Silicon Valley Awards Tech-Minded Idealists

In a recently launched experiment, light gathering materials are sewn into harvesting bags, used in the field all day, with hopes that they will provide useful energy inside when the sun goes down.

Finally, Sanoussi Diakite, based in Senegal and operating throughout Africa, is an entrepreneur who created a machine that dramatically reduces the time and effort required to dehusk fonio plants, a high-fiber grain that grows well in arid regions.

The grain, which has been grown in the region for more than 500 years, grows rapidly, requires little water and is nutritious. Unfortunately, it is a rarely served delicacy because it is difficult, time-consuming and painful to extract the small grain from the husk.

Diakite, a high school teacher, designed and built a machine that automates the process and reduces the time to dehusk a kilo of fonio from more than an hour to a few minutes. His machines are now at work in 17 African countries.

Single-handedly, none of these projects is going to save the world, but each and every one of them will save or at least improve tens, hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions of lives. As happens each year at these awards, Silicon Valley's most successful are humbled and inspired by the astonishing fortitude of these optimistic entrepreneurs, truly using technology to benefit humanity.

Lise Buyer, a longtime Silicon Valley investor, is a principal at the Class V Group, www.classvgroup.com

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