Thursday, April 28, 2005

International Development: Literacy and Computing

Nicholas Negroponte's idea for a $100 laptop for the developing is a great idea. Negroponte is part of MIT's Media Lab. The idea certainly has promise and I agree that economies of scale will make a huge difference.

"Can it be done? Yes, definitely," says Michael Best, a professor at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. "The question is, what's to be done and why.... We're better at designing technology than we are at understanding what technologies should be designed. So the challenge with creating a $100 useful Internet appliance is understanding how people will use it, how they will be empowered by it."

Not everyone shares Professor Best's conviction that it's possible to overcome the technological challenges - let alone financial, environmental, and cultural obstacles. |Link|

However, this proposed solution for the global digital divide does not address the basic issue of literacy. If you cannot read, then the Internet can still be cool, but it's more entertainment than education. And if there is no content available in a person's language, then the Internet is pretty damned useless.

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