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.
Notes from the talks of Africa Gathering taking place in London, England on 25 April.
David Hollow – ICT4D Collective / RHUL
The $100 laptop in Ethiopia – A case study
ICT for Education:
How to assess impact? How can ICTs make an impact in such extreme poverty?
Why impact assessment?
- How do we know if our interventions have any benefit?
- Variety of approaches
- Operate in partnerships with people there
- Engaging in ICT 4 Education projects, but then stepping back and evaluating what was happening
XO laptop in Ethiopia
- What’s the educational challenges? Far not all children go to school, lack of textbooks & learning materials
- 5000 XO laptops in use
- Impact of the textbook reader on the XO laptop – monitoring and evaluation
- content: educational content would be useful
- teacher training: students are more advanced then the teachers – more training necessary
- integration: laptop is not integrated in courses
- frustrations: it’s not used for studying – a tyo rather than a tool; teachers have problems too, they don’t know how to use the laptops
what to do?
- text book reader: options to provide a bridge, pupils can useÂ them & teachers see the benefits
- technical challenges: mesh network & translating all the documents from textbooks to virtual
- teacher training (pedagogical & technical)
- plan for integration
- more communication to parents & community
- adjusting focus on secondary students
- government shifted their approach from authoritatian to a more collaborative one
- partnership requires transparency, expectations, communication
- there are unanticipated outcomes
reflection on own projects
- bring in self reflection
- do we asses the impact of what we’re doing?
- are beneficiaries engaged in decision making processes?
- what methods are used?
- are we conscious of power & aspiration in our projects?
- do we see ICT as our tool and development our objective?
difference between children and teachers?
- children were more willing to learn
what did children actually learn?
- main thing: how to take photographs, how to play tunes
development of Akili? in Etheopia?
- was developed in Switzerland
was there anybody responsible for translating the textbooks?
- large team of people
why secondary education rather than teachers?
- because of the volume of students – the sums involved
trying to connect to academics – you chose to work for a top-down orgaization, what could we have done better to make you work with a bottom up organization?
- there are many projects I wanted like to work with, rationale was to engage with a large scale project to better assess impact
Nkeiru Joe – International Law department, Virije University Brussel
Staying connected to Africa: an ecosystem approach as a response to the “solutions temptation”
Law, Africa & development – international law can achieve linkage
There are myriad problems when looking at international law
Solutions temptations – always going for the simplest solutions
Connecting everybody to technology – is it really great?
Submarine cabels provide Africa with big amounts of information – the issues connecting the cabels (connecting Africa with other areas) cannot be addressed within the continent alone
Has to be addressed by international law – there need to be standards in place
Who is liable for damage of the cables? Who protects the cables? A system in international law has to be put in place
UN-convention is in place – there has to be influence influence to hold the parties accountable
Norms and law can create the framework to include everyone in ICT4D
Why solutions need law?
- There need to be capable agencies in place
- Solutions can only come from within – local people have to be incorporated
- International law = “watchful parents”
without addressing issues structurally = digging deep, sustainable solutions can’t be found
Q & A:
are landlocked states also addressed by the law of sea?
- yes, they are
landlocked – geographically disadvanteged states – is there any pressure on coast states to share infrastructure with these states?
- yes, e.g. Zimbabwe can lay a cable to the sea through any country as long as they are not causing any damage
An article today in the online edition of a major Swedish newspaper, DN.se, tells about young Rwandan’s internet behaviours (in Swedish only). Rwanda has so far delivered 5.000 OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) units to kids, and plan to ship no less than 50.000 more units this year alone. The government has set up an ambitious IT plan for the country, which is to provide internet connection to all schools for older children, in most schools for younger children and all state offices by the year 2020.
The article goes on to say that Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is one of the best cities in Africa to get internet access with decent speed everywhere around, especially in cafÃ©s. Apparently the airport in Kigali has the best, free wi-fi connection available, and the article features four kids sitting outside the airport, googling on their OLPC’s for hours after pictures of their action heroes Jean-Claude van Damme and Bruce Lee.
(Photo by Anna Koblanck)