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).
The 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.