Turning science fiction into reality. How cool!

A few years back my wife intro­duced me to an enter­tain­ing book called Earth­web; a sci­ence fic­tion nov­el set in the near future. The book intro­duced to me a couple of inter­est­ing con­cepts that are just being real­ized in our daily life today — the first is that of a social cur­rency or rat­ing sys­tem that we’re see­ing devel­op­ing online in the form of crowd­sourced reviews (music, movie, etc).

OLPC_CA.jpgThe second, and per­haps socially more import­ant one became real today here in Canada — the One Laptop Per Child ini­ti­at­ive, which looks at deliv­er­ing edu­ca­tion and tech­no­logy to the world’s chil­dren who don’t have access to those resources:

One Laptop Per Child’s mis­sion is to cre­ate edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tun­it­ies for the world’s poorest chil­dren by provid­ing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, con­nec­ted laptop with con­tent and soft­ware designed for col­lab­or­at­ive, joy­ful, self-empowered learn­ing.

Here’s how it played out in Earth­Web:

After the Top Drop, Doroth­ie tricked me into learn­ing how to use her palmtop, and I became the sat­link admin for our vil­lage.” Reg­gie nod­ded. “I see.” That explained many things. Top Drop had been a part of the WebEvery­Where ini­ti­at­ive. In parts of the world where the gov­ern­ments stole more than the ban­dits, and used even food as a tool of con­trol, Earth Defense had bypassed them and dropped mil­lions of palmtops from the air. Sol­ar powered and cap­able of vocal as well as writ­ten com­mu­nic­a­tion, the palmtops did best with chil­dren, play­ing games with them till they learned to read, write… and even­tu­ally to do cal­cu­lus.


Here in Canada (and in real­ity), things are a little less dra­mat­ic, but yet hope to be just as effect­ive:

The Belinda Stronach Found­a­tion today announced it will dis­trib­ute up to 5,000 laptops to chil­dren aged six to twelve in Abori­gin­al com­munit­ies across Canada.

The OLPC Canada ini­ti­at­ive is modeled after the inter­na­tion­ally suc­cess­ful One Laptop Per Child Pro­gram cur­rently in place in more than 30 coun­tries. This first of its kind pro­gram in Canada was designed in col­lab­or­a­tion with Abori­gin­al stu­dents, edu­ca­tion spe­cial­ists and pro­gram experts from the Centre for Addic­tion and Men­tal Health (CAMH), Par­ti­cipAC­TION, Buffy Sainte-Mar­ie, Eko­mini and Safe Kids Canada.

I’ve always pro­moted tech­no­logy as an ena­bler — some­thing to make your life easi­er, some­thing to help you get things done faster or bet­ter. But only if you could afford the tech­no­logy. That’s the rub.

It’s been the lack of access to the tech­no­logy that’s been the bar­ri­er to make life bet­ter.  Frankly, many people in Canada can’t afford to get a com­puter for the house­hold, let alone one for the chil­dren. Yet, a com­puter is almost essen­tial to learn­ing and excel­ling in today’s edu­ca­tion­al sys­tems.

The One Laptop Per Child pro­gram looks like it’s tak­ing steps remove that bar­ri­er for some chil­dren in Canada — mak­ing edu­ca­tion­al suc­cess that much easi­er to achieve by provid­ing some of the resources. I hope it’s a trend and pro­gram that con­tin­ues to grow. We need more smart kids to grow into smart adults and turn more sci­ence fic­tion into real­ity.

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Published by Brad Grier

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