Close friends will appreciate the irony of my attending MLOVE Europe last week. Me, at the world's signature conference for innovative mobile technology, with my haplessly app-less* 1st generation iphone. Said phone gave up its ghost on the day the event began. Yes, it was a sign.. (or anticipation of Mercury's upcoming retrograde. Kidding! Sort of.) But late converts make the best evangelists, right? When my new phone– purchased second-hand on ebay, of course, and no, not an Apple product this time– arrives tomorrow, I will become Borg with all of you. At last I will be able to harvest fruit, find electricity, and catch a ride, all of it on the go.
My sole interest in mobile technologies is how they can be applied to foster deep relationships and community offline, to ease suffering, and to enable access to opportunities and resources to those without. MLOVE founder Harald Neidhardt appears to embrace these values as well. On Day Two, frowning at the number of faces not oriented toward the stage but instead tipped over their screens, he asked the audience to abandon live-tweeting and instead be present: "We are the ones with our heads up."
Harald and the MLOVE team welcomed a contingent from the collaborative economy that included: Javier Creus, founder of Ideas For Change; Benjamin Tincq and Thomas Doennebrink (and me) from OuiShare; the "mobile fleamarket" Stuffle; and Lona Alia Duncan with her start-up Stylend (enabling P2P swap of designer clothing, not yet launched). On the collaborative production/Maker side, there was a team from Jerry Do It Together, which teaches anyone, anywhere how to build new computers out of jerrycans and old computer parts. In the space of alternative finance, Jean-François Groff presented Mobino, his universally-accessible payment system that will serve the millions of people without access to banks, as well as those of us who'd rather skip banking fees.
Access was also at the heart of the keynote by Colman Chamberlain, the runaway star of the conference. Presenting on Nike Foundation's mission to get teenage girls out of poverty, he reminded the crowd that 775 million adults across the world are illiterate, 1.5 billion people have no electricity, and 1.2 billion live on less than $1.25 per day. If we invest our minds, skills, and technologies in reaching and serving "the bottom of the bottom of the pyramid," we reach and serve everyone on the planet. The ripple effects of improving the education, health, and opportunities of girls make the world more secure, healthy, and vibrant for us all.
To watch countless marketers, designers and developers bombard the charming Chamberlain with declarations of "I want to get involved" and "I want my company to do something good" was the highlight of the conference for me. The lesson: If you share your passion, you will inspire others to share their resources, skills and technologies, and together we can solve just about any challenge before us.
For all the sillier applications of technology (yep, that was me snorting at the app that helps break the addiction to your mobile device by counting your minutes offline and setting you in competition with other users), it was heartening to feel MLOVE's focus on ancient, fundamental human phenomena: gathering in person to swap stories, skills, solutions. We use the internet to get off the internet; we connect online so we can make, share and love offline.