Africa: “Keep Your $100 Laptops, We'll Study By Phone!”
...this revolution of personally-financed wirelessly-connected computers largely goes unnoticed by the international development community, and because their paradigm revolves around desktops and laptops they spend millions developing specialised laptops for schoolchildren in developing countries, which will surely only ever reach a small fraction of them, while the network of invisible computers continues its exponential penetration into those same regions, below the radar. ...The question we should be asking ourselves, then, is not "how can we buy, and support, and supply electricity for, a laptop for every schoolteacher" (much less every schoolchild), but rather "what mobile software can we write that would really add value for a schoolteacher (or student, or health worker, or businessperson) and that could run on the computer they already have in their pocket?"
Regular readers may have noticed that we've been banging on about the revolution that the mobile phone is making in the developing world (and therefore the ridiculousness of US-designed inventions such as the misguided $100 laptop). In an article called ‘Do We Really Need A $100 Laptop?' in August 07, we said,
The mobile phone is one of the most important pieces of technology spreading across the developing world – and it’s changing the way people, communities and business connect with each other in these areas. Outside the US people use phones in a way many Americans can’t really comprehend. In June we argued in the piece The Three Region Theory For Mobile Phones that people have a different relationship to their phones and PCs depending on which one was introduced first to the mass market. Where phones appeared before the PC – as in many developing parts of the world – the phones become the predominant access to the internet – and in some ways the de-facto computer.