CEO, Malaria No More
This week, the world discovered a new and powerful weapon in the fight against malaria: Twitter. The social networking and micro-blogging tool mobilized a million people to battle the disease by helping Ashton Kutcher be the first to reach one million Twitter followers—saving lives, 140 characters at a time.
Earlier this month, Ashton decided to help raise awareness about malaria for World Malaria Day on April 25th. To do so, he leveraged his popularity on Twitter to spread the word and encourage his followers to donate $10 mosquito nets at http://www.MalariaNoMore.org. This simple act (or “tweet”) brought a message of malaria awareness to a new audience in an innovative way and galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to take action.
Innovation like this is exactly what’s needed to end malaria deaths. When Ashton challenged CNN in a race to a million Twitter followers, he added a twist: 10,000 mosquito nets for Malaria No More to help families protect their children in Africa if he reached the target first. CNN quickly accepted the challenge and pledged 10,000 nets if they could beat Ashton to the magic number.
The gauntlet was thrown and the race was on. But the fight to end malaria deaths had already scored a major victory.
As a technologist, I’m always looking for the next big thing in new media and breakthrough communications. Twitter is a phenomenal tool—but this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a powerful way. With this race, Ashton not only showed the power of new media, he also launched what may be the biggest technology-driven, pro-social movement in history.
Every individual who participated in the Twitter race played a vital role in moving the world toward one in which no child dies of malaria. To make a difference, Twitter followers didn’t need to make a large donation or a grand gesture. The race to a million showed that the power of dedicated individuals united behind a common cause can spark a movement. Every Twitterer involved—regardless of whether they followed Ashton or CNN—took a simple action that will have outsized impact in the lives of families across Africa.
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds—but we know how to stop it. Thanks to new tools, resources and political commitment across the globe, we are winning the fight against malaria. Public engagement shows our leaders that we are determined to beat malaria. Ashton and CNN’s Twitter race shows how we can catalyze technology and innovation to tackle a social problem and make real and lasting change.
We’re working to end malaria deaths by 2015—we can do it, but we need everyone’s help. Every tweet helps, every mosquito net helps, every person has the power to help save lives. Join the world in the race to end malaria deaths by getting creative and using the tools at your fingertips. Visit http://www.MalariaNoMore.org or use the power of Twitter, MySpace and YouTube to amplify your voice and inspire others.
Ashton set an ambitious goal of reaching a million Twitter followers this week. Inspired by his success, we’re setting an ambitious target of our own: help us get to one million mosquito nets in one week to celebrate World Malaria Day on April 25th.
As Ashton proved today, anything’s possible.
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