The Meridian International Center in Washington DC, with Mobile Future Coalition as a co-convener, hosted last week a productive roundtable focusing on how technology can catalyze international engagement and cultural understanding. It was a fascinating and highly practical brainstorming session on where and how new platforms like mobile and wireless technologies, social networks, virtual worlds, and other technology applications and services are inspiring important forms of civic and social engagement, and facilitating the development of civil society and diplomacy.
Ambassador Stuart Holliday, the President of The Meridian Center, convened a diverse group of practitioners from the worlds of business, technology, new media, government, and academia to begin this important discussion. At issue was "what technologies can and can not do to accelerate international engagement on social, political, and economic issues, and what are the "best-of-class" examples of technologies and technologists that are deploying useful products and services to these ends.
"In a short amount of time, there will be more cell phones than human beings" said Ambassador David Gross, the coordinator of International Communications Policy at the US State Department, in his scene-setting introductory remarks to the group. The policy and social implications of this massive transformation towards mobility need to be thought through with care.
On behalf of Mobile Future Coalition, I presented an assessment of how mobile technologies, services and applications are shaping entirely new paradigms of human interaction and offering powerful new solutions to such important human needs as data aggregation for public health, early-warning indicators for human and natural disasters, and cross-border diplomatic interaction.
Mobile Future member and CEO of the political social network Politics 360, Greg Fawcett, offered an illuminating survey of the inroads social networking has made in connecting communities of interest across geographic and demographic lines.
Some of the innovative technologies that have been deployed to facilitate cross-border engagement include "Peacemaker", the serious game published by Impact Games, whose founders, Eric Brown and Asi Burak, demonstrated at the roundtable the power and ubiquity of gaming – including mobile applications for gaming – in the service of international understanding. Peacemaker is one of the world’s fastest growing gaming platforms focusing on diplomacy simulations.
The founders of Dancing Ink Productions, Rita King and Joshua Fouts, offered a glimpse into the work they have been doing to facilitate greater understanding of Islam through the vehicle of virtual worlds.
What is striking about these examples, and many of the other creative projects and innovations that were introduced at the forum, is the increasing centrality of technology – as well as mobile technology – to the pursuit of human understanding and well-being.
Mobile Future was proud to participate in The Meridian International Center’s path breaking roundtable, and is looking forward to continuing to participate in this increasingly important dialogue.