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MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
on. We can gather and disseminate data in
all sorts of ways, giving a whole new mean-
ing to the word “accountability.”
You’ve worked closely with Democrats and
Republicans. How can they get more done
in a politically polarized atmosphere?
For nearly 15 years I’ve regularly been a
pest in Washington, D.C ., first an amateur
with some smart company, now a pretty
professional one with an army of the best
and brightest at the ONE Campaign. From
the start I was told how the Capitol had
never been so polarized, and how nothing
is getting done, parties are pounding each
other out of effectiveness, etc. Fifteen years
hearing the same thing. But every time I’ve
been there, I’ve met with politicians who
are willing to rise above that, to reach across
the aisle to get things done when it comes to
the most vulnerable people on our planet.
Their plight lifts people above the nega-
tivity, reminds officials why they came to
Washington in the first place—to get real
things done that help people help them-
selves. In the last two elections, the world’s
poor and foreign aid have not been used as
a pawn in the political game. In fact, they’ve
been the one thing that candidates can actu-
ally agree on. That didn’t just happen. A
more savvy media and public demanded it.
How can President Obama best improve
the state of the world in his second term?
President Obama has already set a strong
course on strengthening food security in
poor countries, and he’s built on Presi-
dent [George W.] Bush’s legacy on AIDS.
Both of these initiatives need to be accel-
erated. With global leadership to promote
partnerships with poorer countries, and
with the right resources, we can end a few
things that just don’t belong in the 21st
century. Like AIDS, like malaria, like polio.
The president has also championed
transparency in the oil, gas, and mineral
extraction sector, shedding much-needed
light on some of the murkier dealings that
go on. Where there is great wealth under
the ground in some of the poorest coun-
tries, the benefits belong in the hands of
all those who live there.
Electrification—that’d be a good use
of his leadership. Poorer countries have
the advantage of being able to leapfrog, as
they’ve done with communications infra-
structure. They can do this with more
efficient, cleaner forms of tech like geo-
thermal, hydro, solar, carbon capture.
Do you despair? If not, why not?
Like any parent, I wonder what kind of
world we’re leaving behind. But I’ve also
been blessed to be involved in some great
movements that helped bring major chal-
lenges—like debt or AIDS or malaria—
from the margins to the mainstream. These
social movements are the things that make
the real difference, people from different
walks of life coming together to stand up
for what they believe in. Whether they do
it by marching, by writing, by tweeting, by
posting, by singing, or by going to jail. It’s
hard not to be an optimist when you see
what happens when people join forces.
Right now, though, I think things do
hang in the balance. I just heard about a
report that predicts the world by 2030 will
be fracturing further as rising populations
and consumption patterns compete over
scarce natural resources. That’s a real recipe
for conflict and instability. But it’s avoid-
able. I’m confident we can overcome the
worst trends—but only if we get even better
at building innovative networks to do more
of what works and less of what doesn’t.
How might this happen? Collecting
more data and more open data so we can
drill down further on knowing what to do.
Continued technological innovations, no
question, on more and more fronts. The
connectivity of social media, harnessed for
action, not apathy. Hundreds of thousands
marched in the “Drop the Debt” campaign,
and now an extra 51 million kids in Africa
are going to school because of monies freed
up by debt cancellation—it’s a staggering
number. That wouldn’t have happened
without people across the globe demanding
it. The tools that technology provides mean
we know more and we understand more
about previously-thought-unsolvable prob-
lems. With this data informing our course
we can describe the kind of world we want
to live in and then without airy-fairyness or
wishful thinking go after it. It’s the greatest
opportunity that has ever been offered any
generation. Which is the truth. Wow.
“With data informing our course we can describe the kind
of world we want to live in and then without airy-fairyness
or wishful thinking go after it.”
Bono and Senator
at the National
Prayer Breakfast in
Washington in 2006.
12/11/12 6:08 PM
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