DeMillo Addresses Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

September 14, 2006

(September 15, 2006)--College of Computing Dean Rich DeMillo addressed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Georgia Tech dignitaries, and industry partners on Wednesday, September 13. Her Excellency is Africa's first elected female president who is seeking partnerships with American universities and corporations to help provide war stricken Liberia with much needed access to technology.

In his speech, DeMillo emphasized that the focus needs to be human-centered--as much on the context as on the technology itself. To address technology in context at a foundational level, the College of Computing at Georgia Tech has changed its curriculum, developing eight technology context areas, called “threads,” to better position students to succeed and make an impact. By exposing computing students to public policy or civil engineering or industrial design or health care, the College is sharing perspectives and worldviews that will not only impact the kinds of technology explored, but also how the technology is deployed, and the human consequences, planned or unintended, of that technology.

“This approach and emphasis on computing in context, has value beyond just our curriculum,” said DeMillo. “Right now we are working on a formal “Threads for International Development” project focused specifically on Africa.”  Through this project, the College of Computing is collaborating with governments and public and private groups, exploring technology development and deployment to ensure local relevance and impact, such as using computing to help control disease, or utilizing technology to more effectively and efficiently deploy government services.

DeMillo also said that the key advantage Georgia Tech has over many in the private sector is a wealth of differing viewpoints and talented minds to not only look at the technology, but also at the systems and infrastructures in place to support that technology, and deploy it most effectively.  “We understand that technologies have powerful positive impacts,” said DeMillo, “and potentially more powerful unintended negative impacts if not deployed and supported correctly.”

Back in March, President Sirleaf gave a speech to a joint session of U.S. Congress eloquently pointing out that the people of Liberia “need and deserve an economic environment in which their efforts can succeed. They need infrastructure and they need security, but above all, they need peace.” DeMillo reassured her that the College of Computing at Georgia Tech sees the opportunity that the Republic of Liberia and many other countries present, not just to further research as a university, but also to take that research and technology into the real world to make an impact on people through improving infrastructure, agriculture, education, energy, affordable and effective health care; and through developing new technologies that create new businesses that provide citizens with jobs, wealth, and a true investment and financial stake in their country.

College of Computing Professor Seymour Goodman, Adjunct Assistant Professor Mike Best, and Ph.D. student Kipp Jones also participated in the historic event hosted on the Georgia Tech campus.

To view a related article about Sirleaf’s visit to Georgia Tech, click here.