04 Oct 2006
When I visited Gambia (that's on the western coast of Africa), I thought about the Digital Divide and what could be done to help people there to catch up on getting in touch with computers, a bit at least.
I realized that that would achieve the best results when you target children, as they are eager to learn and have no fear of  things that are completely new.
My first idea was to offer godparenthoods, meaning you would guarantee daily or weekly internet access for one or more children in Africa for a small amount opf money (the concept is borrowed from the godparenthood programmes where you ensure education in a school or food. However, this concept would target another kind of donours, namely geeks).

My thougths about that were mostly concerned with money, organizational problems, infrastructure and so on.

I rememered those thoughts when I read this article, concerned with a closer look at what the children would actually do on the internet. Or, how they would approach the computer in general.

It deals with the idea of an indian computer scientist. He put a computer in the wall next to a street where slum kids played. Then, without any explanations or guidelines he just watched what happened as the children discovered that strange device. They teached themselves really stunning things on the computer and explored the web within a few weeks. You should really read the article/interview. It's not that long, either.

I only have two concerns:
  1. One thing that I also thought about back in Africa is what happens when you open these children to email or instant messaging. There are certainly bad experiences to be made out there. Children in western countries are endangered by pedophiles or other threads, too, but they are better informed as they grow up with the technology and, most important, they are rich and thus far less easy to be tempted.
  2. Mitra (the indian scientist) compares those self-educated children to indian cable technicians. Most of those people can do a good job without any deeper understanding of the system they're dealing with. They just remember sequences of actions that lead to successs. Maybe that's a necessary intermediate step to a knowledge society. But maybe it's inherent to indian culture. The latter option would be a really bad sign for India...
# lastedited 05 Oct 2006
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