Something unexpected happened on the way to the Digital Global Village. The plan was that we would all connect to the Internet, share ideas and knowledge, learn and collaborate, then big problems like poverty and war and tribalism would be eradicated, just like measles.

As it turned out, not everyone was invited to the Village. Income inequality has increased, and billions are still waiting for electricity and clean water, never mind fiber-to-the-home. Those who are connected spend a surprising amount of time screaming into their keyboards at people who disagree with them. As we became more digitally connected, sometimes we became more isolated. 

Building Bridges, Not Walls asks us to zoom out from our individual experiences with tech and look at the ways we work together, or don’t work together, to make smart collective decisions, to build or retool critical institutions and to create the intellectual infrastructure that makes decisions based on inclusivity and cooperation.

What if technology could unite us rather than divide us, connecting us to one another and the planet? Building Bridges, Not Walls examines our interconnected roles as citizens, neighbours, tech creators and users. We’ll explore how to make communities smarter, safer, and more prosperous. We’ll also hear about a smart city plan that puts people ahead of tech, the fight against killer robots, the rise of social enterprise and the plan to strengthen democracy with tech.

Here are some of the thinkers and doers leading us to a better place: 

Kara Swisher

Editor-at-large of Recode, host of the Recode Decode podcast and executive producer of the Code Conference

  • Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist. Kara Swisher shines a light on the Web’s major players and the Internet policy issues that both unite and divide us.

Tobi Lutke

Founder and CEO of Shopify

  • Tobi Lutke has changed the way ecommerce works. He’s an advocate for computer literacy and education as the great leveller. Plus, he has big ideas for bringing commercialization opportunities to the developing world.

Megan Smith

Founder and CEO, shift7

  • Megan Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer and tech evangelist. She was a VP at Google for eleven years and Chief Technology Officer for the U.S government.  She created shift7 to combine public service and tech for faster, scaled social impact.

Balaji Gopalan

Co-Founder and CEO, MedStack

  • You gave away all of your demographic information without knowing it. How about your DNA? Balaji Gopalan is working on a platform to protect your health and your most sensitive personal information.  

Komal Singh

Engineering Program Manager, Google

  • In her day job, Komal Singh works on tech that impacts billions of people around the globe. As her side hustle, she wrote the bestseller, Ara The Star Engineer to inspire kids and minorities to explore the magic of STEM by featuring real-life women engineering leaders.

Maria Cynthia Goh

Professor, Impact Centre, University of Toronto

  • M. Cynthia Goh is a professor of chemistry whose research impacts on nanotechnology, biomaterials and biodiagnostics. Having co-founded eight companies with her students, she specializes in transforming scientific discoveries into tech that impacts real people and real problems.
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