International blogger Erik Hersman, is one of two Guest Hosts for the Forces of Change session at TEDGlobal 2013 conference kicking off today in Edinburgh, Scotland. Among the approximately 80 speakers who will be addressing some 900 attendees from 62 countries around the globe during the four day event (June 10-14,2013), Hersman stands unique. He is the only one claiming the title “blogger”.
If you aren’t familiar with the TEDGlobal, it is one of two annual conferences hosted by TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. The conferences feature a range of speakers, performances and even demonstrations by artists, innovators, leaders and scientists from around the globe. Many are writers or authors. At TEDGlobal 2013, only Hersman is a blogger, though apparently that isn’t quite enough to describe him. He also claims the title “technologist”. A TED Senior Fellow, Hersman grew up in Africa, in Sudan and Kenya (where he currently resides with his wife and daughters). He is also the one of the founders of iHub and Ushahidi. iHub is a community center in Nairobi that is, in many ways, the embodiment of Kenya’s tech industry. Ushahidi is a mobile social networking and sharing app Hersman co-developed that allows users to share and spread breaking news by text message.
Hersman maintains not one, but two influential blogs. White African is his personal blog where he blogs about technology (particularly mobile and web tech) and Africa. AfriGadget, on the other hand, is a team blog devoted to “Solving everyday problems with African ingenuity” and home to the Grassroots Reporting Project whose goal is to equip and train more reporters and bloggers throughout Africa. AfriGadget also has a Facebook Page and tweets as @Afrigadget. Hersman tweets as @WhiteAfrican.
The session Hersman is co-hosting with advisor and strategist Adrian Hong is titled Forces of Change and will take place on Thursday, June 13, 2013 beginning at 2:15 p.m. local time.
According to an article by Karen Eng and posted last week on the TED Blog, the Forces of Change session will focus on how many of the changes currently occurring around the world had their genesis in Africa or Asia (Hong is focused on Asia just as Hersman is focused on Africa). The speakers chosen to participate in the session (North Korean refugee Joseph Kim and technology writer Toby Shapshak will will join global economist Dambisa Moyo and Charles Robertson, an emerging markets economist along with the former Prime Minister Elect of Libya, Mustafa Abushagur and the funk band Just A Band) were selected, according to Hersman because the could “tell the story of what they do in a way that resonates.” The participants are researchers and writers who are doing exciting and insightful things that are also people the guest hosts admire. The TED Blog article includes some fascinating descriptions about the participants and why they were selected (and why bloggers everywhere should consider reading and following their work).
To give you a taste of what Hersman is like in person, here’s a video of a talk he gave in May 2013, discussing innovation and Africa at the re:publica 2013 conference. Although he has spoken at numerous events, including other TED Talks, the re:publica video it relevant to bloggers if for no other reason than it reminds us all “There is a danger in telling a single story” as Chimamanda Adichie says. He also talks about the team blog AfriGadget.
Other writers who will be speaking or performing during more than 70 main-stage TEDGlobal 2013 sessions include:
- Sci-fi author Daniel Suarez (whom Hersman is excited to hear speak)
- Songwriters (and singers) Natasha Bedingfield, RuthAnne and Lissie
- Science writers Sandra Aamodt and Sonia Shah
- Novelists Nassim Assefi and Abha Dawesar
- Technology writer Toby Shapshak
- Poetry critic Stephen Burt
- Global author Pico Ayer
These and other speakers will cover an eclectic and far ranging spectrum of topics form the aftermath of the financial crisis to cities of the future as they urge those attending to Think Again. A number of innovative technologies will also be unveiled to the public for the first time at TEDGlobal 2013.
“Every year TEDGlobal ignites an exciting conversation about the issues that matter most in the world,” explains TED’s European Director Bruno Giussani. “This year’s theme reflects the fact that some radical rethinking is needed right now. We really want people to reexamine critical policy, social and economic issues, and be aware of scientific advances and technologies that are changing the way we work and interact.”