Embracing technology in less developed nations

The mission of the One Laptop per Child initiative begins:

"Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade.

The individual and societal consequences of this chronic global crisis are profound. Children are consigned to poverty and isolation—just like their parents—never knowing what the light of learning could mean in their lives. At the same time, their governments struggle to compete in a rapidly evolving, global information economy, hobbled by a vast and increasingly urban underclass that cannot support itself, much less contribute to the commonweal, because it lacks the tools to do so."

I have been talking with collegues lately about the future of education and technologies that will fuel change. The question is usually how will advances in technology such the Nokia N800, a Wi-Fi Internet tablet which includes VoIP support and WiMax which enables long range wireless broadband access change society in less developed nations? Will these tools along with initiatives like the One Laptop per Child change education in less developed nations?

I read a lot of work by naysayers who claim that less developed nations simply do not have the capacity to embrace such technologies. I agree if we restrict our discussion to a physically tangible ICT environment…but wireless technologies change the game. For starters, simply look at how many developing nations now have more cell phones than landline telephones. When I was recently in Cambodia I had cell phone access everywhere! Even in rural areas 6 hours away from any major town I always had good reception and never had a dropped call. There is promise if planners and policymakers think outside of the box.

2 Responses to “Embracing technology in less developed nations”

  1. And yet I lose cell signal a half mile out of town (semi-rural), cannot get high speed Internet access at home (3 miles out of town), and the power shuts off with a decent breeze. Third world is kind of sounding uptown to me.

    This echoes our lack of support on the federal level as to the importance of connectivity. They talk a good game, but they will not spend a dime to expand it. They will wait for business folks to put the money in. Meanwhile, that is why I have no high speed abilities. Verizon refuses to replace the switch station in our town to allow for the expansion of the fiber possibilities. They say it would hurt their profitability if they ever decide to sell our area to someone else. Heck, I think we still pay extra to get tone dialing here.

  2. Hi Jayson– that’s a good post. But what about the value of indigenous technologies?

    I posted a longer response at http://www.educationfutures.com/2007/04/11/the-question-of-ict-in-development/

    jm

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