“Technology for Social Good” It is the theme of this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. So many people, especially women, would love to find a job where their work contributes to the greater good. There are many examples of people whose lives and work embody technology for social good.
One of the most interesting and impactful is Mary Lou Jepsen. Mary Lou was the founding Chief Technology Officer for One Laptop per Child, an organization whose mission is to deliver low-cost laptops to children in developing countries. Mary Lou led the development of the product, but as a technologist, was most influential in her invention of the laptop’s innovate display screen, providing low power and quality at a low enough price to make the laptop viable.
In 2008, Mary Lou founded a new company called Pixel Qi. Building on her demonstrated technology vision from One Laptop per Child, she is developing a new screen technology. The technology is low power, with display capable of text for the emerging e-book market. As a Kindle user, I am appreciative of the capability of this new product as it provides the potential for color and video.
So as you can see, Mary Lou embodies the characteristics of a visionary technologist whose work includes products have huge impact on the world.
What is most impressive about Mary Lou is the impact she has on the next generation of women technologist. She was the keynote of the 2008 Grace Hopper Conference. The feedback from the attendees found them profoundly inspired by her and her work,much beyond other speakers we’ve featured who are more famous, or even more charismatic. Last spring, when many women blogged about role models on Ada Lovelace Day, I was surprised by the number of women who blogged about Mary Lou.
It was a reminder to me of the importance of examples of Technology for Social Good, and the role models we aspire too.