Let's Take the Next Step: Content

   
   
   
   
   

I've had the privilege to meet some of the poorest people in countries like Uganda and Zambia during my travels over the last years. And the thing that I remember the most are that the poorest of the poor have a clear knowledge about the situation and often have a vision of how to create a better life for themselves, and especially their children.


Educational content is the key.

When I asked them what the lack to reach the vision, most people say the same, education. Some of them have only gone one year in school, some have never attended.

I've followed the development of OLPC since several years in my role as a public educator, and I'm very inspired by the action to give the children of the development world the best tool we have for knowledge and commutation. But I'm getting frustrated about the fact that content often are overlooked.

While most initiatives, both OLPC and others, focusing on to spread the hardware, I would like to get more people to focus to provide the most innovative and pedagogical software to give opportunity for different levels of education and commutation over cultural boarders.

The people working to bridge the digital divide will be remembered as important for development and intercultural understanding in the 21st century. But the movement is very young and I can see large potential for new forms of collaboration between development activists, open source community and aid donors to fill the infrastructure with the right tools.

We need to sit down together and build the best software for primary educations like reading, writing and entrepreneurship, the best software for communication between young people over cultural boarders, and the best initiatives to spread the knowledge in the communities. All the software should be open source and under a public license.

Education are a key factor for development, with an education, it's easier to get a job, build a business and start climbing towards a better life. Let's take the next step and work for a world where everyone get a primary education. And where everyone have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Jonas Eriksson is a public educator and activist, you can find his Web site at www.joneysworld.com.

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11 Comments

i think this is a very valid point and would like to make a suggestion

for one, its obvious that when it comes to content, that there needs to be a digital library that the kids could download books from. and of course people need to be able to submit books too. and any books that can't be up there but get submited would be taken down and made a note of as to try and prevent it from getting into the library and leading to the library getting shut down

what isnt as obvious is this...if/when there is such a library, we cant worry about every book being in every language. that would slow things down considerably. dont get me wrong, it is important to get as many books in as many languages as possible, but the key thing would be to provide a larger number of books in every language, and not specific ones. it would lead to alot of inconsistencies...but i think there are basic systems which could be devised that would help get around such issues (e.g. each book could be tagged with a list of all the languages that it can be found in on the site. also a sort of social networking site could be established to find translators)

One thing that I really don't get is that when u have a problem like this all the focus goes to the poorest of the poor. But in reality this program will have a better leg if they focus on the richest of the poor.

Richest of the poor are people that can easily make the step forward to make the leap to be not poor. They also have the infrastructure to get the best out of the machine.

Comparing poorest of the poor vs richest of the poor u can see the following:
"poorest of the poor might not live in the city, they might not need much richest because their community is so apart from the cities and they are able to mantain from what agriculture give to them"

"richest of the poor, might be in a urban environment, they might even have a car and the kid will be able to recieve the same information as the rest of us in the city, products, businesss etc"

I agree this comparison is more rural vs urban, but also usually purchasing power vary a lot between one and the other. Rural is not just about money but also about communication, technology and overall interaction. It makes sense to make an internet cafe in the city than in a ranch, same for a webpage firm. etc. Not saying that there is none of course, but you get the point.

If we talk about digital divide we have to talk also about the age divide, the older generatiosn regardless of their purchasing power are more divide than a geographical issue. (example, McCain and Computers). But I also get the point that they will die soon and we can look forward.

Finally about content, most of the content is the internet unless u think this is a "school project". OLPC was never about making the local education system better. OLPC was exactly to hack the education system and disrrupt on local markets.

See the New Library of Alexandria

Digital collections
http://www.bibalex.org/libraries/presentation/static/12600.aspx

Winter

Well, duh!

There is lots of content packaged for the XO at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Category:Collections, a dedicated mailing list for content (library at devel.laptop.org), http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Category:Content_Repository mentions 40 sites, there are hundreds of initiatives like http://wikieducator.org and OpenCourseware Consortium, and millions of hits in Google for "free educational content", "open courseware", etc.


Cool! so the content problem is solved!

Now, -page and Winter, can you point us among those resources you mention to a learning activity about Artigas suitable for 2nd Grade (not for 4th or 6th), and another about Bolivar for 5th (not for 4th or 6th), that such students can use?

thnx

Yama,

No I will not. You're confusing the *participatory* culture of this soapbox site where people mouth off (phrasing it as "We need", "we should", "Let's take the next step") with the *contributing* culture of the links I provided and other sites where people collaboratively create stuff. Join those resources (including Spanish-language variants), contribute, and see what you get in return.

Oh, all right, maybe you're not being sarcastic. I don't speak Spanish but take http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar and the things it points to and turn them into a Wikislice. Or wikijunior > wikibooks > es.wikibooks.org > search locates material like Historia de Colombia/ P3. Good luck and I hope you find a way to contribute.

It's OK, ski. sorry for the unmarked but obvious sarcasm. You say "There is lots of content packaged for the XO", but I'm afraid that such content you mention is mostly irrelevant to the problem, as it is, now, since it is not that related to their current school needs and age.

You are right in pointing out there is much work to be done, thus I assume we do agree on this point. Millions of hits does not mean any of them is actually useful.

Anyway, at this stage of the game we need enthusiastic people like you to donate to G1G1, and it might matter little right now if the available content has any real use in the field.
I hope we will get to that eventually, but we would never be able to even hope for it if you guys did not make this project possible to begin with. Thanks

@Yama:
"You say "There is lots of content packaged for the XO", but I'm afraid that such content you mention is mostly irrelevant to the problem, as it is, now, since it is not that related to their current school needs and age."

Each school system needs content that is tailored to their situation. That is, they need materials targeted at their children in their language. Biology should feature local flora and fauna, history local history, mathematics, local culture.

Obviously, such materials will be scarce by definition. If they were available, who would be able to use them without the books and laptops?

I think there are two problems to be solved:
- A global infrastructure to collect and manage such content. The links Ski and I pointed out are examples of that
- Local initiatives to generate new local content and translate and adapt existing content.

I think the global infrastructure is the least of the problems. There already exist large projects that do that. And there is a lot of experience and expertise with this kind of library and documentation projects.

Management structures for such projects can be downloaded fro free, and entities like OLPC, Google, the new Alexandrian Library, and many others can handle storing and distributing such content without noticing the bandwidth increase. I actually KNOW initiatives that store and distribute terabytes of "cultural" heritage supplied by non-paying customers just for the preservation.

The other problem is much more challenging.

Generating content can be done by volunteers and paid writers funded by the local or national governments. For poor regions, the most efficient one will be FLOSS/CC initiatives with flexible and mixed funding. For example, using grants to support volunteer efforts.

The reason FLOSS/CC is so important is that the transaction costs for copyrighted materials, in terms of limitations to distribution and adaptation, are simply too high. These "walls" between text-books and the "costs" of tenders are so high that they cripple school materials even in the developed world.

Winter

Winter, I believe you are 200% right. Could you help me/us figure out how to make this happen? I am the worst fundraiser possible, and I agree with you that some sort of grants could help us get started, but I don't seem to be able to figure how to present things. You can find my email in my wiki page, click on my name here.

"Local initiatives to generate new local content and translate and adapt existing content.
Generating content can be done by volunteers and paid writers funded by the local or national governments. For poor regions, the most efficient one will be FLOSS/CC initiatives with flexible and mixed funding. For example, using grants to support volunteer efforts."

See http://www.archive.org , they have scanned in more than 600,000 books, and you can download them all in PDF and read them on your XO (or anywhere else).

Thank Microsoft (seriously) for funding this scanning. Google is also scanning lots of books, but Google doesn't let you download them. The Internet Archive and its partner libraries believe that public domain books should really be in the public domain, available to the public to do whatever they want with them. Google doesn't.

@John gilmore:
"See http://www.archive.org , they have scanned in more than 600,000 books, and you can download them all in PDF and read them on your XO (or anywhere else)."

I cannot find the non-English section. Is there any? I know Gutenberg has many non-English works.

The problem with out-of-copyright works is that they tend to be old, pre-1900.

Winter

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