The Networked Society Forum. In tweets.

“Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is changing the way we live and learn faster than ever before. At NEST – The Networked Society Forum in Hong Kong – we gathered ICT leaders, world-renowned professors, top politicians and inspirational global leaders to discuss: How ICT can shape the future of learning for everyone, everywhere?”

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind visit to Hong Kong attending NEST, an event organised by Ericsson to explore how the technology industry can contribute to, and promote, the development sector. This meeting – which may turn into an annual event – focused specifically on education. It was high-level, attended by the CEO’s of many of the top technology companies around the world. I was fortunate to be invited to represent the non-profit sector.

As I’ve done before at conferences in Aspen and Oxford, here’s another “in tweets” post which hopefully gives a flavour of some of the topics under discussion. (You can click on the images to link to the original tweet).

Context: The CEO of Ericsson, Hans Vestberg, sets the scene in his opening remarks. Mobile phones, whilst very personal devices, have a much broader collective impact when considered part of a global ‘network’. The potential of this ‘networked society’ formed the basis of NEST 2011.

Context: Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, echoes what many in the ‘mobile-for-development’ community believe. Note his use of the word instrument, not solution.

Context: Some of the greatest contributions to the morning session forced delegates to challenge their assumptions. Just because we were talking about education didn’t mean we had to accept there would always be a role for teachers, or text books. In the digital future, assume nothing.

Context: Something I’ve long called for, as a sector we should be more willing to focus efforts on initiatives that are working – rather than continually chasing the next big thing. Let’s find examples of successes in our field, and let donors and government see that technology can make a positive impact.

Context: If you’ve not come across Sugata Mitra’s work then take a look. A proponent of “self learning”, Sugata forced many attendees to challenge their assumptions on everything from education to qualifications, including the question here (for which no-one seemed to have an answer).

Context: One of my comments from the floor. It’s important that we don’t over-hype the role technology can play in the wider education debate. There are many problems that need tackling – financial, cultural, geographical – and ICT cannot help bridge them all.

Context: What do we mean by “education”? What do we mean by “qualification”? Add to that – what do we mean by “developing”? All countries are constantly in stages of development, surely?

Context: One of my comments from the floor. Many delegates believed that key learning needed to happen in schools. I don’t think it does.

Context: If it turns out that technology is able teach better than people, then we should let it. Teachers may not be part of the solution.

Context: In his closing keynote, President Clinton reminded us to keep it real. Despite the progress and potential for modern technology to solve some of the bigger challenges, there is still much to be done. We’re not there yet – by a long way.

Ericsson will be releasing videos, interviews and other materials over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on the Forum website for more.

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