Where We’ve Been

The last few months have been a tremendous time of growth for ahumanright.org.  I personally have had the privilege to travel all over the world to speak and collaborate with individuals, companies, and organizations as to how access to information can improve the lives of others.  My energy, and the energy of the team, has been focused on building momentum behind our core mission.  We’ve been busy as of late, allow me to share with you where we’ve been and where we are going.

In November I was invited to give a TEDx talk in Athens Greece. It was a tremendous experience where the ideas we’ve been shaping were greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm. While there we launched the Buy This Satellite campaign– a crowd-funded social endeavor to buy a satellite in order to bring Internet access to developing countries.

I was soon receiving invitations to speak at all sorts of events and share the vision of AHUMANRIGHT.ORG. The Satellite 2011 conference in Washington DC was one of those events and posed the biggest opportunity to make lasting connections in the industry. That was a bit of a challenge as I was by far the youngest speaker by what seemed about 20 years, I also was the only person not wearing a suit. During a panel discussion with leading CEO’s of the industry they had an open mic Q and A session. Seizing the opportunity I (shakily) posed this question for the panel: “Some have characterized the industry as only going after the low hanging fruits- corporate and military contracts which can afford the high price of satellite access. Will there be an expanded focus on the “long tail” of the developing world- the general consumer? Who will take on that challenge?” The response was incredibly genuine as the CEO’s outlined the huge challenges they face in how they have addressed and how they are continuing to address those challenges.

After the panel finished I handed them all “I Bought a Satellite” t-shirts (they actually had!), got their cards, and thanked them for their response. Some day soon I’d like to work closely with them to address the digital divide on a global scale, I think we can do it.

We launched the Ambassador program, now 22 members and growing.  The ambassadors are a grassroots movement of individuals spreading the vision of Internet access for all in their local countries.

We connected with the “One Laptop Per Child” foundation and visited their headquarters in Boston MA. They have deployed millions of laptops for children all over the world– we’d like to facilitate getting those laptops online to increase their impact.

I went to Panama and met with leaders who use the Internet to create democratic momentum and spearheaded an initiative to bring Internet access to hospitals in Northern Africa, specifically places suffering from civil unrest.

This has been the most interesting part of our work, as we are still learning the political ramifications of bringing Internet access to places that suffer from a lack of transparency.  In some instances it is very much illegal to even discuss the introduction of information services with people on the ground.  We continue to keep most of this work under wraps to protect the security of those involved.  

Status of the Buy This Satellite Campaign

The Buy This Satellite campaign has been a tremendous success.  None of us imagined the amount of support we would receive from the press and the public.  

As Internet catalyzed revolutions spread throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa we watched as a simple idea to connect others transformed into an honest discussion about the power of the Internet. Internet access made public the plight of our fellow man. People organized, fundraised, and rallied online in support of those on the ground who gave (and are still giving) their lives for freedom.

When Egypt shut off Internet access for the entire country the whole world was startled that such a thing was even possible.  The Buy This Satellite campaign become a rallying point as a potential solution to the problem. TIME Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other news organizations illustrated how our initiative could serve the communication needs of protestors on the ground. During that time we received thousands of requests to volunteer, ambassador applications, and donations.  Our story was shared all over the globe on major news outlets. From the BBC, to Norwegian Radio, to the front page of Reddit.com. (TL:DR?)

We raised over $60,000 and the world has been cheering us on. Mind blowing.

Terrestar-1 is still up for grabs but the possibility of an acquisition seems slim.  In recent valuation filings the satellite system was said to be worth close to 1 billion dollars due to the recent sale of a similar satellite.  This is far from the typical “ten cents on the dollar” satellite sales which we had been modeling the idea on.  It has been reported that Terrestar is moving to liquidate it’s assets but it is yet to be seen if Terrestar will actually find a buyer for that price.  We are still standing by if any investor would like to step up and build a social business around this incredibly useful piece of space hardware. The Buy This Satellite initiative isn’t over until the future of Terrestar-1 is bought and paid for!

What’s Coming Next

1. WE’RE MOVING IN JUNE! A social-startup incubator has generously offered us a new home in San Francisco. We’ll be working in close proximity to a whole flock of social entrepreneurs with equally ambitious initiatives. Details coming soon.

2. The next initiative. We’re assembling all of the parts of a complex initiative that, if goes as planned, should be unprecedented in scale and impact. We have been building relationships with a number of telecommunications companies, charities, and startup social ventures to create what we hope will become a movement.

3. AHUMANRIGHT Canada!

3. Expansion of the Ambassador Program. We’re still learning how to organize and mobilize people on the ground effectively. Once we have a good handle on the logistical side of things we’ll be putting together a number of local campaigns that everyone can get involved with.

4. New website, new logo, and more effective ways to communicate with you.

Personally I am thankful for the support of all the amazing volunteers who have stepped up to support us, for the in kind sponsorships and all of our amazing donors, for the people in the press who have shared our story across the planet, and most importantly to the team who is making this possible.

The future of the planet is ours to shape, lets ensure everyone has a voice.

-Kosta

Kosta Grammatis is the founder of ahumanright.org