Mexico. Border students are shaping the future with technology and innovation

By Miguel Fernandez – The Huffington Post

Expanding access to clean water and other natural resources. Ending gender violence. Improving physical and mental health. Increasing educational attainment for all students. These are some of the pressing challenges we face and will continue to face unless we decide to do something about it.

Here is a thought: how about we ask our young people to use the latest technology and innovation to solve these problems? After all, these are problems they will inherit should we fail to solve them now.

Last year, thousands of students from El Paso, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico came together to do just that. They participated in the annual binational CampusLink, a 2-day summit which seeks to expose high school and university students living along the U.S.-Mexico border to the ever-growing importance of technology and innovation and how they can be leveraged to solve social problems.

Since launching in 2011, CampusLink has engaged more than 17,000 students across six cities, two countries, and over 70 high school and university campuses. These students have explored everything from the future of wearable technology to advancing medicine and health with technology and addressing cybersecurity. They have listened to the leading trailblazers in the field of technology as well as entrepreneurs whose products and services have revolutionized our world.

This September, another group of hundreds of students will be able to participate in CampusLink—this year’s 2-day summit will take place at TechHub in Ciudad Juárez and at the University of Texas at El Paso the following day.

Students will be able to interact and learn from leading entrepreneurs and techies including, Jonathon Angell of Hackers/Founders, Pilar Manchon of Intel, Brian Rashid, Griselda Gómez of MIT-Mexico, and many more. There will be Ted Talk-like presentations; sessions on women in technology and innovation; tech clinics on digital photography, video blogging and virtual reality; and the signature Hackathon.

This is the challenge where students come together in teams to apply technology and innovation in order to address a pressing social issue. Last year’s winners pitched the idea of developing a game that would teach players how to prevent gender violence and have since been working hard to carry out the project.

This year, the possibilities are endless. The beauty of this program is not only that it’s fostering the use of technology and innovation among young individuals, but that it is doing this across national boundaries and in a place that couldn’t be further than Silicon Valley.

The idea that students from Mexico and the United States can come together during a Hackathon and create solutions to global problems is emblematic of the potential that border regions play in facilitating global exchanges and creative thinking.

And what’s even better is that the 2-day summit is free to all students thanks to the generous sponsorship of multiple companies and individuals including: Cisco, Samsung, Telmex, Transtelco, Fundacion Paso del Norte, National Geographic Learning, the Hub for Human Innovation, The Borderplex Alliance, Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua, The University of California Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and dozens more.

As someone who owns and oversees a telecommunications company servicing both Mexico and the United States, I have seen first-hand the power that technology and innovation hold and how it provides opportunities to bridge international communities and solve real-world problems. I couldn’t be happier to support CampusLink and Carlos Castañeda, CIO at Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, who has been leading this program.

Few things make me more hopeful about what the future holds than seeing hundreds of bright young minds working to create a revolutionary app or service that could save someone’s life, preserve resources, or help make communities safer and more connected. This September, great ideas will be developed at CampusLink that will have the potential to impact generations to come.