A summer camp for the future

As the world gets flatter, Israel is ideally placed to nurture the creative impulse.The world is flat. That’s what writer Thomas Friedman says about the new global reality of the twenty-first century, in which innovation is no longer held back …

As the world gets flatter, Israel is ideally placed to nurture the creative impulse.The world is flat. That’s what writer Thomas Friedman says about the new global reality of the twenty-first century, in which innovation is no longer held back by national borders, creativity crashes across continents, and ideas travel the globe faster than the speed of megabytes.

It’s a radically changed status quo, uncomfortable perhaps for those of us who grew up with no idea where Bangalore or Beijing precisely were, let alone what they might have to do with our hard drive or our telco helpdesk. But in this kind of flat world, it’s easy to see one thing: that Israel, at the cusp of its sixtieth birthday, is just beginning (like any good baby boomer) to hit its second wind.

Flashback to 1948 for a moment: to a small wedge of a nation struggling to survive on little more than the power of conviction, idealism and sheer tenacity, contending not only with enemies on every side but also with the frustrations of a land poor in natural resources. Lucky, then, that Israel could sustain itself upon a different sort of milk and honey: its brains, which today have already improved the lives of billions around the world – from drip irrigation to purified drinking water to the technology behind Intel chips and Microsoft operating systems.

Did you know that Israel has the second largest number of start ups in the world, second only to Silicon Valley, despite having a fraction of the population? And as the world grows still flatter, we find ourselves ideally placed to nurture this creative impulse into an even brighter future.

That’s the idea behind the eCamp Israel, an idea my partners and I developed which is designed to bring enterprising teenagers from around the world together for a unique interactive summer camp experience.

We’ve received the support of government ministries, President Shimon Peres and one of Israel’s greatest high tech success stories Shai Agassi.

Participants in eCamp Israel will meet the world’s top innovators – from the founder of ICQ and AOL Instant Messaging software, to leading researchers at Intel, Google, Microsoft and Motorola. They will participate in workshops on 3D animation, flash programming, Web 2.0 video creation, robotics, programming, and will even get the chance to develop their own mobile-device video game.

Most importantly, though, campers will be introduced to maybe one of the most staggering facts about our new, flattened reality – the notion that all you need is a little work, a little chutzpah, and a lot of imagination – and you can change the entire world.

Or as Theodor Herzl put it, “if you will it, it is no dream.”

The first ever eCamp will be opening its doors in Summer 2008, planting the seeds of our future in the rich intellectual soil of the land of Israel. And I, personally, can’t wait to see what grows.

Welcome to the Silicon Wadi.