If you poke around enough on the Laptop.org wiki, you find a few interesting corners. Linked from their work in creating a training and reference document for OLPCCorps, a link to an Excel spreadsheet to calculate OLPC-specific costs for a deployment, which has been created and maintained by OLPC's John Watlington
In Social Networks (not Facebook) and Development I covered the relevance of local social networks and social capital / trust for successful, long-term community and economic development.
Finding, engaging an empowering local social networks is the first step. I believe connecting these networks to the global communities of interest and practice on the Internet can provide a multiplier effect.
In the recent Technology Salon on Malawian health ICT systems, it was discussed how hiring recent Malawian college grads and connecting them to the global community of open source coders gave them an immense resource to draw on as they began their work; and they were soon contributing as peers and mentors to other programmers around the world.
That's power, and that's the 21st century version of technology transfer.
World-wandering BoingBoing editor Xeni Jardin writes about a video from the "What Would the Poor Say: Debates in Aid Evaluation," NYU conference, where Leonard Wantchekoz presents on the importance of trust in development:
I am weary of the term "crowdsourcing." Now, I'm not against the concept. I think small, bite-sized acts of service and kindness can make huge differences in the right situations. Indeed, it's the social-benefits business model of The Extraordinaries, and is at the core of what Yochai Benkler means when he discusses the power of "peer production" in The Wealth of Networks:
People began to apply behaviors they practice in their living rooms or in the elevator — "Here, let me lend you a hand," or "What did you think of last night’s speech?" — to production problems that had, throughout the twentieth century, been solved on the model of Ford and General Motors. The rise of peer production is neither mysterious nor ﬁckle when viewed through this lens. It is as rational and efficient given the objectives and material conditions of information production at the turn of the twenty-ﬁrst century as the assembly line was for the conditions at the turn of the twentieth.
But the term "crowdsourcing" itself is outdated. It presumes that there's some central organization doing the sourcing (paralleling "outsourcing"), and it seems to get applied in all sorts of roles where that's not relevant.
Wired reminds us that we can rail against and complain about the intrusive, privacy-destroying and free-speech-threatening monitoring that Iran has been employing against the protestors over the past few months, but we have to remember two things. First, US and European companies provided the hardware and software to Iran for them to do this. Second - our own government does the same thing, and we should stop it.
Regarding the first problem, bipartisan Senators are proposing a ban on government contracts to companies caught selling such technology to Iran, and it's technically illegal for US companies anyhow (which might not be stopping everyone, and appears to be using Secure Computing's (now McAfee) SmartFilter according to the Open Net Initiative's testing.
A critical network upgrade must be performed to ensure continued operation of Twitter. In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran. Tonight's planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2-3p PST (1:30a in Iran).
As much as I fear what happens after the honeymoon with SMS and social media under repressive governments, currently they provide an amazing tool for immediate news even during crisis, citizen voice and discussion.
Update: The State Department is now involved; http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2009/06/16/state-department-to-twitter-keep-… :
By necessity, the US is staying hands off of the election drama playing out in Iran, and officials say they are not providing messages to Iranians or “quarterbacking” the disputed election process.
But they do want to make sure the technology is able to play its sorely-needed role in the crisis, which is why the State Department is advising social networking sites to make sure their networks stay up and running for Iranians to use them and helping them stay ahead of anyone who would try to shut them down.
iRevolution has a good, academic-style breakdown of challenges and communication technologies for use to communicate securely within repressive regimes:
It covers a lot of ground, balancing ease of use against level of security, and is looking for input!
The Daily Dish reposts a call to action from Twitter: ALL internet & mobile networks are cut. We ask everyone in Tehran to go onto their rooftops and shout ALAHO AKBAR in protest #IranElection, and comments:
That a new information technology could be improvised for this purpose so swiftly is a sign of the times. It reveals in Iran what the Obama campaign revealed in the United States. You cannot stop people any longer. You cannot control them any longer. They can bypass your established media; they can broadcast to one another; they can organize as never before.
I'm sure I sound like a broken record by this point; but there are roles for both mobiles and computers (be it 1:1 computing as with the OLPC, or 1-computer classrooms, or simply computer labs). Mobiles have high penetration rates (but how young? elementary school?) but limited capabilities beyond 1:1 or expensive 1:many communication. Computers are much more fragile and require more infrastucture, but have such a wealth of educational software and information (especially if you add in the Internet).
Neither are silver bullets to heal a failing education system, but both could play a role in extending education (call-backs to listen in to class for rural youth unable to attend school regularly?) if implemented with a reasonable and maintainable budget and good integration into the existing education processes.