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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

Our wedding gift from Jimmy Wales brings Wikipedia to schools without internet access

When Nina and I got married in 2009, the most thoughtful present we received was that of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (I wrote about it in my Spanish blog). After I told Jimmy about the difficulties my foundation (whose mission is to improve education through the use of technology) was encountering in securing internet access for the many computers we had distributed to schools, Jimmy had a very special surprise for us at our wedding: an offline version of the Spanish Wikipedia.

Rather than being a present for Nina and me, it’s really a gift to all those kids in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries who have no means of connecting to the internet, or only have very limited access. And now, more than one year later, is finally ready to deliver those DVDs to schools in Argentina.

At first glance this might not seem like a big achievement, but it is. As Jimmy explains in his blog, the difficulty is not getting the content on a DVD (it fits easily), but rather developing a simple offline reader that provides basic search and display functionality, using only free/open source software. Just think of the millions of cross-links that make discovering new information so easy and enjoyable on Wikipedia.

The DVD will begin distributing this year consists of three parts. First, the offline Wikipedia itself, called “CDpedia”. In addition, there’s a theoretical framework where experts comment on the value of using Wikipedia in the classroom and explain Wikipedia’s value in an educational and social context that is increasingly being influenced by information technology and is undergoing a permanent transformation. Lastly, the DVD contains general tutorials and a guideline showing how to effectively use Wikipedia in a classroom setting. Here is the online version of this project.

And so, what started out as a wedding gift from a single (and very special) person will now bring a world of knowledge to thousands of school kids all over Argentina, and later to even more people in every Spanish-speaking country. I couldn’t think of a better present.

Posted at, Foundation on June 14, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Our wedding gift from Jimmy Wales brings Wikipedia to schools without internet access | TrackBack

Gapminder: Just In Case You Think The World Doesn´t Suck

One of the toughest problems of humanity is that most of the people who can vote global problems out of existence don´t vote. Many don´t vote in their own countries because they are not democracies, but most can´t vote these problems out of existence because humanity is a very weak concept. As schooling in America, humanity is about being born in the right side of the tracks. Unfortunately “humanity” as a value is a distant second to the extremely to nationality. Income distribution among nations reflects that.


Posted at Foundation on March 24, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Gapminder: Just In Case You Think The World Doesn´t Suck | TrackBack

Clinton Foundation Strategy Briefing

I am attending the Clinton Foundation Strategy Briefing to trustees. I have been a trustee of the Clinton Foundation since its inception and I made a committment to donate $1 million to the foundation over 10 years.

Since 2001 I have been to quite a few of these meetings and they have been getting better and better. I am very impressed at the quality of the team that President Clinton (in America Presidents are called Presidents even when out of office) has put together.

Today we heard presentations from Bruce Lindsay, the CEO of the foundation; from the Chief of Staff, Laura Graham, who saw the Foundation grow from around 12 employees when I first made my donation to around 500 today; from Eric Nonacs, who is heading the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative; from John Needham, who heads the Clinton Global Initiative –that phenomenal annual conference that the foundation puts together around the time of the General Assembly-; from Ira Magaziner, who heads the Clinton Climate Initiative and the HIV Initiative; from Trooper Sanders who heads the Domestic Initiatives; and from Bob Harrison who heads the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Initiative.

During the day, as I receive permission from the Foundation, I expect to post videos that show these individuals presenting the work they have been doing in each field. These videos may not be the most entertaining ones you can imagine but if you are interested in understanding more about how one of the most sophisticated philanthropic organizations in the world works they will be worth your while.

So far I attended meetings since 9am until now including a lunch with President Clinton in which global affairs were discussed in a more relaxed atmosphere and I will report more on the event later on in the day.

Posted at Foundation on December 15, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Clinton Foundation Strategy Briefing | TrackBack

Clinton Conference

Follow the conference live by clicking here. I am presently attending this conference and there will be more posts related to it coming out soon.

And also in my blog.

Posted at Foundation on September 20, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Clinton Conference | TrackBack

Jews for Lebanon, it´s Live

At the Safe Democracy Foundation we went ahead with the initiative Jews for Lebanon.

I want to thank everyone who commented on my post as well as the people who wrote to me directly with creative and valid criticisms. After listening to as many opinions as we could we modified my proposal and came up with a site that gives donors the opportunity to donate both for the civilian victims of Lebanon and of Northern Israel. In order to simplify matters we decided that it was best that the Safe Democracy Foundation did not collect and redirect funds but that these go directly to the organizations active in the field. We would also like to thank Eric Napoli and Diego Bergantiños from Fon who helped put the web site together and the donors who have already told me that they are contributing to the organizations involved.

Posted at Foundation on September 18, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Jews for Lebanon, it´s Live | TrackBack

Dinner with President Clinton

President Clinton is the person I admire the most in the world, it´s that simple. Readers of my blog and those close to me are well aware that I am rarely a fan of anyone in the true sense of the word, but when it comes to Clinton I cannot help but make the exception. Whilst in NY I was invited to attend a dinner in his honor. As usual I found the President´s views fascinating (a not to non American readers in America people call ex presidents…Presidents).

Now before I share the Presidents views with you I would like to remind you that I am not a journalist and that I did not take notes during dinner so some of my recollections maybe wrong. Still I believe that they are worth a try as they are original and challenging.

The dinner was held at the home of New York financier Marc Lasry who I thank for his kind invitation. The whole event consisted of two parts. The dinner itself during which approximately seven of us asked an array of questions to the President on current affairs; and an after dinner conversation in which I personally followed up on a number of issues. Here are my recollections, a brief summary of the three hour conversation.

On Hillary Clinton

I have been a trustee of President Clinton´s foundation for 5 years and have been with the President at many meetings in which the Hillary question came up. However, last night I had the impression that for the first time Bill Clinton has fully realized his wife may in fact very well become the next President of the United States. Clinton made clear that if she chooses to take this on, he will provide just as much support for her as she did him. He is not certain however that Hillary will run. But if she does run and wins the Democratic nomination, he is certain that she will defeat any Republican opponent she faces.

On John McCain.

President Clinton has a great deal of respect for John McCain. He cited two examples that illustrate where he relates to McCain: Global Warming is not a myth and that torture under all circumstances is wrong. Now my impression after listening to him, and I emphasize this is only my impression because the President did not say anything pertaining to this, is that a John McCain vs. Hillary Clinton 2008 election is a possibility.

On Election Psychology:

President Clinton said that unfortunately the Republicans have the upper hand in using psychology in their campaigning. He offered many examples but one that stuck to mind is the current trend among Republicans to tag Hillary as an “angry woman.” Personally, I met Hillary a few times and would hardly say that she is an “angry” woman; if anything I would say that she is a “concerned” woman. But Clinton went on to explain how the American electorate expect men to be angry but not women and how this label is part of the psychological warfare (my words) that the Republicans are good at. Another very vivid point he made is that this psychological machinery sometimes is used among Republicans against each other. He illustrated this with the attacks made on John McCain, a man as brave as they come, portraying him to be a person not brave enough when it came to pursuing aggressive American Foreign Policy.

On Vladimir Putin:

President Clinton had dinner last week with Vladimir Putin and had many interesting comments to make about him. Clinton asked Putin why he invited the Iranian leaders to the Kremlin. Putin’s response was that Iranian nuclear capability is a great concern to Russia seeing as they are even closer to Iran than Israel. It is in part because of this that Russia would prefer to engage in dialogue as opposed to not pursuing any means of communication.

On Google and Yahoo in China:

When I asked the President about Google and Yahoo in China I was at first surprised to the level of detail that he was informed about the different problems that these two companies have encountered in China. His comment was that whilst they were both difficult situations he felt Yahoo’s dilemma to be the tougher one. In general he feels there is great difficulty in knowing with any certainty which strategies lead down the road to positive change and that no one approach can be good for all circumstances.

On the American Deficit and the Price of Oil

The President believes that the amount of oil now consumed in America for transportation needs, combined with the budget deficit, has created a very dangerous downward spiral for the American economy. He is concerned about the fact that most of the nations who finance American deficits are also huge oil importers and should the price of oil rise to $100 a barrel America will find itself with the double danger of having to pay much more for oil imports while at the same time seeing the natural buyers of American debt, nations such as China, Japan, impoverished as a result of the oil price hike. President Clinton believes it is URGENT that America start a brand new energy policy based on conservation and promotion of alternative energies. He thinks that whilst America cannot compete in oil production, it can greatly benefit by developing the technologies necessary that will lead to an energy revolution.

On School Vouchers:

President Clinton surprised me by saying that the school vouchers that exist with any successful deployed today are at the college level. He exemplified this by showing how Universities, both State and Private, compete for school aid funds on an equal footing.
On Public Education:

President Clinton gave many examples of schools, including some in Harlem, that although in the same neighbourhoods yield very different results. President Clinton believes that the problem of public schools is that their management is not accountable for the performance of their students and cannot easily be fired if they perform poorly. He thinks that re-assessing and maintaining higher standards is necessary in public education.

On Health Care:

President Clinton is very concerned about factories moving to Canada because of health care costs. He says that the US spends 16% of its GDP on health care while other nations manage to provide care for all at 11%. He thinks the American health care system is unfair and inefficient. Should major, necessary changes not be made, American competitiveness is at risk.

On the Next Israeli Election and Hamas:

President Clinton made comments here that I do not want to quote him without authorization. I will ask for permission and then comment.

On Iraq:

President Clinton believes that one of the worst consequences of the Iraqi war, other than the fact that it is not going well, is that it has drained vital financial and military resources, detracting from everything else America could be doing around the world. Examples? Very few resources have been left for Latin America. Iran has emerged as a big potential threat in the region but the enormous Shia population in Iraq makes it hard to act on Iran. The Darfour Genocide is also being neglected. In short, Clinton seems to believe (again this is my interpretation) that this administration put all its eggs in one basket..and risks dropping it.

On Iran

President Clinton believes that Iran is determined to get a nuclear bomb and that the majority of the Iranian people support their country’s nuclear aspirations. He also believes that it would be hard to attack Iranian nuclear installations without incurring many civilian casualties. At the same time he believes that the Iranians should be well aware of the US and European opposition to their plans and that Europe and the US must find a way to make it very costly for Iran to go nuclear.

On Hugo Chávez

President Clinton had interesting comments to make on Hugo Chavez but I would need his permission to publish these as well.

On the Dubai Port Issue.

The common view here is that the Clintons found themselves at opposite ends on this issue. President Clinton said that this is not the case. He first clarified that whilst he is very positive about many developments in Dubai, he is not an advisor to the Dubai government nor employed by them. He said that he gives advice to many different peoples but that does not make him their advisor; and in this case he was not engaged by the Dubai government on this matter. He said he did tell the Dubai government that if they were going to make an offer here they would have to prove to the American people that the ports would be more secure under their management and that they failed to do so.

On Michelle Bachelet:

I told the President that I was impressed with Michelle Bachelet, the new President of Chile, and he agreed. He knew a lot about her (it never ceases to impress me how informed Clinton is about every person or issue on the planet). He knew a lot about her background, he had read about how professional her new cabinet is. He had great praise for departing President Lagos and for the Chilean people in general.


Finally a note on Fon, FON. I presented FON to the President with a concrete proposal: that FON gives away 1000 wifi routers on behalf of the Clinton Foundation to residents of Harlem who have broadband for them to create with FON a dual environment in which they use most of their bandwidth at home but share wifi with other Harlem residents, quickly turning Harlem into a wifi neighbourhood. I pointed out the benefits of FON compared with the municipal wifi deployments in the sense that FON is faster to deploy and it’s a people´s network as opposed to a municipal network with all the difficulties that these efforts entail for local governments in terms of management. The President appeared very intrigued and we agreed to further study the opportunity. Personally I will try to convince my investors at Google that rather than focusing on becoming a telco themselves and offer free wifi to residents of Silicon Valley as they are doing now, that they focus on the less developed communities of American and adopt a mixed approach in which some capital infrastructure is built, but most infrastructure is community based.

On Evangelical Christians

Presiden Clinton says that Democrats will never get the vote of around half of the evangelical Christians. Say the Falwell, Robertson types. But that the other half is up for grabs. According to him one of the main reasons he was elected was because he was the Democrat who got the most evangelical Christian votes, since then he said Gore got less of those votes and Kerry around 21% of them, an all time low for a Democrat. Democrats must learn to talk to people with strong religious values he argued.

Posted at Foundation on March 15, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Dinner with President Clinton | TrackBack