The plenary session on Saturday morning featured Moira Gunn, host of the weekly NPR show, Tech Nation. Moira Gunn is enchanting storyteller and spent the first part of her session telling one story after another that demonstrated a simple idea: The dirty little secret to technology is how you use it.
She asked the audience, “who invented the 800 number?” It was President Gerald Ford who has just assumed the job of president after Nixon resigned and inflation was a big problem. In a speech, he urged people to talk to their friends and neighbors on how to beat inflation and wanted them to be able to share their ideas. Ford asked, can’t we just have a call collect or reverse the charges? The answer was yes and the area code 800 wasn’t be used – so that was the first use of the 800 number. It eventually changed the economy of the United States because it allowed businesses to have a national business and get in touch with customers. She asked to think about how technology what we do and what the impact was.
She told a story about the “Technophobia Reduction Clinic.” Technophobia is an actual disorder, as anyone who works with nonprofits no doubt knows. According to Gunn, 20% of adults are technophobic. Their blood pressure rises and they get anixious when they encounter technology and if it doesn’t work.
She urged to understand that just because we’re comfortable with technology, not everyone is. It is important to understand that there are a range of reactions to technology.
She also told a story about technology change inside organizations. “Every spare dollar needs to go into our mission, not our technology and we get stuck.” She went on to tell the story about how several biotechnology firms are moving their employees to mobile – the iPhone and the laptop. These companies have more iPhone apps than the iStore. This is the type of change that is happening and nonprofits need to invest in the transitions as well as businesses and even government.
She gave an example from Government, the Dept of State called “Express Your Opinion” . At one point in the demonstration, the technology was cooperating, but Moira didn’t miss a beat and said, “If the technology doesn’t work, you jettison the pony on stage.”
Next Congresswoman Donna Edwards joined her on stage for an interview about Net Neutrality. They discussed the basic definition of the phrase “Net Neutrality,” agreeing that it doesn’t have a good metaphor to be able to explain it. Edwards observed that most legislators do not understand the importance of the issue and need to be educated about why it important. She shared her personal story about she feels the issue is important. Her last tip was to go out and look at the moon because it is closest to the earth in 18 years and she heard about that on NPR.
Here’s a quick summary of the best sound bytes in tweets: