One Laptop Per Child is a beautiful ideal. But I have come to BELIEVE that there are more fundamental needs in Africa than juvenile computing.
Before pinning me down with evidence of seemingly functional laptop projects, I would like to clarify that I have had experience with ICTs for Education, and have had the spiritual pleasure of evangelizing technology for education. At some point my job description was “I.T Evangelist”. Picture John The Revelator, but holding an iPad preaching chips and bytes and the depths of cyberspace.
I recall a moving treatise by Hon. Bitange Ndemo regarding The One-Laptop-Per Child Project, the cusp of which was were 10,000 computer geniuses emergent from 1 Million children where no hope resided before, then the whole project succeeds.
I, at the time, vehemently agreed with this mantra, knowing a great many people who were fortunately exposed to computers at an early age and this edge drove them to their current being;leaders in the Information Technology industry in Kenya. My position then, (and not so long ago, as the crow flies) was that, however abhorrent the corruption,however colossal the funds,however unsustainable, it was worth the illumination of 10,000 Kenyan Vint Cerfs,Elon Musks, Bill Gates and Eric Schmidts.
For Africa, a dark continent as it were, to be illuminated even for a moment would serve a beacon of hope, food to the mind, vision of more, to a people who’s minds have been dulled and numbed by circumstance.
The story below is a FailureFaire jewel, an example of the extreme failure of a laptop project in a first world scenario.
Here is the story.
Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops http://wnyc.org/2CoaY
In juxtaposition one can only imagine how much worse things could go in a finance & Infrastructure bereft Africa.
Only then did my mind descend to the Africa we are. And my thinking was that there were deeper and more profound things that African leaders can EASILY do to nurture these 10,000 minds than issue computers. There are deeper, more fundamental issues at hand and at stake, the very basic qualities of existence that are lacking in our society. I will not go into them, they are legion.
The story is told of Edward Bernays,a different kind of evangelist,the father of public relations,a brilliant product marketing genius and how he saved the Tobacco Industry and invented bacon and eggs.
Bernays helped the smoking industry overcome one of the biggest social taboos of all time: women smoking in public.Bernays staged the 1929 Easter parade in New York City, showing models holding lit Lucky Strike cigarettes, or “Torches of Freedom“. After the historic public event, women started lighting up more than ever before. It was through Bernays that women’s smoking habits started to become socially acceptable. Bernays created this event as news, which it was not. Bernays convinced industries that the news, not advertising, was the best medium to carry their message to an unsuspecting public.
Another of Bernays’s favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead his clients’ causes. “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.” he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat heavy breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity toutingbacon and eggs as an ideal heavy breakfast and superior for health to the then traditional breakfast of tea (or coffee) and toast.
I have come to BELIEVE,that the reason behind this “ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD” drive this decade, is that it is a Sales Model.
Laptops for Children is a conceptualized product meant to evangelize to the hopeful and offer new markets in hardware sales. All that has been changed is the model of selling the computers, slapping ideological ideals onto the back of the laptops and shipping them off to school districts.
I say, all the African leaders at the US Africa Summit should be prodded to implement fundamental infrastructural programs that will establish stability and growth heck, just life, for the targeted market population of Africa, who will surpass India and China in a few decades, lest the greed for the current market ensures the future shall not exist for this continent.
Take the cue from Bill Gates, who has arm twisted Warren Buffet into working toward a disease free Africa. These are the business leaders we deserve.
Africa is not poor. Money is made up.We are rich in raw materials, minerals, food and human resources, the majority of which consistently and constantly supplies the rest of the globe, which,as the crow flies, is supposed to mean we have a lot of money.
The hunger, financial poverty and joblessness is a result of those buying exploiting us, and those evangelizing us keeping all the profits.