Monday, December 05, 2005

Nice idea, I really doubt this will work.

I'm sure most of you have read something about these nifty little $100 computers that M.I.T.'s Nicholas Negroponte brainstormed as the main part of an effort to bring the 3rd world countries of the world into the information age.
Cute looking aren't they? But there are some serious concerns as too whether this thing is actually going to acheive its goals. Slate's Cyrus Farivar outlines some of the more technical difficulties, such as possible cost increases, lack of WiFi hotspots in rural areas, and the previous failures of such programs.

I've got a more simplistic criticisms of this programs. Most computer content, particularly web content, is still text based. Most of the graphics are actually just really nice looking text buttons. What I'm getting at is the fact that if you can't read, then this computer is a waste of time. So, let's look at the literacy rates of 4 of the most industrialized countries this computer is targeted at...
Since, these are likely the highest literacy rates for the countries this computer will be marketed in, the literacy rates raise serious concerns about whether these computers will be effective tools for education. Perhaps quality educational software targeted for literacy can be developed in the wide variety of languages these countries represent, but that is yet more money to be added to this initiative.

Looking beyond the whole literacy thing, if you are a starving kid in Africa why the hell do you care about computers? I bet you are far more interested in food. Maybe if they make edible computers....