Back at National Geographic

I was no different to many other children my age, taking every opportunity to get my hands on a National Geographic magazine and flicking through each colourful page in wonder and amazement. I’d get most of mine cheap from jumble sales back then – I can afford to buy them full price these days – but that sense of fascination remains.

Thirty years on and I find myself back in Washington DC attending my second National Geographic Explorers Symposium. I’ve packed quite a lot in over those thirty years – school building in Zambia, hospital building in Uganda, a degree in Social Anthropology, carrying out biodiversity surveys in Uganda, running a primate sanctuary in Nigeria, various trips and visits to a host of other countries, most on the African continent and, of course, the development of FrontlineSMS.

It was 2003 that my career took its most significant turn when I started working in mobile, and until very recently FrontlineSMS took up most of my time. It was that work which caught the eye of the panel at the National Geographic Society, culminating in my Award in 2010. I’m back again this year to moderate a panel, help mentor the 2012 Class of Emerging Explorers, and share news of my growing relationship with the Society.

It’s not every day that you find yourself randomly sharing a lift with people behind some of the most famous discoveries of our time. This is a very special place, and it’s always a huge honour to be here. If you’d told me thirty years ago that I’d be walking these corridors today, I’d never have believed you.

FrontlineSMS @ National Geographic Live!

Date: Friday October 29th, 2010
Venue: National Geographic, Washington DC
Moderator: Benjamin Shaw
Speakers: Saleem H. Ali, Ken Banks, Jerry Glover, Kakenya Ntalya

“Meet four gifted individuals recognized by National Geographic for making a difference early in their careers. This season’s Emerging Explorers Salon, moderated by Benjamin Shaw, executive producer for the weekly radio talk show National Geographic Weekend, features transformative ideas that are influencing the world. Scientist Saleem H. Ali promotes a pragmatic, inclusive form of environmentalism. Mobile technology innovator Ken Banks developed software that enhances the communications ability of people without access to the Internet. Agro-ecologist Jerry Glover uses biodiversity to improve food security. Activist Kakenya Ntaiya, in the face of daunting obstacles, founded the first primary school for girls in her region of Kenya”.

Further details, and tickets for this public event, are available on the National Geographic website.