SAN JOSE, California -Hosted annually by The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Tech Awards connect and honor the efforts of individuals, organizations and companies that use technology and innovation to improve people’s lives. Here are the last 10 winners of the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award, a Tech Award that especially recognizes those individuals “whose broad vision and leadership on a global scare are helping to find solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges.”
1. James C. Morgan (2004)
Founder and namesake of the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award, Morgan has been a philanthropic voice in the business world for decades. After receiving the 1996 National Medal of Technology for his efforts to establish the microelectronic company, Applied Technology, as a global leader in technological innovation, Morgan worked for the Clinton and Bush administrations, advising on trade and industry policies.
In 2000, Morgan helped to create and support The Tech Awards, eventually transforming the program into an internationally-renowned network of innovators and philanthropists. Morgan was honored with the first Global Humanitarian Award in 2004, for both his work with the organization and his role as an industrial and community leader.
2. Kristine Pearson (2005)
After moving from California to South Africa in 1980, Kristine Pearson was moved by the stories of the orphans and refugees she met during her travels, as well as by the poverty she witnessed throughout the continent. In particular, Pearson and her South African husband, Rory Stear, were struck by Africa’s “energy poverty.”
Without access to electricity, millions depend on polluting substances like kerosene and firewood to power their homes. Meanwhile, those living in refugee camps or without parents rely on radios for education and information—but are often unable to obtain batteries or dispose of those batteries safely.
To address these problems, Stear launched Lifeline Technology Trading (formerly Freeplay Energy) in 1995, a company that manufactures hand-powered or solar-powered portable devices. Pearson became involved in the charitable side of the business, founding the nonprofit Lifeline Energy.
Pearson’s work first garnered attention when she launched the Lifeline radio in 2001, a device specifically designed to broadcast news and lessons to children. Today, Lifeline Energy owns Lifeline Technology Trading, and works with the United Nations Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) to distribute its products to vulnerable populations throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
“Renewable energy is absolutely central to the growth of the continent. And access to information is key for people to make better choices and improve the quality of their lives,” said Pearson in a TIME interview.
3. Bill Gates (2006)
Inventor, programmer and Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long been known for his philanthropic work through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Divided into four divisions—Global Development, Global Health, United States and Policy & Advocacy—the Gates Foundation works with organizations on a global and local scale to develop innovative and technological solutions to various humanitarian crises. For instance, the Global Heath Division “aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries” as well as foster innovation in how healthcare is provided to vulnerable populations.
According to The Tech Awards website, “[Gates] inspires us to continue innovating because, through his experience, he has learned that…human ingenuity aided by science and technology can make the world a better place for everyone.”
4. Gordon Moore (2007)
Though not a household name like Gates, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore occupies an equally prestigious place in the world of philanthropic industry. Today, Intel is the largest chip maker in the world, designing and producing the chips found in laptops, motherboards, circuits, flash drives and other devices.
In 2001, Moore used his 175 million Intel shares to launch The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a grant organization that, according to Forbes Magazine, gives “$250 million each year to support sustainability, environmental conservation, healthcare and scientific research.”
Currently, the Moore Foundation is the biggest supporter of the Thirty Meter Telescope, the world’s largest telescope. It has also pledged $500 million over the next 10 years to innovation in patient care.
5. Muhammad Yunus (2008)
In the 1970’s, economic professor Muhammad Yunus learned that as little as $27 in loans could help Bangladeshi villagers rise out of poverty. Seven years later, he started the Grameen Bank, an organization that provides microloans to over 8 million borrowers throughout rural Bangladesh.
Today, the Grameen Bank recovers approximately 97 percent of its loans, giving it the highest return rate of any banking system in the world. Yunus’ methods have been implemented globally, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his innovative approach to poverty and microcredit.
6. Al Gore (2009)
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is today best known for his efforts to raise environmental awareness, particularly about the issue of climate change. In 2006, his campaign went global with the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” A year later, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Gore’s work has spurred technological innovation around the world, as organizations and governments try to curb humanity’s effect on the planet and find alternatives sources of energy. According to TechMuseum president Peter Friess, “Climate change is a central issue of our time and Al Gore has contributed greatly to exposing the burgeoning problem and its effects if left unaddressed.”
7. Queen Rania Al Abdullah (2010)
Recognizing the importance of education and self-sufficiency in the fight to eradicate poverty, Queen Rania Al Abdullah has worked tirelessly to improve children’s education and health, both in Jordan and around the world. She has advocated on the behalf of UNICEF and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) while leading national campaigns aimed at refurbishing schools and inspiring teachers.
In 1995, Queen Rania founded The Jordan River Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that provides women with the skills and socio-economic opportunities to improve their livelihoods. In addition to its Community Empowerment Program, The Jordan River also spearheads the Child Safety Program, which addresses child abuse through The National Family Protection System.
In her acceptance speech during The Tech Award, Queen Rania emphasized the importance of education, calling it “the best investment we can make to help people lift themselves out of poverty.”
8. Jeff Skoll (2011)
Former eBay president and founder of multiple organizations—including the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll Global Threats Foundation—Jeff Skoll has made a name for himself in the world of social entrepreneurship and global change. Currently, his Skoll Foundation is the largest social entrepreneurship foundation in the world, supporting and connecting over 80 leading entrepreneurs who address humanitarian needs around the world.
Meanwhile, the Global Threats Foundation seeks solutions to problems that threaten humanity on an international level, such as “climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and Middle East conflict.”
In 2004, Skoll also created Participant Media, a film company that produces movies on social issues ranging from climate change (“An Inconvenient Truth”) to education reform (“Waiting for Superman.”) Participant Media also works with organizations that deal with the issues discussed in its films, advocating and fundraising on their behalf.
9. N.R. Narayana Murthy (2012)
N.R. Narayana Murthy first garnered international attention since the 1980’s, when he founded and chaired Infosys, India’s leading tech services and outsourcing company. Since then, Murthy has earned numerous awards for his entrepreneurship and his philanthropy. During his time with Infosys, Murthy created the Global Delivery Model, which has brought millions of outsourcing and software development jobs to India.
In 1996, Murthy helped start the Infosys Foundation, which, according to its website, “supports programs and organizations devoted to the cause of the destitute, rural poor, mentally challenged, and economically disadvantaged sections of society.” Through the Infosys Foundation, Murthy has constructed multiple health facilities and over 50,000 libraries; supported traditional artists and art exhibits; offered vocational training to vulnerable populations; and built roads, homes and electrical centers across rural India.
10. Dean Kamen
The Global Humanitarian Award’s 10th recipient, Dean Kamen, is the founder of DEKA Research & Development, a company that researches and develops medical devices that improve the quality of human life on a global level. Kamen himself holds over 400 patents for medical inventions, including the world’s first wearable infusion pump, designed while he was still in college. According to The Tech Awards website, Kamen has also helped develop “an insulin pump for diabetics, portable energy and water purification devices for the developing world, and a prosthetic arm for maimed soldiers.”
In addition to his work with DEKA, Kamen is the creator of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), an organization dedicated to encouraging adolescents to pursue a career in science and technology. FIRST operates in over 50 countries and reaches over 300,000 young people each year.
– Jordanna Packtor
Sources: The Tech Awards, Applied Materials, TIME, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Forbes, Grameen Bank, The Jordan River Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Infosys Foundation, DEKA Research, US FIRST