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Stanford Report, September 26, 2001

Reuters-funded Digital Vision Program begins next month; initial fellows selected

Beginning next month, Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information will host a new technology fellowship called the Digital Vision Program.

Funded by the Reuters Foundation, the program will allow fellows to undertake projects that explore the utility of information and communications technology in addressing humanitarian issues.

"The goal of the program is to use information and communications technology to improve the lives of people in the developing world," said Maureen Marlowe, director of the Reuters Foundation. "We are committed to making a real difference in people's lives and view technology as being one of the most powerful vehicles of change."

In addition to studying full time at Stanford, each of the five selected fellows will have access to a community of more than 160 international aid agencies that are members of the Reuters Foundation's AlertNet service (www.alertnet.org). The service provides news and information to the disaster relief community in 34 countries. Field visits to the countries or regions targeted by each fellow's research will form an integral part of the program.

The five inaugural fellows were chosen by a panel of Reuters technology experts and Stanford faculty members. They are Atanu Dey, an economic analyst at AcrossWorld Communications in Santa Clara; Melanie Edwards, a self-employed consultant from San Francisco; Ken Novak, director of network services at CGNet Network Services in Menlo Park; Pingali Rajeswari, director of the social research unit for Capital Fortunes Limited and director of Greenstar India in Hyderabad, India; and Mark Stevenson, human language technologist for Reuters Limited in London.

Each candidate was asked to submit a project proposal outlining a problem in the developing world and how he or she would address it using information technology. Their projects range from natural language processing in minority languages for information access to climate protection in developing countries. The program director, who is currently being appointed, will be responsible for overseeing the fellows' projects and developing the shape of the program. During their inauguration week, fellows will present their proposals to each other and projects may subsequently be adapted to combine those areas where there are natural synergies.

The world of information technology has yet to reach more than 4 billion people worldwide, Reuters Foundation officials said of the motivation to start the program. Perhaps more important, they say, is the potential information technology has to address the major challenges facing the developing world, such as enhancing health care, reducing poverty and improving education.

The program is intended to offer fellows an opportunity to take a step back, think "out of the box" and make a practical difference in the lives of people who have yet to benefit from the information revolution.