On August 29, 2008, Elías Kuri was a hard-working Mexican businessman without a public profile, and not necessarily seeking one.
At the close of the day on August 30, 2008, Elías Kuri’s successful efforts to encourage his fellow citizens to take to the street and call for an end to violence made him and the civic leaders who worked with him the talk of the town and all of Mexico.
Mr. Kuri was motivated to take action after learning of the kidnapping and murder of 14 year old Fernando Martí, son of famous Mexican businessman Alejandro Martí. He sent out an email to a group of friends and worked with local civil society leaders, such as Angel Corona of CONSEGU (the National Committee of Community Participation), Ana Franco of México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (Mexico United Against Crime), and others to call for a march. Following the advice of his young daughter, Mr. Kuri named the movement Iluminemos México (Let’s Illuminate Mexico). This Sunday marks the first anniversary of an event that brought together the old and young, women and men, students and workers who chose to peacefully march on the streets of Mexico City in a collective call for an end to violence. Thousands of Mexican citizens walked Reforma Avenue, the capital’s main boulevard, toward the Zócalo central square where they sang the national anthem and lit candles.
Tech.Del participants — including AT&T, MIT Media Lab, Microsoft, Facebook, Liberty Concepts, FastForward Group and the Adefro Group — had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kuri, Mr. Corona, and many other inspiring Mexicans working to find positive ways to work to overcome violence in their country. We spoke with representatives of Mexico United Against Crime, the National Committee of Community Participation and SOS — Sistema de Observación por la Seguridad Ciudadana (Observation System for Citizen Security). These initiatives seek to build secure communities through citizen participation. You’ll find their sites include at least some interactive features, connecting with users, volunteers and the Mexican public.
We also spoke with representatives from Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, and Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico City campus) to discuss how they are engaging students — the innovators and future leaders — to understand their rights and realize their potential as agents of change. We met with representatives of the private sector, including TelMex, the Carlos Slim Education Foundation, Televisa and Fábrica Interactiva— Substance®. And finally, we met with representatives of the federal government, including the President’s office, Secretaría de Gobernación and the Ministry of Foreign Relations, to discuss how President Felipe Calderon’s administration is working to connect with civil society.
So where do we go from here?
The participants have come up with too many ideas to list (and keep coming up with more), but here are a few:
• develop a 2.0 space where the sophisticated efforts happening in the capital can be shared with regions, including Ciudad Juarez where we visited earlier in the week;
• motivate Mexican students, artists and non-governmental organizations to share their inspired grassroots efforts through i-reporting;
• investigate how Mexican NGOs can work with and through U.S.-based Latino NGOs, especially in cases where personal security is at risk;
• explore how to lower the cost of sending SMS texts to allow NGOs to more easily and cheaply reach the community; and
• examine how to improve encryption of text messages and emails so that Mexican citizens can trust the source of the incoming message.
Implementation will be a challenge but Illuminemos, Mexico United Against Crime, and other concerned organizations continue to lead the way.
On Sunday, August 30, Illuminemos will roll out a web-based project of incredible potential: an online map showing the location of where crimes have been committed. To address personal security concerns, Mexicans who choose to upload information to the map can opt whether to include their name, email or other identifying information. Through the launch event, Illuminemos will spread the word on this new tool through broadcast and print media, urging Mexican citizens to contribute to building an extensive crime reporting and pin-pointing mechanism.
Mexicans themselves continue to be the headline innovators when it comes to refocusing energies away from deadly headlines and toward positive, grassroots opportunities.