Bringing Out the Best in Technology: A Look Back at the IEEE 2014 Global Humanitarian Technology Conference

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IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology. Image Credit: IEEE.

Is technology destroying society or saving it? Some scientists and engineers are attempting to swing the balance of that verdict to the latter. Over this past year, one IEEE event in particular has taken time to highlight the work being done to use technology for beneficial purposes.

In October, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) held the 2014 Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC). Convened in Silicon Valley, California, the event drew 299 participants from 38 different countries. The mission was to promote the role of science, engineering and technology in solving key humanitarian issues. To this end, the conference sought to facilitate networking, draw attention to emerging markets and business opportunities in the humanitarian field and promote positive change for those living in disadvantaged situations across the globe.

Keynote speakers at the GHTC included Anil Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Camille Crittenden of the Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society and Meg Wirth and Alyson Cote of Maternova Inc. —all foremost figures in their fields.

Up-and-coming thought in the field of humanitarian technology was recognized through a student essay contest. The five finalists represented India, the United States, Germany, and Canada and covered topics ranging from command-based control of surgical lights, toilet design and aiding individuals of limited mobility to promotion of education and postpartum medical issues.

Rebecca Byler of Yale University took first place with her paper on a portable toilet project. The toilet, designed by a team of women and produced by the LLC SafiChoo, is designed to be easy and economical to replicate and is intended to help reduce the spread of contamination-related disease and death in developing countries across the globe.

The variety of topics addressed by the student papers reflected the overall diversity of thought represented at the conference, and full presentations from the 2014 plenaries have been added to the GHTC website.

With this year’s conference behind them, the GHTC Committee is already planning for next year’s event.

For a sneak preview of what to expect at the next GHTC, take a look at the short video from 2015 GTCH Chair Joe Decuir, below.