"Helloworld" sends global message to leaders

A laserbeam projects a message at Davos two years ago Keystone

After the success of the “Hello Mr President” project at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, people will once again be able to send messages to world leaders.

This content was published on October 27, 2003 - 08:34

This time, “Helloworld” will transmit texts at December's World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva.

Two years ago, anyone with internet access or a mobile phone could tell political and business leaders gathered at the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos what they thought of their policies.

The interactive “Hello Mr President” project - powered by swissinfo - saw lasers project SMS (Short Message Service) texts sent from around the world onto the mountain above the village.

In December, people from three continents should be able to send messages to delegates attending the World Summit on the Information Society.

Getting through

“It was almost the only way to demonstrate at the Forum, which was in actual fact a fortress,” Johannes Gees, Swiss artist and brains behind the concept, told swissinfo.

“We received more than 8,000 messages from more than 70 countries - five times the number that we could project,” recalled Gees, who added that the majority were very interesting.

“Knowing that the messages would be projected pushed people to think more carefully about what they wanted to say,” he added. “This interaction stimulated their creativity.”

His favourite SMS was “Listen to the mountain”, where the mountain was the giant “screen”.

Gees hopes that “Helloworld”, which takes place during the December summit, will "develop its own life”.

The fact that the project will not be restricted to one mountainside, as in Davos, means that “Helloworld” will be open to even greater participation, according to Gees.

The public will be able to participate in a dialogue between three continents, which Gees calls a “social sculpture”.

Four cities

“Helloworld” will take place in the Swiss city of Geneva, which is hosting the summit, Mumbai in India, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and New York.

The South African city of Cape Town has ruled out joining the project.

“It will be good to have ‘developing’ continents among those screening messages, given that the summit will address the digital divide between North and South,” commented Marc Wehrlin, who will represent the Swiss Federal Office for Culture.

Short messages will be projected in giant letters by laser on to famous landmarks.

The messages will also appear simultaneously at the summit conference in Geneva in the six languages of the United Nations.

As in Davos, the local population will be able to send messages by mobile telephone or by visiting swissinfo will once again be driving the project with logistical support.

Civil society

The simplicity of “Helloworld” was one of the major attractions of the project for the Federal Office for Culture – which is mandated by the interior ministry to prepare cultural events taking place parallel to the summit.

While the theme of the summit is about the digital divide, Gees said the concept of “Helloworld” was about inclusion.

“It is open to civil society, in line with the wish of the UN,” agreed Wehrlin.

The budget for the three cities is SFr375,000 ($285,000), of which 70 per cent is already covered by sponsorship.

Information society

“Helloworld” provides a perfect platform to both showcase and discuss global communication issues including access to the information age, which is a central theme of the summit.

“In Switzerland, we have access to all levels of communication,” Gees said. “But in Brazil, for example, people crave the possibility of being able to communicate by internet. There are, for example, internet cafés everywhere.”

The world will be able to read SMSs sent as part of “Helloworld” between December 9 and 12.

swissinfo, Anne Rubin


Johannes Gees studied ethnology and history before working as a director and creator for several media.

Since 2000, Gees has worked in Zurich as an artist and multimedia producer.

His project “Hello Mr President”, which beamed SMS messages to leaders at the WEF in Davos in 2001, resulted in a nomination for the Transmedia Award 2002, one of the most prestigious multimedia awards in Europe.

Gees also participated in the Swiss national exhibition, Expo.02 where he was involved with the floating arteplage.

“Helloworld” will run from December 9-12 during the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva.

The public’s messages will be beamed in three cities on three continents.

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