Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fishing with OLPC

Stephen Downes has thrown his very reasonable two cents in regarding the One Laptop Per Child project. It took some time but I'm on board. I wanted to reflect upon the OLPC and questioned its substance for some time but am failing to understand opposition. I'm convinced that OLPC should be supported for many of the reasons Stephen brought up. I expand on those reasons in the comments section of his post.

I also suspect the "But these children need food, shelter, and medicine more than they need a laptop!" argument will take in many as it possesses emotional appeal but clearly isn't sound. It implies that garnering food, shelter, medicine, and other basic necessities have no relationship to a global, broadband network (i.e. the Internet). True, my computer cannot literally fill my stomach, but to imply no relationship between a networked device and the ability to obtain needs is clearly oversimplification. The economic sea of digital authorship has fish in it. But if one were to say, "What a child needs is fish to eat, not a net!", one would simply sound foolish. Stephen mentions this as well ("Teach a man to fish...").

I also want to make clear that I am in favor of OLPC-like initiatives only on one very important condition. That such projects are designed and implemented around a complete (i.e. not just the kernel) FLOSS operating system. Anything less and such a project is unsustainable.


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