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Issue 36 Feature Lifestyle

Meet the People Fighting for a Better-Informed Public 

Access to knowledge is critical to the progress of democratic societies

March 16, 2016
Part 23 of 26 See all ›

Issue 36: The 2016 GOOD 100

Meet the remarkable individuals tackling pressing global issues today

Each year, GOOD celebrates 100 people from around the globe who are improving our world in creative and innovative ways—advocates, inventors, educators, creatives, business leaders and more who are speaking up, building things, campaigning for change, and ultimately refusing to accept the status quo. 

In this section, meet 11 innovators redefining the way we consume, distribute, and engage with information.

Meet Four Information Advocates

Lauded for launching the pioneering geojournalism network InfoAmazonia, Brazilian journalist Gustavo Faleiros’s latest mission is building an army of citizen journalists. His platform GeoJournalism.org provides exercises, tutorials, and open-source tools for all manner of environmental data pirates.

Veteran journalist Chai Jing directed the 2015 documentary that produced China’s “Silent Spring moment.” Under the Dome is a scathing investigation of Beijing’s air pollution, to which Chai attributes her daughter’s tumor. The Chinese government scrambled to censor the film, but after four days online it had already racked up 150 million views.

In Afghanistan, where journalists are often threatened or attacked by the government, press freedom is in constant jeopardy. As the South Asia coordinator for media development group DW Akademie, Priya Esselborn established the country’s first university network to develop journalism education programs.

At the MIT Media Lab and Center for Civic Media, Ethan Zuckerman leads tinkerers forging the future of digital media. His venture Global Voices is a trusted international news hub, often featuring personal accounts of conflict—like activist Marcell Shehwaro’s series, “Dispatches From Syria,” which won a 2015 Online Journalism Award.

 

Razia Jan Knows Education is Key

Kabul

Afghan philanthropist Razia Jan’s Zabuli Education Center, which provides K-12 education for girls in Afghanistan’s Deh’Subz district, graduated its first class last December. Still, an estimated 1.5 million Afghan girls aren’t enrolled in school. Jan’s next step, the Razia Jan Institute, is opening this March and will be the first post-secondary school for women in rural Afghanistan.

Lucianne Walkowicz Shares the Stars

Chicago

As a leader of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project—which will photograph the entire sky every few nights for 10 years—and an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, Walkowicz hunts for alien signals and Earth-like planets. She recently completed a 300-mile, astronomy-themed bike tour from Chicago to St. Louis.

Zena Sfeir Gets Real About Sex

Beirut

Zena Sfeir’s medical information platform Sohati didn’t gain 3.5 million users just because it’s convenient. The service, essentially an Arabic-language WebMD, breaks intimate medical topics out of cultural taboo, empowering women to understand their own sexual and reproductive health. Next, Sohati is expanding into video-driven healthcare.

Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli Breaks Barriers With Science

Rabat

As head of the Moroccan team collaborating on the international ATLAS experiment to search for undiscovered elementary particles, El Moursli helped prove the existence of the Higgs boson—and even snagged a L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award. Nicknamed “Militant of Research,” El Moursli created the country’s first master’s degree in medical physics, and is developing a network of cultural and scientific clubs at Moroccan high schools. 

Paul Miller Breaks the Ice

New York City

Soundscape musician, writer, and performance artist DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid (aka Paul Miller) will exhibit his next project, an imported Icelandic glacier, in Times Square, this fall at the Celebrating Glaciers New York festival, scored by natural sound from Iceland. The glacier will, of course, eventually melt—all in the name of environmental awareness.

Charlie Smith Tackles China’s Firewalls

Beijing

Since its founding in 2011 by three individuals who operate under the pseudonym “Charlie Smith,” the Chinese internet censorship database Great Fire has become the authoritative watchdog against the government’s “Great Firewall” and is developing new tools to access blocked websites inside China.

Jessica Lam & Liam Bates Share the Air

Beijing

When Jessica Lam developed asthma symptoms after moving to Beijing, she and her inventor husband, Liam Bates, started researching air-purifying machines. Finding a gap in the market, they co-founded Origins Technology and devised the Laser Egg last summer. Using an air vent and a particle-counting laser beam, the orb-like device instantly measures air according to the Air Quality Index. It also uploads the data online, producing a crowdsourced air quality map accessible to anyone with a smartphone, like Yelp for pollution. After Beijing’s AQI plummeted in November, Origins sold out of Laser Eggs.

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Meet the People Fighting for a Better-Informed Public  Access to knowledge is critical to the progress of democratic societies