NGOs and a More Equitable World

Nicholas Kristof Headlines Democracy and Technology Conference

In an increasingly populated and technology-dependent world, how will new tech impact future growth around the globe — and how can nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ensure the impact is for the better? The Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) will host a three-day conference exploring these and other questions on the role NGOs may play in future social development. The conference, “Democratizing Technologies: Assessing the Roles of NGOs in Shaping Technological Futures,” begins Thursday, November 13.

Talks and discussions by academic researchers, NGO leaders, government regulators, and industry representatives on the role NGOs play in steering the usage technologies in developing countries and global governance will take place in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion. The conference is free and open to the public, with some exceptions.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, will lead off the conference at 8 p.m. on Thursday, with their keynote address, “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity,” based on their recent book of the same name. The two will discuss the efficacy of different domestic and global aid initiatives, and offer their insights on ways individuals can successfully shape and contribute to relief efforts.

Up-and-coming technologies in areas like nanotechnology, synthetic biology, geographic information systems (GIS), energy extraction methods, media, and military tech will be discussed by other speakers, looking especially at how they will impact social and environmental conditions around the globe, particularly in developing economies. Up for debate is what role NGOs may play in ensuring equitable and environmentally sound usage of these innovations, particularly in areas where government policies have not kept pace with technological advancement.

“Democritizing Technologies will take a hard look at the impact of emerging technologies on the Global South, and the appropriate roles of NGOs — and governments — in assuring that they best serve public needs,” said Rich Appelbaum, conference co-organizer and UCSB MacArthur Chair in Global and International Studies, in a statement.

Students and members of the public interested in working in the nonprofit sector will have the chance to meet industry representatives on Friday, November 14, at the “NGO Marketplace” networking event. NGO representatives will include members of Ashoka, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Latin American Nanotechnology & Society Network, European Trade Union Institute, Direct Relief International, United Auto Workers, Groundwater Protection Council, The Tor Project, The Center for International Environmental Law, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, Good World Solutions, Worker Rights Consortium, and Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

More information about the conference, including a complete list of participants and schedule of events, is available at


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