Written by Bwog Staff
Free Culture at Columbia has come out with some pretty cool stuff in its brief history: the Core on Flash drives, CULator, this gem of a protest video. Now, under the guidance of founder Brendan Ballou, they’ve transcended the Columbia plane and gone global. Allied with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), Ballou and co. are set on helping to distribute free mini-computers to children in the developing world. And, you know, possibly influencing the course of human communications and history.
OLPC, which was founded at MIT in 2005, has created small, cheap ($130 each), super-durable laptops (called “XOs”…see photo) that feature internet access, a camera, music and art software, word processing, a phone, and a host of other useful tools designed for the use of kids aged 6 to 12. The computers connect on a local network and have the capacity to link up globally, bringing kids world-over face-to-face through their screens. Columbia’s Free Culture chapter, with the help of several grad students and J-Schoolers, contributed one of the more exciting software applications ot the project– a built-in template for news articles that will allow kids to publish their reports to a blogging system on the network or even print their own homemade newspapers.
Ballou said he envisions a world where young people are describing their own lives in place of, say, BBC reporters. To OLPC, he added, the micro-tech of the laptops is akin to developments in microfinance— it gives increased agency to the disenfranchised. Ultimately, OLPC hopes to spread the computers across the globe; currently, the education ministers of Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, and Rwanda are signed on to finance the project in their countries, with more (possibly even the U.S.) expected to join.