-fired plant being built by Engro using Thar coal. Umar believes only 4% of Pakistan's vast Thar coal reserves could take care of all of Pakistan's current energy needs at significantly lower cost.
Monis Rahman, the founder of Naseeb social network as the first US VC-funded company in Pakistan, presented his idea of using the vast network the 90 million cell phones as a job search tools. His company also runs rozee.pk, a job posting site.
Roshanneh Zafar of Kashf Foundation spoke about the work of her foundation funded by the Acumen Fund. Kashf is focused on microfinance to help enable and empower women entrepreneurs in Pakistan. As blogger Nuruddin Abjani who heard her speak put it: "she was one of the most passionate about Pakistan and how she is changing it with her foundation and how each one of us can. She got everyone teary-eyed when she sang the National Anthem and everyone stood and joined her - AS ONE! She showed how ONE person could make ALL the difference in the world. And she is SO DAMN RIGHT! If only we could UNDERSTAND!"
Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund, who happens to be Chris Anderson's wife, spoke last with an urgent call for action. She asked, "If not now, when? If not us, who?" As an example, she mentioned the work of Tasneem Siddiqui in "Khuda Ki Basti", a low-cost housing project to deal with the housing crunch from growing rural-to-urban migration in Karachi, and the second similar project now underway in Lahore.
TEDx Karachi is expected to be just the first of many more TEDx events planned in Pakistan to encourage new ideas and inspire Pakistanis to act by finding and implementing creative solutions to address many of their nation's problems. It is in the best spirit of lighting candles instead of cursing darkness.
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