News

April 14, 2009

An International Stage for the Vision of Ben Towne ’09

One of five winners worldwide of the International Telecommunication Union’s student video contest on the future of information and communication technologies, he will participate at ITU’s World Telecommunication Policy Forum in Lisbon this month

W. Ben Towne ’09 (Litchfield, N.H.) is one of five winners of a worldwide student video contest sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union’s World Telecommunication Policy Forum. Towne, who is pursuing a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and an A.B. with a self-designed major in community development, is the only winner from the U.S. and the developed world.

Contestants submitted short videos describing their vision of the future of information and communication technologies. Towne’s message is that technology designers and policy makers should consider how telecommunications tools can facilitate strong bonds (such as those in families) alongside those technologies which can make teams at all levels more effective.

Towne advocates the building of “sustainable communities through the development of technology that enhances value in life experiences.” In the video, he discusses the ways in which new communications technologies have broken down geographical barriers, allowing people to interact in new ways with people all over the world, and the positive and negative implications of these new social structures.

For the video, Towne drew on an independent study he performed under the guidance of Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics, in New Orleans as part of the College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project. Towne’s work in New Orleans focused on the possible role of information and communication technologies in advancing the ambitions of neighborhood development and re-branding of the Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. He also based much of the video content on his experience studying engineering and German language and culture in a Lafayette faculty-led program at the International University of Bremen in the spring of 2007.

Towne is preparing to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, April 21-24 for the policy forum, where his video will be shown and he will participate in a panel discussion. As a winner of the contest, all expenses for his trip are covered by the ITU.

Following graduation, Towne will pursue a Ph.D. in Carnegie Mellon University’s “Computation, Organizations and Society” program to further study social implications of new technologies.

“I hope to examine in graduate school the ways in which telecommunications tools change the way people relate to one another, organize into groups, and do business,” Towne says.

Headquartered in Geneva, the International Telecommunications Union is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues, and the global focal point for governments and the private sector in developing networks and services.

posted in Academic News