Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Imagine Cup II

Yesterday was the award ceremony in the lower level of the Louvre. It was arguably the "Oscars of Software." In nine categories, first the 3rd place team was announced, then 2nd, and 1st. Most received poster-sized checks and a silver trophy, which they held up--many with the flag of their country--for the audience and photographers. Team Mexico's fans win honorable mention for celebrating in the seats, whooping and hugging. It carried over throughout the hall.

Amidst the joy and pride was the sense that this was one world, with a shared passion to make it better, even through the nanoswitches of silicon. This was exemplified by Team Brazil who won in the Game Development category. Accepting the award, one of the students talked about the excellence of their competitors. He invited all the teams to join them on the stage for a round of applause. It was a very gracious, class act. My colleagues and I noticed and were moved.

Looking for the excellence in others, no matter where they live, is perhaps the most important take-away from this event. Coupled with the passion for applying technology to improve our environment, I had a strong sense that this new generation can make a difference and turn the tide for our planet, our island home.

Congratulations to Team Indonesia who won the new Rural Innovation Award. And thanks to the Microsoft Unlimited Potential team who were our hosts. (See the UP Blog entries, here: ) Many thanked me for taking a holiday weekend and some workdays out of my life to come to France and work as a judge for this competition. After hearing 30 presentations from contestants from as many countries, I can honestly say that this was not work; for me, it was an honor and a tutorial.

I had the privilege of meeting Paul Polak, author of Out of Poverty at the event. He was a fellow judge for the inaugural Rural Innovation Award category. Paul told me that he decided 25 years ago to have a conversation with 100 of the poorest people around the globe each year, one at at time. His objective? To listen and learn. Paul reminded me that we are ever students. And our teachers may in fact be those who we aspire to teach.

The hall where the final celebration wrought its conclusion, was next to the inverted pyramid of the Louvre, below the ground. It was a fitting.

For a photo log of the trip, see my album on Picasa. (Click on the Slideshow button.)

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