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Technologists for Humanity: The Tech Awards

Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy received Global Humanitarian honors at The Tech Awards held Nov. 15. The event also recognized twelve laureates for life-changing uses of technology.
A Siliconeer report.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
(Above): N.R. Narayana Murthy along with other laureates at The Tech Awards, held Nov. 15, at Santa Clara Convention Center. [Charlotte Fiorito Photography]

Philanthropist N.R. Narayana Murthy and a dozen innovators from around the world were honored at The Tech Awards, Silicon Valley’s most esteemed program for honoring the people who create pioneering technology to benefit humanity.

Murthy received the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award. Sponsored by Applied Materials, this award honors individuals whose broad vision and leadership help to alleviate humanity’s greatest challenges.

The Tech Awards, a signature program of The Tech Museum of Innovation, also recognized 12 laureates in six sponsored categories: Intel Environment Award; Microsoft Education Award; Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award; Nokia Health Award; Flextronics Economic Development Award, and Accenture Sustainable Energy Award.

“Technology uses the power of science to make life better for all of society,” Murthy said. “I believe that technology not only has the power to make a difference in health, nutrition and sheltering the poor, but it also can enhance one’s confidence and dignity. The Tech Awards recognizes this. And I am honored to be a part of this distinguished program.”

Murthy founded tech services giant Infosys along with six colleagues and went on to become one of India’s most influential advocates for health care and rural development. Infosys established the Infosys Foundation in 1996. The foundation works in partnership with non-governmental organizations to help underprivileged communities in India that are focusing on healthcare, education and rural development initiatives.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
(Above): N.R. Narayana Murthy speaks to the audience after receiving the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Nov. 15. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

“As an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, Narayana Murthy has focused on helping people achieve the economic empowerment that offers a path out of poverty,” said Mike Splinter, chairman and CEO of Applied Materials. “His passion and commitment to address humanity’s greatest challenges exemplify the spirit of The Tech Awards.”

Presented by Applied Materials, The Tech Awards has recognized 257 laureates since its inception in 2001. Their pioneering work has included building a “solar suitcase” to provide emergency lighting and power for medical procedures, developing an eco-techniques toolkit that improves the living conditions in rural communities and the creation of a heat-sensitive label for vaccine vials to make sure people receive potent immunizations.

This year’s laureates represent regions as diverse as Africa, India and Latin America, and their work impacts people in many more corners of the globe. For their commitment to applying technology in practical ways to resolve some of the world’s most challenging issues, the laureates are given a week filled with unique Silicon Valley business experiences and training and an unrestricted cash award up to  $75,000. Judging for The Tech Awards is conducted by Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society. The CSTS acts as an independent party that organizes and convenes six panels of expert judges representing academia and the public and private sectors.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
(Above): An early view of the reception hall where all the laureates presented their work. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

The Tech Museum of Innovation president Tim Ritchie encouraged the night’s attendees to be inspired about the future, the capacity to solve problems and to make a difference. “Is there some need that speaks to your heart?  Some work, some community, some problem that needs your mind, your time, your sympathy, your best work? Step up to the place where your joy and the world’s needs meet,” he urged.

With PBS Newshour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan as master of ceremonies, the gala unfolded against the backdrop of an exhibition specially curated for The Tech Awards that included some of the world’s most iconic photos projected on five towering screens. Contributed free of charge by National Geographic photojournalists, the compelling images were shown for the evening only, as a tribute to The Tech Awards laureates. Another gala highlight included live appearances by two former laureates who were brought together by Polycom RealPresence Platform to share their experiences and progress since winning the award.

The Tech Awards - Laureates 2012

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
(Above): Arup K. Sengupta won the Intel Environment Award. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

Intel Environment Award: This award was given for preserving and bettering the environment to benefit the lives of millions. The recipients were, LEHR Propane Outboard Motors for creating an engine fueled by propane so it does not pollute the environment. Arup K. Sengupta for creating an appropriate simple-to-operate technology in rural setting to transform arsenic crisis into an economic enterprise while protecting human health. Over 200,000 people are benefiting in countries like India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal.

Microsoft Education Award: This award was given for educating the poor and illiterate and improving their lives. The recipients were, Literacy Bridge for a simple and durable, battery-operated, audio computer playing locally produced lessons that address the practical needs of people in oral cultures, in the remote areas of Africa. TeachAIDS for providing HIV education with unprecedented efficacy to more than 200 organizations and governments in 73 countries, educating millions around the world.

Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award: This award was presented to upcoming technologists for the impact of their work on humanity. The recipients were, Angaza Design for creating a clean, bright light and cell-phone charging device that is financially accessible to the poor in Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia. Art Center College of Design, Designmatters for empowering communities, through responsible design, to conserve water, reduce illness and generate social, cultural, and economic change by co-creating innovative products for families living in extreme poverty in Cerro Verde, a slum on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
(Above): Shuman Ghosemajumder and Dr. Piya Sorcar (r) of TeachAIDS, winners of the Microsoft Education Award. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

Nokia Health Award: This award was presented to technologists whose work have impacted the world by bringing better health and living. The recipients were, BioLite for their BioLite Homestove, a low-cost, efficient wood-burning stove that dramatically reduces smoke and harmful black carbon emissions while reducing fuel needs by 50 percent. Embrace for their low-cost infant warmer specifically designed to address the needs of babies suffering from hypothermia.

Flextronics Economic Development Award: This award was presented for work that impacted in improving the economic standards of the poorest in the world. The recipients were, Pamela C. Ronald, David Mackill, Kenong Xu for their work on identification of a submergence tolerance gene and introduction of the gene into locally adapted varieties favored by farmers using modern molecular breeding. This helped rice farmers get a much bigger yield in rice crops during floods, which was previously not possible as the crops would die in the floods. Grameen Foundation USA for creating a way to provide agricultural information to the poorest and hardest to reach rural farmers in Uganda. This resulted in an increase in knowledge of six representative agriculture practices, and earned the farmers higher maize prices.

Accenture Sustainable Energy Award: This award was given to those technologists who brought affordable and sustainable energy to the masses, without impacting them with a high cost for the green energy. The recipients were, Simpa Networks for providing a way to get off-grid solar energy with a pay-as-you-use model that could impact 400 million people in India alone. Eco-Fuel Africa for their locally-made technology that can be used by people to convert locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers. About 6,000 families are already benefiting from the technology in Uganda, Africa.

Readers can get more information on The Tech Awards at: thetechawards.thetech.org.


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