In this week’s readings there is a focus on case studies relating to the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which promotes giving inexpensive and child friendly laptops to developing schools in order to promote introduction to ICT and increased educational opportunities. The project was founded by Nicholas Negroponte who is involved in many other pioneering technological achievements.
A graduate of MIT, he studied computer aided design and has always been a strong proponent of the importance of user friendly technology in daily life. He sees technology, especially computers, as being increasingly beneficial for humankind with still yet un tapped potential.
His major focus today is on children’s education around the world, believing that it is the key to growth. He is also believes that children can learn through doing, and should be in charge of their education. (Read more here) “Everybody agrees that whatever the solutions are to the big problems, they … can never be without some element of education.” – Nicholas Negroponte
Negroponte co-founded and directed the MIT Media Laboratory which strives to bring together creative and technological researchers and developers to study cutting edge technology and inventions that will impact everyday life.
He was also the first investor and a writer for Wired Magazine, as well as an investor in over thirty tech startups.
He has been described by some as having “techno-utopian” ideas that are not actually feasible, for example there are many critiques in the assigned reading “Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor?”
Watch Negroponte TED Talk on OLPC
After reading Richard Heeks “ICT4D Manifesto“, which discusses the potentials (and limitations) of information and communication technologies in past development and in today’s “ICT4D 2.0 age”, we watched Clay Shirky’s TED talk titled How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World.
In his lecture, Shirky discusses how digital technology combined with human generosity have created a new collaborative and social idea know as “cognitive surplus”. The 21st century has given us not only more free time, but also the ability and tools to let the consumers become the creators, who often times create for free. These technological and social changes are creating whole new opportunities for ICT and this in turn relates to ICT4D. Shirky’s point is not only are we in an age where this abundant creation is possible through new knowledge and interconnectedness, but that it is being done for pleasure, for “intrinsic motivations”, and for our fellow people.
This is not the neoliberal, top down, design of the past in how ICT worked, but a grassroots and collaborative effort that falls more into capabilities approach and post developmentalism. Individuals around the world are creating new things for others’ benefit, whether it be a simple laugh at an LOLcat or crisis mapping using the Ushahidi model, both examples Shirky discussed. These consumer created tools can then be used in development, like the crisis mapping in Kenya, and even better is that they were free and open to the public. This is not knowledge kept away for profit, but freedom of information and tools to better others. This is ICT4D 2.0 at work; innovative, using existing technologies, and collaborating across the world.