Tonee’s Take on Fingertips and Society
TED is all about stories and interesting experiences. At TEDxNairobi we were privileged to have some of Nairobi’s most inspiring storytellers. One of these was a skinny, ‘long’, funny, puny and witty gentleman called Tonee Ndungu and believe it or not it was more the than the awkward spelling of the name ‘Tonee’ which was funny.
Tonee is the founder of a youth organisation known as The Kenya Wazimba Youth Foundation with the word ‘Wazimba’ meaning extraordinary. It certainly takes extraordinary folks to do extraordinary things and Wazimba seeks to promote self expression, self assertion and self reliance using information as a precursor to achieve these objectives amongst Kenyan youth.
Relevant information relayed with the right presentation and simplicity is inspirational as Tonee asserted. We live in an information rich world with experts all over the place. However most of the solutions to the problems that we face tend to be interdisciplinary, thus it is important for all these experts to make such information consumable and presentable to the masses. “What’s worse than lack of information is misinformation” Tonee reiterated, as responsible earth citizens we all have a moral obligation to present the true picture of what happens around us.
Maybe the world is like ‘mashed potatoes with peas’ , it is a mix and match of different components and properties with people around it producing value by making information relevant to others. There is more to relevant information than the aesthetics of presentation. Breaking down this information and focusing on the needs of the target audience as well as communicating in ways, channels and language that is conducive to the target group will go a long way in making information relevant.
Each and every one of us has the ability to bring about positive changes in our society. As per Tonee, what probably stops us from achieving these changes are two things; cowardice and love for comfort. We live in a materialistic world and humans naturally are selfish, however reorienting towards ones internal compass and leveraging on the little positive things and attributes within ourselves can bring about the drive and unimaginable scenarios that will add value to the world.
Mobile communication technologies are undergoing immense growth in Africa and other parts of the developing world. So we have a situation whereby ‘everything is at our fingertips’. Tonee envisions the fingertips being all about you, him and pretty much anyone on the face of this earth that is endowed with talent or resources. These fingertips are not effectively utilised for social benefit simply because our laziness.
The main problem with Kenya and many countries in the developing world is the asynchronous development of a few major cities and leaving the rest of the towns and villages to wander in oblivion. That is tantamount to ‘taking all your organs and squeezing them into your spleen’ said Tonee. Now realising that we live in a freebie society and that a significant chunk of mobile phones in use today have Bluetooth which enables the free proximity based transfer of information, Tonee and his associates came up with a solution. Why not use such technology to encourage people to interact and open up information channels amongst themselves?
“Everybody uses Bluetooth for something, for passing music, pictures , information and the like” says Tonee and so they embarked on a journey to teach people how to use their mobile phones using Bluetooth without them necessarily wanting to use them. In a nutshell they developed an autonomous viral application that utilises a technique called ‘bluetooth stumbling’ where they are able to push messages virally to mobile phones and using techniques open to the public. They are able to push messages to other phones without the standard authorisation approvals from the receiving device. The interesting bit is that the application has elements of ‘viral biomimicity’ whereby it installs itself onto the host mobile phone and starts the process of pushing messages to other phones. Hence information is ported for free from one point to another and it a brings a whole new meaning to the 6 degrees of separation concept. Legal issues aside this technology brings about an exponential increase in information bandwidth and brings about novel and efficient ways to push information to the grass roots without necessarily relying on last mile internet solutions.
“The fingertips are not people, they are partnerships, networks and conversations” retorted Tonee. In order to add value to our societies and change the ills that are there, we need to leverage on what we have to give and get information within our networks and expand our horizons. It does not take special powers, fancy cars or financial muscle to build better societies, it is the miniscule extraordinary bits from anyone’s and everyones’ fingertips that move us forward and value to society.