March 25th, 2008
07:46 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The ever-shrinking world

Erica Hill

I started the day with my first NY bus ride (I even had to run to catch it – I felt like such a New Yorker!). I was heading to the UN to moderate a panel at a conference sponsored by UN GAID – the UN Global Alliance for Internet Communications Technology Development (with a mouthful like that, you can see why they opt for the acronym).

The conference is focused on “Web 2.0”. As a technology reporter in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I followed the development of “Web 1.0” very closely. Then – as now – young people seem to be the most eager to adopt emerging technologies like the Internet.

What’s interesting this time around is there are so many ways for youth around the globe to connect with one another – cell phones, texting, blogs, satellite radio and TV – but some of the same hurdles remain: Forget reliable Internet access, reliable electricity is often more of a challenge.

Then there’s the cost – even with initiatives to get solar powered, low-cost laptops into developing areas, mobile phones and texting are often easier and less expensive. Cultural issues including language barriers and generational gaps are equally challenging...

But even faced with these barriers, there is some encouraging news: Social networking and local causes are driving more young people to connect with technology and, in turn, with one another. Think things like clean drinking water, basic food needs, infectious diseases and local politics.

Our panel agreed that finding a cause they can believe in – whether it’s political, environmental, or simply pushing for better technology access in their area – is one of the best ways to get young people involved and connected. Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and TakingITGlobal are huge in this respect. One attendee told a story of how young bloggers in his country had changed an entire election by keeping key issues at the forefront… a phenomenon we can relate to here in the U.S.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was so inspired today by the commitment of the people on my panel – some not even 30-years old – to continue bridging the digital divide. They are determined to give young people around the world a voice, whether it’s through text messages or a Facebook profile. They firmly believe that technology can connect people across the cultural and technological barriers, and that this networking will benefit all of us, regardless of age; That knowing your neighbor in a different hemisphere or on another continent can unite this world. And that understanding the issues they face is key to understanding where we all fit in this world.

Technology can be a wonderful tool. It brings a remarkable amount of power to many people who just a few years ago would not have had any way to make their voice heard. Let’s hope the world continues to shrink as we all become more connected.

And these are a few of the headlines that grabbed me today on my bus ride:

The crisis in Somalia is so bad, nearly 40 relief agencies say they can’t help the hundreds of thousands who need them; it is simply too dangerous.

So much for water and clean restrooms during your four hours on the tarmac...  the Passenger Bill of Rights is grounded.

A man trying to install satellite TV using a gun could now be charged in his wife’s death. He used a gun to punch a hole in the wall after he wasn’t having much luck with other means, and ended up shooting his wife. 

Miss Bimbo calls itself a “virtual fashion game for girls”. The website lets girls as young as seven buy breast implants for virtual dolls and put them on crash diets. You can bet more than a few parents are outraged – add me to that list.

– Erica Hill, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Erica Hill
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. omar greene

    keep up the good work

    March 26, 2008 at 1:40 am |
  2. Madonna S. Goldsby

    Miss Bimbo mania
    I hope and pray that most parents disagree with this marketing ,but sadly enough I think not. Judging by the enormous amount of clothing and items that are marketed and sold to young girls, just looking at the way many of them are dressed out in the street, or going to school- not modest, too riskey for a young child. But it's the parents who are making these purchases, the children certainly can't get to the stores themselves and buy the skimmpy, often revealing clothing. If enough parents were truly appauled at the manufacters for skimping on the fabric they might stop purchasing certain brands and eventually force them to offer something more dignified and appropriate for our precious young girls.
    Madonna , Atlanta, GA

    March 25, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  3. Melodee

    The Miss Bimbo site is an odd thing! Well rather grotesque!

    But I am happy to see that the bimbo is asked to get a job to pay for all her stuff–what kind of job a wanting bimbo would get–that may be the staw that breaks my back!

    I do not see this as appropirate time spent, no matter how bored one could be, but to each their own.

    Kinda sick and not worth my time!

    March 25, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  4. withersm11

    That was such a funny lead to your blog, I have to admit that I laughed out loud..... and I've never been east of Vegas

    March 25, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  5. Gavin

    "Misspoke" The new definition of a white lie.

    March 25, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  6. Alheli Picazo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    Erica...you are fantastic!!!

    So have you "evolved" to facebook yet?? You really should join up!! 🙂

    March 25, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  7. JurdikSvensk - Mystic, Connecticut

    Sounds like a cool day Erica.

    I think it only helps the more interconnected we become. I am 28 from the US and back here again but have lived in Stockholm, London Tokyo, Boston, San Fran and traveled quite extensively.

    For people that cannot afford to live abroad or travel a lot the internet help bring us together and learn about the world we live in. Too ofter we in the US are to sheltered from the rest of the world.

    Wouldn't it be cool if on your show you could have one little segment or story a day where it is not necessarily from a war zone.

    Just a thought. Wish you luck!!

    March 25, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  8. Leevaughn Brown

    Hey Erica
    I am with you on I.T. we need to learn more about other cultures and it is great so many want to be involved.

    With this comes responsibility when using new technology, we must take our time and make sure it is safe.

    March 25, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  9. Melodee

    I too agree the world is more connected than ever. However, this does give me mixed feelings.

    On the one hand I am excited to see all the new! New ideas, new foods, just new stuff.

    On the other hand it depresses me a bit that I am one of those self absorbed Americans who only speak one language. Yes I could and am learning others, but it is not really a part of the culture like it is in other lands. You can learn it but who do you share it with??

    I am a member of many online chat groups and am astounded daily to see the locations of the members and the proficency of thier english–mine is not so great at times you know!! And I've been here all my life and back a few generations too boot!

    March 25, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  10. BOSNIA

    Erica i like you..

    March 25, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  11. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    A world connected is a good thing, but walk by any young person and all you see is them fiddling with a cell phone, ipod, blackberry, or any gadget. What I rarely see anymore, is them talking to another human being, face to face. I'm generalizing, yes, but it's becoming very common to see a wall building between face to face interactions? Just a thought.
    No comment on Miss Bimbo. There are no words.

    March 25, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  12. Jolene

    The Internet is such an exciting technology. How neat was it to moderate a panel? I hope good things come out of your work today. I know there are both good and bad aspects when it comes to the Internet but you really can't knock the power it has when it comes to connecting people around the world. I can't even imagine what it would be like working with folks from around the globe without it. I hope you keep us posted as to any developments.

    I can remember wanting a Barbie doll with grow and pretty hair as a little girl but one with breast implants? That's just not right.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    March 25, 2008 at 9:27 pm |
  13. Brent, Roseville CA

    Erica: I work for AT&T and our new marketing principle is "AT&T 2.0" and we are making it our mission to deliver as many services as we can to people anywhere they live, work and play. The world truly is shrinking in ways to don't even realize. I will be turning 40 this year and the advancements in technology during that 40 years, in my opinion, rivals anything in the 230 years since our country's founding.

    March 25, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  14. Cheryl Jean


    I agree that it sounds like you have already had a very interesting day. How lucky for those at the UN to have you for their moderator.

    As for the man who accidentally shot his wife, what a sad tragedy for him and his children. HIs accident is just another reason why I am glad ther are no guns in our home.

    Thanks again for reminding us how lucky most of us are in this country. We have grocery stores with a ridiculous amount of choices while so many others in the workd are starving.

    I'll be watching you and Anderson this evening for other news stories.

    Great to have you in New York!

    A forever fan from Clinton, CT

    March 25, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  15. Jason Livesay

    Yes, very interesting day and fascinating entry. Erica, re: the UN and the crisis in Somalia you mentioned, I just had an idea. We received notices in the mail today about our $300 – $600 "stimulus". Why don't we tell the IRS instead to take this $145 billion plus "stimulus" and give it the UN to fund a military intervention in Somalia so that humanitarian efforts can continue? I believe that responsible military action still has a place in this world and that the UN should be given the resources to take action. And a $300 bribe does nothing to solve our complex financial problems.

    March 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm |
  16. Lilibeth

    The internet sure has opened a lot of doors for us. For me, it lets me keep in touch with the people I love…I still can’t get over the fact that can talk to my relatives halfway around the world, and it doesn’t cost me thousands of dollars in telephone bills! I don't know what we did before the internet...

    Somalia has always been in a crisis, and it seems that it's getting worse and worse. If humanitarian agencies are trying to help but can't, what will become of the people there? I keep praying for a miracle...

    I'm totally speechless about the man who used a gun to install satellite TV...all I can say is...dumb!

    The Miss Bimbo website boggles the mind...maybe this is one downside of the internet?

    See you tonight!

    Edmonds, Washington

    March 25, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
  17. Annie Kate


    The web is a wonderful communication tool; I've been using it since the 1980s before Microsoft created their internet explorer software and can remember when Amazon first started up and everyone said it would fail the first year!.

    During the last decade I have made many friends from different areas of the world mostly through participating in craft related groups organized on the Internet. I hostessed an International quilt swap a few years ago and had a participant from Japan, one from Korea, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Sweden and The Netherlands among others. The web has also been great to connect genealogy researchers together – I have literally found cousins all across the country and a few in Australia that I never knew I had and been able to add to the history of my family by including them. There is enormous potential for the web for all sorts of uses and I'm glad that young people will keep expanding it.

    On the man making holes in his house with a gun – I'd ask what was he thinking but I think the more apt question is – Was he thinking??

    :Looking forward to the show tonight.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 25, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  18. Monica Avendano

    I was thirteen years old when I moved to this country. I learned a new language and the culture. By the time I was 17, I was participating in a World-wide Certiport Competition. I was not any different that other kid around the globe, the difference was made by the availability of technology that this country has. I, too, believe that those that have technology within their education have an open mind about their sourroundings and the needs of those with which they connect. Therefore, helping in causes and getting involved in politics will be just one more thing they will want to do in their near future. The saying " Our kids are our future" is as true as it gets. Whatever effort we can do to make this world better is worth the shot.

    March 25, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  19. Ruby Coria, LA., CA.

    Erica, how cool your day sounds.. I hope that guy that use a gun to install the satellite doesn't say he saw it at the UN communications.. by the way Erica I like how you communicate you're not wishy washy.

    March 25, 2008 at 8:06 pm |