Webinars Focus on Humanitarian Projects

Learn how others are using technology to improve lives

21 October 2011

If you’d like to become active in a humanitarian project but are hesitating until you learn more details, consider sitting in on an upcoming IEEE Humanitarian Technology webinar or watching previously recorded ones.

The next live presentation, “Internet Access in Rural Africa,” is slated for 20 October at 10 a.m. Eastern time. In the webinar, IEEE Member Gertjan van Stam discusses the lessons he learned while building an information highway in the remote Zambian village of Macha. As CEO of LinkNet Zambia, a cooperative organization he set up, van Stam helped build the first rural Zambian Internet cooperative in which users share costs of building a local Internet connection and its wireless infrastructure, and its maintenance.

“The webinars are unique because they are the first that focus on how technology can be used to improve the lives of underprivileged people,” says IEEE Member Adrian Pais, a member of the IEEE Humanitarian Activities ad hoc committee. “The goal for the series is to be a learning and interaction platform for those interested in or already involved in humanitarian technology programs.”

Pais notes that the programs are not limited to engineers and scientists but are open to anyone involved in humanitarian work, including representatives from government and nongovernmental organizations.


The free webinars focus on four infrastructure needs critical for development, as identified by the United Nations: water, energy, transportation, and communications. The webinars are expected to explore education, health care, and agriculture, as well as how to stimulate grassroots innovation.

The webinar series, which is still being developed, features leaders of philanthropic organizations talking about their approaches, the technologies they’ve applied, and the obstacles encountered along the way. Previously recorded webinars, available in the IEEE iTunes U site, discuss a water filter made of tea bags, a radio system for distributing educational programs, sustainable electrification systems, and mobile Web technology. 

Another webinar describes the Engineering for Change project, a partnership of IEEE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders–USA. The partnership is charged with developing technical, locally appropriate, and sustainable solutions to humanitarian challenges.

“We want these webinars to become a leading resource for practitioners in humanitarian technology,” Pais says, “and to stimulate learning and engagement that leads to better solutions for the underserved and poor in the world.”

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