This time last week I got an interesting, and pleasant, surprise: I’d been listed along with 31 other fantastic people around the continent in the Quartz Africa’s Innovator’s List. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! Two days ago, I got another one: Bill Gates, one of the world’s innovative (and richest) icons had shared the Quartz List on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
My wife who had called my attention to it was half exhilarated that I was getting this kind of recognition, and proud of me, and half desirous of same for her absolutely wonderful and important company currently saving lives in Nigeria through her work with a small team (in cold chain supply of blood) and in need of serious funding support.
Her perspective and excitement struck a chord with me and I have decided to spend some effort trying to get Bill’s attention both on twitter and on Facebook, because having his clout and support for many of the ideas and work we’re doing will give way more practical mileage than just the exposure of a list (great as it is). His Foundation, for instance, has supported hundreds of great ideas around the world that have then gone on to thrive and change lives. We’d like to have that too.
So, I would like to have a conversation with him, wherever, whenever, possible. Here’s one more reason:
One of the motivations for my work on YorubaName.com and other language-related work we’ve been doing over a decade comes from an early frustration with Microsoft products which always drew this red wriggly line under names that it considered foreign, even when they were not to the local environment. When Microsoft Word was used in a Nigerian environment where Yorùbá is spoken as a first language along with many others, the red line never lets the user forget who made the rules. It created a feeling of exclusion, or not being recognised. It was similar to the attitude among teachers in Nigerian private schools who scolded children for speaking “vernacular” in the class. It had the, perhaps unintended, consequence of keeping users (and students) feeling constantly inadequate – second class. Thankfully, this part of my motivation was highlighted in the profile for Quartz.
In any case, I am interested in talking with Bill Gates about the work I’ve committed myself to in increasing the African language content in technology. His help will be greatly appreciated and I will appreciate any help in being able to reach him. My last employment was at Google (Nigeria), if this helps. One of the things I did there, apart from my primary assignment, was help improve the Nigerian language currency in Google Translate and some other Google products, for mobile and for PC. I would like to do the same for Microsoft, if possible (I’m currently unemployed, you see). But more importantly, I’d like to explore partnership opportunities between Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and our Yorùbá Name Project.
One of the things I was pleased to discover while going through Bill’s Gates Notes blog is that he’s also a fan of Dr. Richard Feynman who is one of my biggest inspirations. Feynman’s book/biography Surely You Must Be Joking is my all-time favourite book showing how one can be smart, motivated, and still have fun at the same time. His follow up work, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out is one book I’ve always returned to. It’s a collection of essays, thoughts, lectures, interviews, on a number of fascinating pursuits and thoughts. Dr. Feynman was an easy man to love, and to listen to.
So, maybe this collision is a good sign.
How you can help:
- If you have direct access to Bill Gates (or if you ARE Bill Gates), and/or you’d like to connect us, please send me a mail at kt AT ktravula.com.
- If you know any other way I can reach him, other than the grant application processes on the Gates Foundation website, please leave them in the comments below.
- If neither of the above, please help retweet my tweet to him, and upvote my comment on his Facebook page. It might work (or it might not). Who knows!