Remarks of U.S. Consul General Jennifer McIntyre at Bengaluru Techcamp for NGOs & Journalists

BENGALURU: Good afternoon members of Karnataka NGOs and media outlets, resource experts and students. I am excited to be here at TechCamp Bengaluru with such a diverse group of individuals from many different Indian states working together using technology for the greater good. It sounds like you’ve had a busy, and hopefully stimulating, morning.

Before you get back into your afternoon sessions, I want to just speak briefly about why we do these TechCamps and what we hope you will take away from this one.

But first let me comment on the interesting mix of people I have before me.  I always enjoy making these trips to Bengaluru, especially for events like this one that bring together technology and the non-profit sectors.  It’s particularly exciting today to see the confluence of students, journalists and NGO folks – a combination that I think can lead to quite fruitful interactions.

Students, you are our future, and are already pointing the way with your warm embrace of social media and other new digital tools.  We are here to learn from you as much as to teach you, and I encourage you to actively voice your opinions about the advantages and possibilities of these new tools.

Media professionals, I can only imagine how the Internet and social media have impacted your professions, from enabling new research and investigative avenues to providing entirely new platforms for reaching your audiences.  Your grasp and use of these digital tools is not only key to your success but also enriches the rest of us with vital and timely information.

NGO representatives, I’m sure you could say much more than I could about how digital connectivity has changed the world.  As Internet penetration increases everywhere, India included, more and more people who were isolated before will have new ways of interacting, solving problems, doing business, or simply making themselves heard.  It is our collective responsibility to make sure that these tools are understood and used to create constructive communication and positive change in our societies.

The U.S. Department of State is increasingly recognizing the critical importance of technology, not only in the world, but in what we do every day.  Former Secretary Hillary Clinton commissioned the Department’s first-ever quadrennial review, which was published in 2010 and read, in part, as follows:

“Today, non-state actors—from NGOs, religious groups, and multinational corporations to international cartels and terrorist networks—are playing an ever-greater role in international affairs. To be effective in the 21st century, American diplomacy must extend far beyond the traditional constituencies and engage new actors, with particular focus on civil society. We will answer this call by embracing the latest tools and technologies, as well as the innovators and entrepreneurs behind them, and integrating them into our diplomacy and development.”

What’s true for us is just as true for you, and today’s event stems directly our common recognition of the value and possibilities of technology.  In that light, I’m thrilled that we could gather everyone here today to help you – and all of us – make sense of, and make the best possible use of, these ever-more-powerful digital tools.  I’d like to especially thank our technologists for taking time out of their busy schedules to generously share their expertise.  As you heard this morning, these TechCamps, which are being held around the world, are a State Department initiative to bring together community stakeholders – basically, civil society groups and their peers – to brainstorm the greatest challenges their communities face, and how technology can contribute to solving them.

As you also know from our TechCamp Mumbai, these events are unique in that once they are over and problems have been identified, participating civil service organizations are connected to global networks of technologists, mentors and digital volunteers interested in helping implement solutions.

So I hope that in the course of this day-long conference some seeds will take root – and, to use a technology metaphor, that new circuits will be connected – from which powerful ideas and the partnerships needed to make them reality will follow.  None of us are so naïve as to propose that technology is the solution to all the challenges our communities face.  Digital technology, like so many things, is a tool – though a tremendously powerful one.  It is up to us to master it and use it well, for the advantage of those around us.

Thanks for participating!