Manuel Figallo, Co-Founder of Information Without Barriers

Born in Peru and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Manuel Figallo came to International House and developed new appreciation for community. He sees technology as a tool for expanding communication across cultures and hopes to use the internet for building global community.

“More than ever, I understand the value of community in my life. It is about trusting and respecting others, two principles often forgotten. It is about being able and willing to communicate despite cross-cultural boundaries. It is about working, living, and having fun together and most importantly, sharing the good things and bad things that result from these experiences. I’m certain that, were it not for the I-House, my sense of community would have been lacking.”

Manolo, as he is called by friends, is a Ph.D. student in SIMS, the School of Information Management and Systems at U.C. He received a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and M.S. in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon University.

To help developing countries enter the information economy, Manolo co-founded Information Without Boundaries, an organization which connects computer professionals with universities in Latin America. Fellow I-House residents, Michiel Kruger, a graduate student in mechanical engineering from the Netherlands, and Michelle Khine, a graduate student in mechanical engineering from the U.S., have also played key roles.

The group’s first project was in Peru last summer where Manolo and other presenters were hosted by Universidad Nacional del Altiplano del Peru in Puno. In addition to presentations in Spanish on electronic commerce, Java, and parallel processing, they joined their colleagues for a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

“This experience was tremendously gratifying. The people we met were eager to learn and to share their experiences in implementing information systems. We have remained in close contact and expect to share our experiences and our concerns as computer technology spreads across borders.”

At I-House, Manolo is organizing a workshop on HTML/HTTP to exchange knowledge about computer technology in hopes that participants will take this information back to their own countries.

“I-House has been an island of sanity and of comfort in the sea that is graduate school, a sanctuary from the ivory tower. It has taught me a lot about living with others or, it's fair to say, about living. I-House brings together people from different walks of life and people with different views and perspectives. It is in this mosaic of small worlds where different cultures collide yet coexist. Through constant interaction, a bond strengthens.”

“What I have experienced at the I-House has prepared me, more than any other experience at Berkeley, for using the internet as a tool for building global community. I have learned to trust and to earn trust, to respect, to mentor, to ask for advice, to laugh, to talk, to care, to say ‘hi’ in the hallways, and, as Joe Lurie has taught me, to remember or at least try to remember someone’s name; in sum, to build and keep relationships and to live in a community. This realization could make all the difference.”

The next Information Without Boundaries program is planned for June, 2000.