Saturday, May 24, 2008


Ambitious. Innovative. Cool.

And when I say cool, I mean:

Easier access to information.

Ease of text book distribution.

Ease of program learning for the future.

Ease of education.

Ease of mental expansion; art, music, creation/creativity.

The reason I'm writing about this in this journal? I am fed. the fuck. up. with people who see the OLPC as it stands and the company's dream for the future and start talking about how what 'those countries really need is water filters and food'.

You're wrong.

You're. so. fucking. wrong.

Likely cause quite a few of you making that statement associate 'those countries' with the ads that come on tv that talk about for 50 cents a day, you could feed a starving child.

I grew up in a third world country. We know to boil water to drink. And before you talk about the Caribbean being different somehow, I'll state that I grew up on the side of a mountain in the middle of a jungle. I drank rain water, my grandmother's home was a homestead and as a little girl I read books by kerosene lantern.

So please, shut the fuck up.


And in this day and age to not have general computer skills is a set back. Heck I've experienced that set back. Not from lack of general computer skills, but because I went to a school, right here in the US, that couldn't afford some of the necessities of the AP Biology program.

I got to college and I'd never used Quattro, far less on a laptop. I didn't know what it was for. I panicked. That panic changed my entire perspective on the class. All of a sudden I was listing everything I didn't know instead of what I did.

Now imagine that not for a single class in college. But that you've made it out of your village to university level, or you've made it out of your village and now you need to get a job. But the jobs that aren't grunt, physical labour, regardless of your smarts, require you to know things like the Windows Operating System, spreadsheets and email and wireless connectivity; because the jobs that pay are all with banks, broadcasting, or with companies that are outsourcing to your nation of residence.

What then?

There has been too much giving of fish to countries that instead need to be taught and learn how to fish in this new millennium. And if you don't know what I'm referring to, will you be upset if I say you're not well read? Will you be frustrated?

Pause a second and imagine feeling that way about something that you currently think of as basic, but that's really not for others.

I'm not saying that infrastructure is a bad thing. I'm not saying that there aren't places that could use help with infrastructure. How that help is given, however, is an entry for another time - because I have issues with the lack of respect for cultural norms of various areas, as if progress means doing things the white American or British or European way.

But infrastructure is not just about housing and water and food. It's about the ability of a community to fend for itself; police itself, protect itself, provide for itself. Giving them only food and water makes them dependent there after.

You don't just feed and cloth a child, you educate them. Why should a county rich with it's own history, currently poor because of the politics of a conquering and colonializing Europe - which tore tribes and families and the political system then in place apart, be treated as less than a child?

For my own self, the thought of children and adults in those countries, finding their way into the 21st Century; to create and enrich, perhaps in art and literature - well that just makes my world better.

Who knows what SF writers and artists may be handed tools meant for both education and play.

I can't wait to see and read what they have to say.


  1. Education IS everything! *nods* It is SO very important.

    I dun have nething to add... you said everything amazingly. :D

    *hugs* :]

  2. This is fantastic! A few months ago I saw the original Give One, Get One computers, and this is an amazing plan to improve what was already a great design.

    I do see the potential problems with the difference between typing on a keyboard and typing on a touch screen, but I'm sure there could be a training program on the laptop in which the "keys" could light up when struck correctly - like the ones you see on music keyboards. Once a kid is typing well, it could be turned off. The ergonomics might be an issue, but then maybe it makes a difference that less force would be needed per "keystroke" than on a standard keyboard... and I'm sure this is stuff they've thought of.

    And yeah regarding the bullshit some people are spouting. We live in an information age and IT/communications technology is becoming a prerequisite...

  3. Let me give you some perspective on that.

    I also happened to grow up in a developing country.Nigeria,to be exact(in Africa for the geographically challenged).My mother was a primary school teacher,my father was only sporadically employed.I spent my childhood in Lagos and my high school years split between boarding school and my uncle's house(very rural homestead in the East of the country,surrounded by farmland)because he was paying for my education.Boiling drinking water?Who would pay for the firewood?Another uncle paid for my college education.I used my first computer when I was twentyish,I owned my first computer(a notebook) at twenty five(It was a gift). I'm waving the bloody shirt here to demonstrate that I might just have the personal experience to know what I'm talking about.

    There is little in the way of infrastructure for mainaining these things.Internet connectivity?Forget it.Mobile phones are only now becoming widespread and there are still areas of the country with no telecoms coverage.Plus the service is still iffy.Things are changing rapidly,but not THAT rapidly.

    Add the fact that people are reluctant to hand over control of expensive items to children(and at current pricing,it costs about 20% of a Nigerian's per capita earnings circa 2007).

    I agree we don't need water filters and food;in an emergency,fine,but that's no way to grow a nation.I agree we should be teaching people to fish not handing them fish.I just don't see this project as a cost effective means of doing so.

    Given some of the problems I've witnessed concerning students and basic literacy,I can think of much more cost effective ways to spend $100 million(the sum elements of the Nigerian govt were considering spending).

    /Rant off.

    PS Most of what I said was specific to Nigeria.I suspect that a lot of the same problems will be found in other third world countries.

  4. Chi:

    I don't know how familiar you are with the goals, or at least the original goals of the OLPC organization (pre Microsoft partner)

    It was about creating local networks of student to teacher, and student to student; with a main server in the area holding online dictionaries and textbook files etc as needed.

    The comptuers were(are) built to be able to handle being knocked around, mud, water, dirt, etc. The first set also had a crank to generate the power for the battery.

    I'm not counting the program as the end all be all ultimate solution to anything. I am saying that individuals who look at the program and talk about things in terms of 'what those countries really need is water filters and food' are stuck in a particular mentality.

    Nations of the 'third world', underdeveloped nations aren't all one type and aren't all on one level of things that can move them as a nation, forward. Perhaps we would agree on that point.

    I personally think the laptops are as important as the programs that help various women in certain countries (I primarily know about India) start their own businesses or or earn some tiny profit from their homestead yield.

    I think the laptops are as important as programs contributing rice and programs contributing animals for husbandry or butchering.

    The only thing I don't think the laptops are not as important as, are programs that help establish local clinics with local doctors in areas where to reach a doctor is an all day trip and then some, combined with waiting once you get there.

    OLPC, is to me, a symbol and a product that involves more than lip service to helping certain countries. It's something that's taking a step towards minimizing the gap to get an education.

    Do I think it's perfect - no. I have my own issues with what is being deemed necessary software and whether or not there's comprehension that in a lot of places those children will never be allowed to take the product home to perhaps endanger it.

    But I truly believe that, keeping the price down, these laptops are a good thing, this concept is a good thing.

    So we'll have to agree to disagree.

    I do apologise if I offended. Because I can't know what countries I haven't lived in and don't have relatives in, really need. I can't know because I don't have a local perspective. The bulk of my ire is for those treating the program as if the only thing those OTHERS, those countries, those people who are not them, could ever need, is water and food; Because somehow computers and technology are and will be beyond them.

    And that pisses me off.

  5. ETA / CHI:

    Damn it.

    The only thing I think the laptops are not as important as - are clinics.

    Stupid double negative haunting me forever and ever.

  6. One thing that I always find when folks say, "What these folks need..." to shoot something down, is that they're not doing much to support either the idea they're shooting down, or the "alternative" they're offering.

    In other words, it's a cover for simply verbally shooting it down. What a lot of folks need is a lot of things, and there's this fascinating belief that by attempting to provide for one need, you are, somehow, preventing the other from happening at the same time.

    Tech geeks want to help folks get information via tech methods? Good! Eco geeks want to help folks get sustainable and healthier food/water options? Good! Etc.

    Odds are pretty good that folks interesting in supporting in one way may not do anything in the other - maybe due to expertise, but more likely due to enthusiasm.

    And, interestingly enough, as we come closer to reaching a post-oil society, we might need folks who are operating from a non-industrial base to develop means of organizing and maintaining computer networks to show us how to deal with what's coming.