From 27th to 30th every year traditionally the hacker’s conference of the Chaos Communication Club takes place in Berlin. This year I went there for the first time – although I’m not so much into computer security and hacking. The reason were Christoph from OLPC Austria had a talk, there were some interesting talks focusing on society and social policy and also I had never been in Berlin before.
Most of the talks here were not related to ICT4D, but still interesting.
One project presentation which really impressed me was about Wikileaks. It’s a platform where all kinds of classified content are hosted and already caused several scandals which appeared in mass media. One of them was for example the illegal dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. They are currently trying to persuade the Icelandic government to put legal regulations into place which would make the country the first safe haven for all kinds of information – so it can’t be suppressed anymore by powerful nations or companies.
What made it into the mass media from here is that the GSM standard is even more vulnerable than thought before. This also might have implications for ICT4D – as it’s now easier than ever to wiretap phones. For a country with an autocratic regime where the majority of the communication takes place via mobile phone this is a big threat for people opposing the regime.
As already mentioned, Christoph from OLPC Austria had a talk where he presented the OLPC project and ongoing efforts, especially around the sugar environment. Sugar is even available for any other platform via USB-stick – Sugar on a Stick.
So far Peru Uruguay (sorry, got that wrong) is the first country where the OLPC project has been rolled out on a large scale and it will be interesting to see the results in the education sector. Including expenses for distributing, setting up and repairing the devices, the cost per child was estimated to $276 there.
From what I heard in Christophs talk and what I had discussed with him before, the main purpose of OLPC is not so much to have a traditional product with a release cycle, forcing the participating nations to purchase new versions again and again, but to have a basic platform where everybody can program applications for and which everybody can customize for their needs. In that respect I think it really created a momentum and quite a lot of people are working now voluntarily in Western but also less developed countries to create applications for eLearning for their local context.
Christophs talk is summed up very detailed in German at Dirk Ollmetzers blog.
Several other presentations I saw were about critical thinking, subversive actions to reclaim your city, fuzzing with phones and electrifying clothes.
My resumé of the whole event: It was fascinating to see so many people working on a transparent and open society in so many various ways.