The bottom-of-they-pyramid microfinance approach doesn't even have to drop the education focus. While the returns on education are much to slow to repay loans effectively in most cases, grant programs or other implementations could focus on child usage. For example; the XO could be on sale for anyone; but only young entrepreneurs could qualify for the micro-loans, and they'd have to provide some explanation of how this would fit into their learning. Schools or education-oriented civil groups could to buy on credit in bulk, provided they could support both an educational aspect and a profit-making aspect. Grants could be available to even younger children participating in educational programs, skimming profits off of the loan system and successful entrepreneurs in a new G1G1 style program.
- Build for sustainability. Minimize what you have to build yourself, and leverage existing platforms This means giving strong preferences to open source platforms or at least existing services that meet a set of criteria (their service meets your needs, you own your data, shared values, track record...) For any service, someone, somewhere has already built a powerful framework that will be constantly updated and improved, and bakes in thousands of features (security, translation, powerful content management, mobile interfaces, etc.) which will be effortless to turn on when you discover you need them. Focus your precious software development budget on the much smaller number of things that are custom to your work and don't exist. This greatly reduces the initial dev costs as well as ongoing maintenance costs.
- Seriously, don't build it yourself.
has a hands-on photoshoot with the revolutionary XO-4 convertible tablet/laptop. It has an infrared touchscreen, has refocused its interface to run on top of a standard Linux distribution instead of a customized and tweaked version, and... um... it looks rather familiar. I mean to say, it's almost indistinguishable from the XO-1. And that's a very good thing. What has happened to the OLPC program is, in many ways, what I'd hoped they'd intentionally choose as a path forward- thoughtful and efficient development focused on impact over glitz, using existing projects and tools where available, and not re-inventing things that weren't broken, but using incremental improvements. Of course, that approach doesn't catch headlines as well, but it does work.
Here are the video links for my presentations from Campus Party Europe:
GeekEconomy with Don Tapscott (Author, Speaker and Advisor on Media, Technology and Innovation) and Simon Hampton (Director Public Policy EU, Google)
My slides and notes here: joncamfield.com/blog/2012/08/scaling_social_innovation
Read my write-up from the Mobiles for Data Collection Technology Salon:
You might think that the topic of collecting data via mobile devices would be a rather dry discussion of data management and statistical methodology. You would be very, very wrong. The Technology Salon all but came to blows as we wrestled with privacy issues, total costs of ownership, and other elephants in the room.
When you combine some of the brightest mobile-for-development minds from projects stretching from agriculture to health to democracy, all of whom are facing increasingly common problems, perhaps that's to be expected. Stories were shared around the basic challenges of data collection, picking the system to use, and the complications of different sectors.
Read more: Mobiles for Data Collection Technology Salon
Quick quiz. Which of these should not be protected as free speech?
[ ] A gun (you know, the kind you can hold and shoot)
[ ] Plans for a nuclear weapon
[ ] Political statements (lots and lots of them)
[ ] Detailed instructions on how to communicate privately
[ ] Detailed instructions on how to make an archival, digital copy of a DVD
The answer is either none or all of the above - we are in a world where free speech (in the form of computer code) can create real world objects and actions that are themselves regulated or outright illegal. But if the action is illegal, is the code that causes it also illegal? If so, the line gets very blurry very quickly. If not, we still have some fascinating problems to deal with, like printable guns. Regardless, we need to educate policy makers to understand this digital frontier and be prepared to defend free speech when this gets unpleasant. Spoiler: It's already unpleasant. Our world is defined by code, where programmed actions have very real, tangible effects.
Code of Protest
Civil disobedience can take some weird forms. While today masked digital vigilantes of Anonymous act as a curious type of Internet immune system; reacting against gross infringements of cyber liberty, their methods are not as new as you might think. In the late 90s, the Electronic Disturbance Theater (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Disturbance_Theater) was supporting the Zapatistas by flooding Mexican government sites with a rudimentary DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, which brings a webserver down by overloading it. This concept is at the heart of LOIC, Anonymous's "Low Orbit Ion Cannon" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Orbit_Ion_Cannon). EDT's version, "Floodnet," had the nice touch of requesting webpages with names like "human rights" from the government sites, resulting in errors clogging up the server reading something like "404 - human rights not found." Asking for a webpage is pretty clearly something akin to shouting at a rally, or a "cyber sit-in" (http://angelingo.usc.edu/index.php/politics/cyber-sit-ins-grassroots-to-gigabytes/) - get enough people to do it, and it causes some level of annoyance - but it's still an act of speech.
Free speech and a dead-end for copy controls
Fortunately, CSS was not particularly well crafted, and was quickly and thoroughly broken with a chunk of code nicknamed decss by a Norwegian teenager nicknamed "DVD Jon". This caused a slight bit of controversy. DVD Jon was accused of theft in Norway, and users in the States were threatened with fines and jailtime for re-distributing it under the DMCA law.
In a predictable story arc, the next chapter of this story is of course the Internet digerati of the day getting royally teed off and causing a ruckus. The source code of decss was immediately turned into graphic art, secretly embedded in photos, turned into poems, and even a song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GekuuNqAiQg) - a gallery of creative works using or containing the decss code remains online: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/DeCSS/Gallery/ . DVD Jon won his case (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3341211.stm) and we all celebrated the somewhat obvious win for free speech and consumer power.
Private speech and munitions export controls
We can rewind even further back to the early 90s, when Phillip Zimmerman published the entire source code of his powerful encryption tool, PGP, in a book (of the paper, box-shaped physical object type). Now, encryption this powerful was classified (until 1996) as a "munition" and subject to export controls with the types of penalties you might expect for selling military equipment on the black market. Had PGP been released as a program, it would obviously fall into this categorization. As text in a book, however, it appeared to be protected as free speech. The stupidity of the distinction of course also spurred many to make t-shirts and code snippets of this "illegal" code. Eventually, a series of court cases (Bernstein v. United States, Junger v. Daley) establishing that source code, indeed, counts as free speech.
Free speech and real munitions
Code is speech, code is reality.
In linguistics, you have the concept of "Illocutionary Acts" - acts which are embodied in language. There aren't many - no matter how I say that I'm going to go for an after-work run, the act of running can only be done by my whole body. Oaths are the best example of these acts - speaking the oath is making the oath, and that combination of idea and action is a powerful sentiment.
And every line of code can be just as powerful.
What follows are my speaking notes from my talk with on the role of open source models in scaling social change. You can see this, plus Ashoka Fellow Gregor Hackmack's presentation onhis own amazing scale, at http://live.campus-party.org/player/load/id/27aba4389df7558611f3f6d5967… .
|"The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound [...] would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.[...] [T]hey could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.||[The] promising technology in a set-top box that can, “can distinguish who is watching, potentially allowing Intel to target advertising”. The technology could potentially identify if the viewer is an adult or a child, male or female, and so on, through interactive features and face recognition technology.|
Speculative fiction nailed reality, but missed the target on who was doing the spying.
The title here is, of course, from a later passage: