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2007 Webby Awards
Reading Between The Lines: Understanding What the Partnership Between Wikipedia and the 'One Laptop Per Child' Means

Yesterday, Andy Carvin posted Jimmy Wales Announces $100 Laptop Partnership, Wikiversity, Wikiwyg - which is pretty good news, at least on the surface. He later posted Notes From Jimmy Wales' Wikimania Talk, which is related, but the first post caught my attention and I am surprised that no one has connected the dots - at least in public.

I've been a pretty open critic of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC)initiative, not that it's a 'bad idea' but because it seems to live in a bubble. I'm also a strong advocate of the Wikipedia, but the reason I am a strong advocate of the Wikipedia is simple - people who can connect to it can change it, add to it, etc. It's a living work. Sure, it's imperfect - but none of it's critics are perfect. So the two for me are a gasoline and water mix.

Reading between the lines - if the Wikipedia is to be distributed with the 'OLPC', then it means that the OLPC folks are tacitly saying that the systems are not expected to connect to the internet. This means that as soon as the Wikipedia gets in the hands of the children - it's outdated. So instead of fixing the problem, it's minimizing it - which is not a bad thing, but it's also not a good thing. It demonstrates that the laptop itself is not going to solve anything or force solutions for anything related to internet connectivity - thus, the digital divide. In a world where, as of March 2006, 15% of the global population can access the internet online, the OLPC has found a cheap way out of doing something which allows them to appear that they are doing something.

That said, this is a good thing. But it demonstrates that the hype of the OLPC is slowly becoming mired in the reality of a world which lives outside of the bubbles of the strongest advocates of the OLPC which I have encountered.

Fix the infrastructure, kids. Then we can talk business. Bandaid development is why we're even discussing all of this in the first place, and practicing it certainly will not solve it.

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August 5th, 2006 @ 10:31AM

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