I had to run some errands today at a place I can’t reasonably get to on the TTC, and so wound up stuck in my car on the Queensway thanks to construction on the Gardiner. But it turned out to be a good thing, because I got to hear Spark on the radio. For anyone not familiar with the show, Spark is “a blog, radio show, podcast and an ongoing conversation about technology and culture, hosted by Nora Young.” (Blurb courtesy of the CBC website.) 

Today’s show included an interview by Young with June Cohen, Executive Producer at TED.

It was particularly interesting to me for two reasons. First, while I’m a fan of the TED talks, which are available and sharable online in keeping with TED’s tagline, “Ideas Worth Spreading,” I wasn't aware of TED’s strong desire to disseminate the talks to developing countries.

Cohen described TED’s new Open TV Project. It makes the TED talks available to broadcasters, for free, around the world, “provided they follow our guidelines which means no interruptions or commercial messages during the talks.”

TED’s plan is to distribute across every available video platform. And, according to Cohen, TV is still the dominant video platform, and is “still one of the most effective ways of reaching the developing world, where online penetration rates are still quite low.”

This project is amazing in its ability to get people around the world sharing ideas and information, and engaging in conversations, research and actions that can enable change.

What strike me, though, are the possibilities for TED Talks on mobile in the developing world, especially in Africa, where mobile phone ownership is considerably higher than ownership of personal computers. There are clearly major hurdles today to providing rich content on African mobile networks, and to gaining widespread access to smart phones, but still, I wonder how long it will be before the Open TV Project is moot in developing countries where mobile technology has leapfrogged PC use due to lack of traditional infrastructure and high cost. (For an interesting, though somewhat dated (2007) analysis of mobile content in Africa, see Russell Southwood’s article “Africa enters the age of mobile content.”) 

As of 2008 there has been an iphone app (TED app) that, according to this AppleInsider article, “allows you to view all the videos and audio available on Ted.com right on your iPhone, and doesn't just link you to youtube videos either, opting for full quicktime movies.”

I visited the Turkana district of Northern Kenya last fall while a team of us shot a video appeal for our client, World Vision Canada. It may sound cheesy, but I love the idea that sometime soon, one of the doctors, teachers, economists, agronomists, village elders or anyone else that we met might be inspired by a TED talk in the same way I have – but under the stars in the Rift Valley.

And second… in my next post!

You can hear Nora Young interview June Cohen from TED on itunes. Search for "spark cbc" and look for 2010-05-16 Spark 113: Vocoders, microfluidities, and hybrid leaders.