NEW YORK, NY — This morning, on the opening day of the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), I participated in an awe-inspiring media and educational event organized by TEDxChange, a collaboration between TEDx and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates said it was the first time anything like it had ever been attempted.
The live event from the Paley Center for Media on 52nd Street featured Melinda Gates, Hans Rosling, Mechai Viravaidya and Graça Machel in front of a live audience of, as TEDx host Chris Anderson put it, luminaries and changemakers (Ted Turner and Bob Geldorf were in the audience along with NGO and foundation leaders). A live webcast of the event was viewed by millions around the world, and from 82 TEDx events, several of which we saw on camera in live shots, and is now available to view online.
I viewed the event from “Bloggers’ Alley,” several floors above the event, with about 20 other bloggers and new media journalists, most of whom had laptops and smart phones to extend the salient facts of the event even further into the world. We viewed the event on two screens at either end of the room. And we had a third screen, which displayed a constant stream of all tweets including the #TEDxChange hashtag. The deluge of the Twitterstream produced a continuous stream of concise Tweets that came about one per second for the entire 90 minutes of the event and even after it ended.
It was a fabulous display of what is possible with communications technology in the 21st century. But the content revealed at the event several floors below was even more compelling.
The speakers were all terrific – Melinda Gates and Graça Machel displayed their passion and commitment to improving the world and Hans Rosling and Mechai Viravaidya (Mr. Condom of Thailand) regaled us with their knowledge, energy and sense of humor. Melinda Gates later wrote this blog about Mechai.
I particularly enjoyed Dr. Rosling, a professor of international health and co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, who dazzled us with his computer graphics, which convert international statistics into moving interactive graphics showing us the history of child mortality.
In one part of his presentation, Dr. Rosling showed us the fall in child mortality in Sweden (starting with 400 child deaths per 1,000 born in 1800), Egypt (with 300 deaths in 1960) and Thailand (with 150 deaths in 1960), and ending with all three countries ending with roughly the same low level of child mortality.
Later, he presented a graph of the relationship between child mortality and family size in 1960, with “developing countries” clumped together in the upper right (high mortality and high family size) and the “Western” countries in the lower left (low mortality and low family size). Then, in an amazing and awe-inspiring display of computer graphics, he made the graph come alive and move through time to 2000. Many of those developing countries in the upper right moved rapidly into the lower left quadrant, with Dr. Rosling urging them on: “Come over to our side,” he exclaimed. “Welcome to a decent life.”
The conclusion of his presentation, which made clear the association between child mortality and falling family size: “The MDG on child mortality is fully possible.”
It was an inspiring way to begin the MDG Summit.