March 8, 2005
Bono the hologram on Ethiopia
Here is a recording of Bono addressing the recent Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference in Monterey, California via some kind of hologram display. His speech was all about Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular.
He talked about his first encounter with the country. During the 1984/5 famine he came here with his wife to work in an orphanage for a month. For some reason, the children called him "the woman with the beard" - probably something to do with his 80s hairstyle. After that visit he decided to become "that worst of things - a rock star with a cause".
It is easy to be cynical about these rock stars with causes. Sting in the rain forest is the obvious example. But there is something compelling about the way Bono talks. It is so similar to the rhetoric used by Ireland's other campaigning singer Bob Geldof.
There is the same resigned drone in the voice, the casual swigging from the water bottle, the same self-depreciating smile at his own jokes. There is the same ability to come up with a speech that is basically one long, long quotable soundbite - if that is not a contradiction in terms. The same disconcerting switch between hip rock star talk and campaigning vocabulary - "I'd like to hard cut now from the moral imperative to the strategic..."
They are also good at breaking through the generalisms of development talk to make strong, pragmatic appeals. Bono was talking to an audience made up of Silicon Valley boffins and other cutting-edge entrepreneurs from the tech and pharmaceutical sectors. He pointed out that America's global reputation was a little tarnished at the moment. "Wouldn't [the widespread release] of anti-retroviral drugs be a great advert for Western technology? Doesn't compassion look well on us?"
Bono was granted three wishes by the organisers of the TED conference. His third was "I wish for you to show the power of information - its power to rewrite the rules and to transform lives - by connecting every hospital, health clinic, and school in one African country, Ethiopia, to the Internet." TED participants are now supposed to help him make the wish a reality.
I suppose one obvious question is whether every school and hospital in Ethiopia really needs to be connected to the internet.
Posted by aheavens at March 8, 2005 4:39 AM