Originally posted at AIDS.gov

Anjana Padmanabhan Photo Credit: Aids.gov

Last week, global leaders gathered in New York City to discuss a wide spectrum of international issues at the highly anticipated annual United Nations General Assembly . But just days before the U.N. Assembly, New York and the Twitterverse were buzzing with another important global conversation sparked by the third annual Social Good Summit.  Hosted by Mashable , 92nd Street Y, the United Nations Foundation, Ericsson, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Summit was in full swing from September 22-24. Bloggers, social media wonks, and health and development experts alike crowded together to discuss how new media technologies can be applied to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

We’re living at a time where anyone can be a diplomat. All you have to do is hit send.”  –United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, September 22, 2012.

The electricity at the Summit was palpable. Passionate minds were immersed in discussion around one common goal: how can we unlock and maximize today’s social media tools to empower women, combat climate change, increase access to life-saving medicines and health education, end human trafficking, as well as promote peace?

This year, the Summit expanded the dialogue by hosting hubs in Beijing, China and Nairobi, Kenya. There were also meetups scheduled in 264 cities across the world, and people in over 150 countries tuned in to the livestream. It was no surprise that by the second day of the Summit the hashtag #SGSGlobal was used over 60,000 times and trended across Twitter with tweets in over 50 languages.

As the social media advisor for a major U.S. global health initiative, The U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), I was looking forward to learning about new technological platforms that governments, civil society organizations and entrepreneurs were using to expand their online presence and encourage a two-way dialogue with their constituencies.

There were a few sessions in particular that resonated with me.

I enjoyed listening to “Unleashing the Power of Open Innovation in Government,” led by Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of the United States. The ever-enthusiastic Park took to the stage and reinforced the government’s commitment to making information and data transparent and accessible to the American people.  Park holds regular “hack-a-thons” and “datapaloozas” geared towards bridging the gap between tech entrepreneurs and government data.Health.data.gov is an example of the fruits of that labor, providing raw and aggregate data to help foster healthier communities across the United States. Park taught us that the word “innovation” can be synonymous with “government.”

The Social Good Summit was also the launching pad for a new public-private partnership created by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria  in conjunction with The Huffington Post. The campaign named “The Big Push”  will use technological platforms to rally global support to achieve major health goals. The Huffington Post has launched a dedicated webpage for the campaign where it will collect articles, stories and testimonials on the progress toward meeting these goals. The initiative is also backed by major Hollywood stars like Charlize Theron and Bono. The centerpiece to the campaign is, “a wall of portraits, in which citizens around the world add photos of themselves holding signs that demonstrate their commitment to fighting these diseases.” This is an exciting new way to gather people from across the world and allow them to be a part of the response. We need more campaigns like that that reach people at the grassroots level.

An initiative focused on child survival was also at the top of my list for notable sessions at the Social Media Summit. Launched by UNICEF, A Promise Renewed  is an ambitious program that will unite governments and partners globally to advance the UN Secretary General’s movement Every Woman Every Child to end preventable child deaths and allow children to make it past their fifth birthday. Audiences rapidly shot off tweets and Facebook messages as Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF; Raj Shah, Administrator, USAID; and Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Minister of Health, Ethiopia gave us statistics on the progress made and the challenges that remain to improving the lives of children worldwide.  An initiative like “A Promise Renewed” encourages people to use technology to hold governments accountable for creating effective and sustainable programs that will bring us closer to reaching Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015.

Overall, the Summit demonstrated to me that we no longer need buy-in for why advancing social media is important. Today, the world is on board.

The Summit might be over, but I’ll continue doing my part using social media to share the successes and stories of lives saved through PEPFAR and fostering dialogue so that together, we can achieve an #AIDSfreeGeneration.