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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu - SoleRebels

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – World Economic Forum on Africa 2012 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

The press has been awash with stories from the African continent in the last few years – and not the usual fair concerning famine, war and privations. Rather, many countries in Africa are taking what they have, technologically, and innovating, in exciting world-beating ways. We’ve highlighted the mobile phone revolution – changing the way banking and community medicine is distributed and handled – in these pages before, and so it follows that interesting entrepreneurs are also in the press as of late.

One such example of an innovative, fresh initiative was profiled on the BBC website. And it makes for inspiring reading. The story of an Ethiopian shoemaker using recycled materials and those from her immediate environment, illuminate how much successful businesses rely on good ideas and what those ideas cost – nothing. The shoe company in question, SoleRebels, was started by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, in 2004 and has already gained accolades like the Young Global Leader award in 2011 and is turning over $2m this year, with a projection of $20m in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

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Katherine Lucey

Katherine Lucey
“TEDxPVD-129 (Photo credit: TEDxProvidence)”

It is often argued that limitations are the fuel for creativity – innovation and ambition not being reliant upon access to technological tools or even much financial support. If the above idea is true, then Africa’s advances in the last five years are proof positive that willful ingenuity is the real backbone of groundbreaking entrepreneurial successes. CNN has been running an excellent series on African nations’ new role in devising ingenious uses for mobile phones – from banking to medical advice – and ways to harness renewable energy resources to help create better lives in many seriously impoverished areas.

The latest article details how a new initiative to be bring solar power to poor areas is helping those without electricity and empowering the women who are selling this unique service. Katherine Lucey is the founder of Solar Sister, an organization built around women helping poor communities escape ‘energy poverty’ by providing affordable solar-powered devices such as lights, and mobile phone chargers, ultimately helping those desperately in need of energy sources. Read the rest of this entry »

It is understaMichael Mullanndable that many of us deify the medical establishment – we are humbled, grateful and often scared of doctors and specialists in equal measure. We are in their hands, after all, when these vehicles we move around in called bodies ‘go wrong.’ I’ve always been one of those odd sorts that is comforted by going to see my physician, relaxing at the thought of a qualified individual helping to make things better; it’s a marvel to think of where we are in terms of general treatment in 2012, the medical community having progressed and found cures for so many ailments unthinkable one hundred years ago – spare a moment and think of what life would be like if Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming had not stumbled across and developed antibiotics, for instance.

It is also, without doubt, the tenacity of researchers and scientists that will continue to be our collective hope for the future, be it finding a cure or better treatment for HIV, Cancer or Alzheimer’s – just a few of the perennial bogeymen still defying human advancements. In the latter case, this degenerative brain disease has continued to evade an effective cure but routinely makes the scientific news with potential new advances. Over five million people in the United States, and one in fourteen people over the age of sixty-five in the UK are living with this terrifying illness (thirty-five million worldwide), which like other elusive diseases, needs far greater public and private support and funding.

One leading global specialist in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Dr. Michael Mullan of the Roskamp Institute, believes that more needs to be done with clinical trials, and funding is only part of it. Writing an article for the Herald Tribune recently, he outlined some of the challenges that he and his colleagues are facing: “For every clinical trial currently under way for Alzheimer’s disease, there are 100 cancer trials. This reflects several realities: It’s easier to conduct clinical trials in cancer patients: The FDA is more tolerant of side effects and there’s much more funding (private and government) available for cancer research than for Alzheimer’s disease research. Also, cancer trials tend to be much shorter than Alzheimer’s disease trials, so they are much less expensive.” Read the rest of this entry »

E-learningAn interesting article appeared in the BBC Future section recently, detailing the increasing move of universities and other academic institutions to provide their curriculum online. The power of the Internet to collate and communicate information is no longer a novel idea, but when top universities like MIT, Stanford and Harvard offer online versions of their educational platforms it becomes a very interesting notion indeed.

But, is this the way of the future – virtual lectures, online tests, degrees without ‘real’ collaboration or interaction?  It will most likely be a hybrid, and one that will obviously benefit those in the lower income strata. This is potentially a great opportunity to educate huge amounts of people relying only on a broadband connection. It’s fantastic to think of, really. One digital expert, Clay Shirky, was quoted in the piece, “The possibility MOOCs  (massively open online courses) hold out isn’t replacement.” Read the rest of this entry »

The fact that we as a society no longer have time for reading full-length novels, listening to whole albums or watching an entire film without pausing the DVD (or download) umpteen times might only be a curiosity for some, but this writer finds it a concern and also astonishing in a way. I think our brains and how we process stimulus and activities are changing, irrevocably. There is, of course, nothing I can do about this multi-tasking, attention deficit culture we live in, and at risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, there are also tremendous new advances and technologies occurring daily that make ‘now’ perhaps special. Children, or teens, for instance, are growing frontal lobes at a rate redolent of a Kurt Vonnegut story –developing new software in their parents’ garage, branding it and becoming lauded entrepreneurs long before losing their virginity. Amazing really.  Read the rest of this entry »

China and India continue to command the attention of the international media, as the world watches these two emerging superpowers grow, develop and contend with increasing notions of democratization in all of its manifestations. India’s latest concern is whether or not to allow international companies to operate on native soil, vying for consumers’ money along with homegrown brands. China too, is still feeling the pangs of international pressure at what a new generation of Chinese proletariat are able and expected to earn – wages that must compete in a Western context.

The latter country’s case has been bandied around in the press ad nauseam, and for good reason. Read the rest of this entry »

A fantastic, inspiring piece appeared on the BBC website recently detailing how advancements in technology are helping people with disabilities in ways that were unfathomable even a decade ago. Having done some research on a groundbreaking Swedish company called Tobii – who specialize in eye-tracking controlled computers – it’s safe to saythat much more is being done for the disabled than ever before.

The BBC article highlighted the field of bionics and what it could mean for not only an untapped workforce but also a way of saving governments millions of dollars in healthcare. Hugh Herr, an associate professor of biometrics at MIT Media Lab and an individual who lost both legs below the knee is one of the key developers of a new era of robotic limbs, “We can get people back to work, which is huge. Read the rest of this entry »


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