Thursday, May 25, 2006

What do you mean you want clean water?

The company that said it would produce the first $100 latpop has released the first pictures of the kit. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is hoping that Third World country will sign up for the laptops in their droves.

I imagine they're far more likely to be signing up for water purification facilities, medical supplies and the other general requirements for civilisation to survive.... but I could be wrong.


ajd said...

The argument goes as follows:

If 3rd world poor, 3rd world has shortages of medicine, water and food. If 3rd world rich, 3rd world has plentiful medicine, water and food. 1st world got rich because of computers, therefore 3rd world can get rich from computers.

They fail to take into account a few important factors:
* You cannot eat, drink or inject a computer.
* 1st world got rich from exploiting other people and their resources
* 1st world still exploits other people and their resources, which is why they are still rich
* We can afford computers and their efficiency gains, to make us ever richer, because we exploit people and their resources
* Providing $100 computers to the 3rd world will only have two effects: profit for a 1st world company (aka exploitation) as a £10 profit to 1 billion people is £10billion and profit for everyone else in the 1st world, gained from the increased efficiency at which the 3rd world can be exploited.
* 3rd world governments are corrupt

Maybe we should provide someone for the 3rd world to exploit. Or am I just being cynical?

dizzy said...

"Maybe we should provide someone for the 3rd world to exploit. Or am I just being cynical?"

It's not cynical it's genius! The question is do we give them Wales or Scotland?

Political Teenager said...

Brilliant, laptops are just what you need in Darfur.

The Remittance Man said...

Forgive me for sounding cynical here, but I suspect that this could be some well meaning idea from a bunch of nincompoops who think the Third World is just a poorer version of Islington with more sunshine and interesting smells. Unfortunately, living as I do in the real Third World, I can see a couple of snags.

Firstly, laptops are self contained computers with batteries, but my experience is that these batteries need to be topped up more frequently than the oil in a Landrover. This requires a supply of mains electricity. Much as it may surprise these well-meaning ninnies, hot and cold running electricity is not all that common in British West Gromboolia and all the other Godforsaken places in this Third World.

Secondly computers are simply plastic boxes filled with silicon and copper. They only really work when you put software into them. By all accounts software companies get a bit upset if you don't pay them when you load up their software. Think mummy lion protecting her cubs and you may get the picture.

Finally, once the novelty of Minesweeper and Solitaire have worn off, all these eager new IT buffs are going to want to see what else these computers can do. I would imagine that this will require access to the interweb. Sadly one can only get reception of this interweb thingy through the telephone system; and, while one shouldn't generalise, Third World telephone systems have several features that are remarkably common: They are expensive, based on colonial era technology and prone to catastrophic failure. Needless to say they are usually run by state monopolies.

Quite frankly sending information is better achieved by employing a runner with a cleft stick.

Nah. Give these chaps ten out of ten for an eye-catching initiative, but nothing for real world common sense.


dizzy said...

to give OLPC it's due the latop is avilable in "wind up" version and the OS is an embedded version of Linux with lots of software. I just think technology like this is the least of many african's worries

The Remittance Man said...

Wind up radios and torches may be fine; nothing really disasterous happens when they wind down.

Hands up all here who have lost a day's work when the power fails and they've forgotten to routinely save.

Of course OLPC may not be complete muppets. Maybe this is a cynical marketing ploy with absolutely no real concern for the Third Worlders at all. A plan to syphon large amounts of government and NGO money into bank accounts mayhap?

To my mind stupidity or avarice are the most likely motivations.