What’s the Point of One Laptop per Child?

When we viewed the documentary “Linking Africa,” my first impression of the One Laptop per Child program was that it was an innovative idea. However, once we started discussing the criticisms of the program, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2227850,00.asp

This article is a critique of the One Laptop per Child program, and it makes some valid points. One of the main criticisms of the program is that these children are starving and lacking the basic necessities, so why should they be learning how to use a computer. The facts sited in the article about world hunger make the importance of a computer seem miniscule; “In the Asian, African, and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called “absolute poverty.” Every year, 15 million children die of hunger.” With facts like these, it is hard to argue that having computers in schools is helpful to children who can’t even afford a lunch.

The article also addresses the issue of literacy; “Of course, it might be a problem if there is no classroom and he can’t read. The literacy rate in Niger is 13 percent, for example. Hey, give them a computer!” Although the author uses a snarky tone, his point is well made. Why should children have computers when they first need to learn how to read?

http://www.economist.com/node/10472304

This article discusses why OLPC seemed like a great idea on paper, but it’s fallen short in execution. “First, the implementation of the technologies is terrible. In their zeal to rewrite the rules of computing for first-time users, OLPC shipped machines with a cumbersome operating system.” When these computers fail, there is no tech support to help. This means that these schools fill up with broken computers and no way to fix them. Another issue was preparing the schools to receive these computers and actually utilize them; “There was a lack of documentation, support and methods to integrate the PCs into school curricula, teacher training, and the like. OLPC seemed to think that just by handing out laptops, everything would sort itself out.” The teachers were not all trained on how to work the computers, so how could they be expected to teach the children?

These are just a few of the many criticisms of OLPC, but what are the upsides? Some argue that Africa and other developing countries cannot afford to be left behind technologically. These computers could be the only hope of raising a technology savvy generation in Africa. It is true that Africa is improving its technology, but in a nation where many don’t have electricity or running water, significant progress will be difficult.  The OPLC project did have one other positive impact; it inspired other companies to also manufacture inexpensive laptops. Although OLPC has not exactly been a success, perhaps it is the stepping-stone for another company to implement a better organized and more successful program. What do you think about the One Laptop per Child program? Is it really capable of changing the world? 

Connecting Africa

“When the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance movement must also change accordingly.” 

This Ghanaian proverb speaks poetically to the dilemma of change within the social sphere. As the rhythm, or the underlying structure, changes, so does the human reaction, or the dancing. This phrase translates to me a yearning for progress, an embracing of the rhythms of time and space. This attitude is one the seems to resonate to my Western mind, where digital communications are met with uncertainty and skepticism as to it’s ability to create a “global village”. However, in Africa, a digital revolution is taking place that signals a fast approaching meeting of First World and Third World in a digitally mediated social sphere, which beckons both sides to change their “dancing” to adapt to the changing “rhythm”.

There has been a shift is the social paradigm of many of the world’s cultures ever since the dawn of digital technologies, this being a shift in connectivity. The advances made in computing and digital communications, such as the internet and mobile devices, have drastically altered the ease of access to information, as well as one’s ability to communicate across communities and state lines. This obscuring of physical boundaries has opened up cultural and social barriers. Particularly in Africa, the rise of mobile devices and the internet have created an environment of learning and expansion. Even without having widespread access to electricity, the remotest villages in Africa can house internet cafes and schools can have laptops to use in educating.  

Despite Africa’s limited access to technology, mere hand me downs from a technological diaspora of used and underpowered machines, Africa has rapidly grown its technological infrastructure, and it continues to grow. The growth of mobile phone usage has grown more rapidly in Africa than the rest of the world, and people in Africa use their mobile devices to do everything from banking, social media, education, checking crop prices, weather, and staying politically active. The amount of citizens using the internet and these mobile devices in their daily lives has created a disconnect between access to information and desire to use these devices. This has led to international interest in “connecting” Africa to the rest of the world in terms of bandwidth. Various foreign private organizations and domestic African entrepreneurs have invested millions of dollars in laying down an infrastructure for increasing bandwidths for Africa that would ease the transition of the continent entering into the global economic marketplace. Seacom is one of the most recent and ambitious efforts, but in terms of the amount of information that can pass through the line, the African owned and instigated AWCC project wins out.

Image

 

With a greater access to information, the main dilemma the countries of Africa will face is how they chooses to regulate this access. One country that is looking ahead to this dilemma, Ghana, has recently put forth a Data Protection Act, which states, “Ghanaians will have the right to refuse to give some information or data about themselves or their relatives when they are not sure what the information or data was going to be used for.” 1. Another example of a security problem is how much personal information needs be provided when using these devices. Africa mainly uses mobile phones for communication, yet many countries do not register SIM cards with names. This creates an environment where piracy can flourish, so countries have to come up with regulations and information collecting measures to track potential piracy. Africa seems to be heading quickly into a culture, as Palfrey suggests is happening all over the world, where “information and communications technologies [are] connected to the rest of life in virtually every respect”. Therefore, Africa could could serve as a  sort of sandbox for varying social and state implementations of regulating digitized communications within a vastly mobile and constantly changing social environment. And maybe through Africa’s entry into the high speed digital community, the rest of the world can come closer to achieving the long dreamed of “global village” of the early utopian visions of the internet.

 

 

 

 

1 – http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/news/features/14647-ghanas-data-protection-law-in-the-digital-age

Regulation of the Internet and Social Media

Over the past few years, the debate over internet regulation has become more heated. There are many different ways to approach regulating the internet but enforcing the regulations is the part that would be difficult, if even possible. Most people agree that there does need to be some form of regulation for the internet, but how can something that is used all the time, all around the world, and used by billions of people be regulated?

There are two main competing views on how to approach this problem. One approach is that the government should establish laws to regulate certain content on the internet. This approach runs into stiff criticism from people due to limitations on free speech. Who would determine whether something would be allowed to be posted online? I find the government to be a vague and unsatisfactory answer. Another problem that arises with government regulation of the internet and social media is that the government works to slowly, especially if it would be dealing with something as fast and ever changing as the internet. The government is not adaptable enough to keep up with the speed in which new technology arrive and the way in which people use it. Another problem that comes up with government regulation is that the internet is a worldwide product. Would each country come up with their own set of regulations? Some countries already heavily regulate the internet content inside their borders, such as North Korea and China. Once you start down the path of government regulation, where would would it stop? Where would the line be for acceptable material and not acceptable material?

The other popular approach to regulation is self regulation. This means that the social media sites and the like monitor and regulate themselves before the government decides to do it for them. It would be easier for administrators of sites to regulate themselves than having people from the government regulate all the sites. Of course the problem of where the line would be still would exist, but it would be up to the people who created and operate the site to determine the content they will allow instead of having someone else decide for them. Only the government is prohibited from blocking speech, not the administrators of particular sites.

There is always the option of what John Palfrey calls the open internet. This is very few restrictions and regulations, if any at all. It is almost like an anything goes attitude. This is a risky approach because all kinds of violent, graphic, and sexual content would be available to anyone, including children who should not be allowed to view it.

I tend to think self regulation is the best approach but in reality there is no perfect way to solve this problem. Some people will be upset no matter what approach is taken. Enforcing the regulations is a problem as well. Would there be a punishment for posting material deemed unfit for viewing? Self regulation sounds like a nice theory but in practice would it really work?

Online Relationships

How many of you have met someone online for the first time? I know, I meet new people everyday via the internet. Sometimes, it’s a very short interaction and sometimes it turns into a long lasting friendship. We discussed in class how the internet facilitates our relationships in different ways, depending on the communication channel.

A relationship I have with someone on Twitter will probably be different than a relationship I have with someone on Facebook. We all know Twitter is used as a mini-blog. It is a mere short burst of information about a topic or yourself. Twitter is also used to communicate, but more for reacting to each other (in my opinion).In my mind, Facebook is used more for communication to your choice of audience. It’s like a thousand-way telephone call, except it’s written in pixels online. On Twitter, I can’t choose who follows me, but on Facebook, I can.

Some may think that Social Networking Sites are hurting human-kind’s communication skills, but I think we are improving them. We are just communicating through media, instead of in person or on the phone. I speak to more people online, than I would in person. Think of the internet as an “ice-breaker”. If you are shy and meet someone online first, it is likely that you will feel more comfortable when you finally see someone inperson.

When it comes to dating, there are tons of successful online dating success stories.

Online Success

As well as, online dating horror stories.

horror online dating

Online friendships, I think are the easiest to develop. Take me for example. Two years ago, when I began my licensing to become a group exercise instructor,I met a person through Twitter. I had hashtagged “#AFAA, which is the certification company I was going to test through. I was talking about how psyched and worried I was to take the exam. This person named @hydrofit tweeted me back, offering help to study. erin twitter

@Hydrofit was from California. Long story short, I thought @Hydrofit was a male, but actually was a female. Our friendship through Twitter grew and we became friends on Facebook. After, we became friends on facebook, we became actual friends. @HydroFit’s name is Erin, 43 years old. She is a group exercise instructor and personal trainer in Simi Valley, California. She is married with two kids. Erin and I, mostly only talk about fitness, but I consider her a great friend and mentor… Even though, we’ve never met in person. As trainers and instructors, we relate really well, because we experience the same things in our own clubs. She is always there to lift me up when I’m bummed about work.

Erin

Hi my name is Kristen and I met one of my best friends on Twitter. This summer, we are planning to meet with a bunch of other fitness fanatics in Dublin, Ireland to run a marathon.

Have you made friendships online? Were they successful or a waste of time?

Are We the Best Advertisers?

I remember when I was in high school, I would base my wardrobe on my friends and other students around me and I would get the video games that my friends said were “The best game ever!” When Kanye West wore those window blinds glasses, everyone had to get them (well at least I did..). And how did Member’s Only jackets become popular in the 80s? Or Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle on Friends? For the most part they were self promoted by your peers. Ellen P. Goodman’s reading “Peer Promotions and False Advertising Law” uses the term “peer promotion”. Peer promotion is basically the advertising of commercial products by the consumer. How often does a friend upload a photo of the new Halo or Call of Duty on Twitter or Facebook the first day of their release? How often do you see a status update on Facebook about the thoughts of one of the new movies that came out? If you think about it, it is amazing what “tremendous communicative power that individuals can wield through digital networks and the impact of this power on industrial economies.”, as Goodman says in the reading.

All the “peer generated” material posted on blog sites like Blogger or WordPress, and video sites like YouTube or Vimeo, are some of the strongest forms of advertising. These sites were made for the people, so the people can create the content. We read and watch what our own peers create. People have more trust in their peers’ “non-commercial” speech than the actual producer of the product. This proposes the question, is the consumer the best advertiser? Do your peers advertise the product better than the company?

I believe the consumer is the best advertisers. As stated before, social media has become the main proponent for consumer advertising and non-commercial speech.  The article “Social Media and the Power of Peer Influence” says that 70% of consumer’s buying decisions are influenced by suggestions from a friend or family member online. For the most part, on Facebook. One of the earliest examples of great consumer advertising through social media is one we looked at in class, the Diet Coke and Mentos video. Due to that video, the sales of Mentos increased tremendously. Mentos did not have to spend a dime. A more recent example is the Doritos commercial campaign. People could submit their own created Doritos commercials and the winner would have their commercial played during the Super Bowl. This is peer promotion because Doritos did not spend any money on the commercials. The consumers created the commercial, which made you go buy Doritos, and you may even watch the other submitted commercials on YouTube. More free advertising for Doritos.

The Goodman article says that Advertising Agency magazine, in 2006, named the consumer “agency of the year”. This is even truer today as social media continues to grow. More and more people are posting their opinions on blogs, creating wikis, and making YouTube videos and even more are listening. We trust each other more than we trust the company pushing the product. Some companies do not even have to engage in social media very much because of peer promotion. So, how are you going to base your next purchase? On what the advertiser says or on what the consumer says?

Social Media: Everybody’s Doing It

Here in the United States we tend to think of ourselves as the leaders in social-networking.  After all, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn all started here in the good old U. S. of A. But as it turns out, we are only a fraction of the users of social media sites. According to the article on USA Today Social-Networking Sites Going Global by Jon Swartz http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2008-02-10-social-networking-global_N.htm about 80% of social media users are outside of the United States. This means that less than a fourth of social media users are located in the United States. These are intriguing statistics considering how the biggest social media sites were developed in the United States. Upon finding out that the United States was not the largest portion of users engaged in social-networking I started to wonder how and why other users in other countries were utilizing social-networking. Is the rest of world on par with the U.S. when it comes to which sites are the biggest or most used? I have decided to compare and contrast U.S. use of social-networking with that of the rest of the world.

Picture from http://www.peoplesearchesblog.com/tag/social-networking/

In an article posted July 2012 on the site http://itechwik.com/ entitled Top 10 Most Popular Social Networking Sites In The World 2012 the top five were reported to be:

1. Facebook

2. Twitter

3. Pinterest

4. Linkedin

5. Google+

According to U.S. Social Networking Rankings http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/usa-social-networking-ran.html the top five social-networking sites in the U.S. are as follows:

1. Facebook

2. YouTube

3. Twitter

4. Yahoo Answers

5. Pinterest

It seems that the U.S. is following the world-wide trend with more people using Facebook than any other site. Part of the reason for this could be that Facebook has been expanding the number of languages it can be translated to. The USA Today article stated that “Facebook has developed an application to translate words on the site from English into other languages. On Thursday, Facebook said a Spanish translation is available. Anyone who wants to view Facebook in Spanish can change their language preference from their account settings. German and French versions are expected in coming weeks.” The article was from 2008. Today Facebook can be translated into “97 options. Which includes dialects like English (Pirate).” http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_languages_is_Facebook_translated_into

The reason for Facebook’s popularity around the world seems to be the fact that it is accessible to many people who speak different languages.

Globally Twitter is number two, but in the United States that spot belongs to YouTube. There are some slight variations, but mostly the same sites are popular with globe as they are with America. It is interesting that Yahoo Answers is number four in the US. I would have thought that it would be Pinterest or Google+ (sites that are talked about more and are higher  up on the global top five list).

The world seems to basically be in sync with the United States when it comes to what sites are popular with Facebook coming in the lead with the top spot. This analyis leads me to raise the question: Are social-networking sites that are popular in the United States bond to become top sites for the rest of the world? What do you think?

Social Networking outside of the United States

As big as social media has become here in America, it is not surprise to me that it has started to grow in other countries outside of the United States.  I cannot imagine that sometime in the future, the internet and specifically social media will be just as popular in other countries as it is here.

The video I posted is not really packed full of information about what is going on in social media outside of the U.S. but I thought it was interesting the because of the statistics that is posted and especially the ones about the sites that are being used in other countries. The biggest social media site used more than in America is LinkedIn. According to the video over half of LinkedIn’s users are outside of the U.S. As far as Facebook users outside of America, the video showed that over 190 counties build with Facebook as a platform for developers and entrepreneurs. Wikipedia has over 260 languages and are looking to have all of the information available in all the languages. This greatly helps those outside of the U.S. that use Wikipedia. In the UK, 50% of their mobile traffic is used on Facebook.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2008-02-10-social-networking-global_N.htm

On the other side of this concept, I think it is interesting that there are several social networking sites that are tested somewhere overseas and outside of the United States first before it is even introduced here in America. For example:

“Some social-networking sites, such as Hi5, decided to establish themselves overseas first and let others slug it out in the USA. And many countries have home-grown social-networking sites, such as Mixi in Japan and Skyrock in France, Gluck says.”

Even though social networking is still continuing to grow throughout the international market, I think that it would be a huge problem for SNS if they were not expanding outside of the United States. However, since some countries like Japan and France have their own SNS, I do not think that expansion in the future is going to be an issue. These personal sites for these countries have the potential to spread to other parts of the world just like other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have done.

I think one of the biggest problems with SNS expanding is the social etiquette that other countries have that the U.S. does not necessarily follow. Some of the things that we say on Facebook and Twitter would not be socially accepted in other countries, especially those that have their content highly regulated. Social media users need to be aware of this if they are using these sites outside America. It would be easy for an American to post something on Facebook that is actually insulting to a particular country.

In general, SNS are just going to continue to grow in America as well as internationally. Users simply need to be aware that not all of their content is acceptable outside and the U.S. so that there are no issues when social media continues to expand.