The Internet is Father. The Internet is Mother. The Internet reached out its hand and gave us all life.
So it sort of pains me to say that the goal of achieving one laptop per child may not necessarily be a good thing…
The Mission Statement of the one laptop per child foundation
… is to stimulate local grassroots initiatives designed to enhance and sustain over time the effectiveness of XO laptops as learning tools for children living in lesser-developed countries.
local grass-roots initiatives, sustainability, learning tools, children, lesser-developed countries? Blimey. How worthy is that? These eco-friendly words could never be used to promte a BAD THING, surely?
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a less-developed country, but I seem to remember that, after food*, the crying needs for learning tools were for pencils and paper. Pencils, ffs. They don’t cost more than a couple of pence wholesale. You could probably pass one out to every needy kid in Senegal, say, for less than the cost of a handful of these laptops.
Well the BBC said:
A team of US-based researchers, backed by a billionaire, have re-invented the computer in an attempt to revolutionise education in the developing world.
I love the “backed by a billionaire” touch. Another selfless billionaire who couldn’t possibly be looking for new products and new markets. Or have an interest in spreading consumerist values. Or in getting national governments to support setting up digital network infrastructures.
Who is this mystery philanthropist?
Well, Internet research isn’t an exact science, so bear with me here.
MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte? Wow, that name sounds oddly familiar. Well according to wikipedia, among a range of other distinctions, he
is the younger brother of John Negroponte, current United States Deputy Secretary of State.
About whom wikipedia is also pretty forthcoming. It starts with:
He is currently serving as the United States Deputy Secretary of State. Prior to serving in this capacity, he was the first ever Director of National Intelligence.
Negroponte served in the United States Foreign Service, from 1960 to 1997. He had various tours of duty as a United States ambassador, including a three-year ambassadorship to the Philippines, from 1993 to 1996. He subsequently served as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004, and was ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005……
What a career! Studded with involvement in such uncontroversial American adventures as Iraq and anti-Sandanista actions.
From 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. During this time, military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million a year, and the US began to maintain a significant military presence there, with the goal of providing a bulwark against the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which had overthrown the Somoza government and then created a state with close ties to both Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Now, I know some brothers are estranged and all that. For all I know, the Negroponte extended family observes no kinship rituals. So it’s more than possible that John and Nick don’t even exchange Christmas newsletters. And that they don’t share any social and political goals. So don’t jump to conclusions…..
(Compare and contrast the media fuss over government workers adding the odd “allegedly” to Wikipedia entries with uncritical media presentation of one laptop per child programme. There are also several techy blogs welcoming it as ironing out the digital divide E.g. Live stuff)
* plus a few other things like “staying alive till their tenth birthdays”, “accessible clean water”, “not getting shot”, “not living on the streets” or “not working on rubbish tips” and so on, but let’s not lose our sense of humour here……..