Patrick Meier, an internationally recognized expert on humanitarian technology and innovation, visited Morristown-Beard School on Monday, March 4th to speak to students at Upper School Meeting about how technology is transforming global humanitarian efforts and how local involvement is essential to the process. He also met informally with students and faculty members in a number of classes throughout the day.
Meier serves as the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WeRobotics, which scales the positive impact of humanitarian aid, development and environmental projects through the use of robotics solutions, most notably, drones. In his presentations, he talked about how drones are used in humanitarian efforts, and how digital humanitarians are saving lives and creating new, sustainable economic opportunities with drones.
“As we look to the future, the choice isn’t between automation and non-automation. We are going one way and one way only – and that is automation,” said Meier. “The choice is between whether we use the technology in a way that creates shared prosperity or more concentration of wealth. For us, it’s about using these new autonomous solutions responsibly and ethically to benefit all.”
To this end, WeRobotics created 22 drone “Flying Lab” networks — knowledge hubs around the world run entirely by local professionals to train local pilots in flying and using drones and other robotics to solve local aid, development, health and environmental problems. More specifically, they use aerial, marine and terrestrial drones for data collection and cargo delivery.
“Too often after a disaster, drone companies from the United States, Europe or Australia will be called to assist when it’s more efficient and less expensive to rely on local experts,” said Meier. “Talent is uniformly distributed throughout the world, but opportunity certainly is not. We need to emphasize the power of local.”
Over the past 17 years, Meier has worked on a wide range of humanitarian technology projects in countries around the world including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Liberia, India, Nepal, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Morocco, Western Sahara, Haiti, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Northern Ireland and many others with multiple international organizations including UN agencies, the Red Cross and World Bank. His book, Digital Humanitarians, has been praised by experts at the UN, Red Cross, World Bank, USAID, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford and others.
Meier has served as a Fellow at MIT Solve, Stanford, Harvard, Rockefeller Foundation, UBS Global Visionaries, UNICEF Innovations and National Geographic. His innovative projects have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC News, UK Guardian,The Economist, ForbesMagazine and elsewhere.