Sunday, October 17, 2010

Connectivity is productivity

Recently I watched a TED talk by Iqbal Quadir and as the TED motto says, he has ideas worth spreading.  He talked about connectivity, microfinance and the idea of empowerment, and although I could speak about all of these topics at great length, I will focus on one idea he mentions.  
The idea of aiding developing countries has long been approached, however more than 60 years after embarking on the journey, we still live in a world where some do not have access to clean water.  After all the aid given, why does poverty persist?  Quadir asks the same question in his talk and it is definitely warranted.  He explains that in the past we have consistently been empowering the authorities.  We give money and aid to authorities in countries that benefit them, but not their people.  Herein lies the problem; we need to start empowering people directly rather than their authorities.  This makes sense, we can't continue to throw money at countries and hope that this will fix their problems.  Money is a part of it but we must focus on creating a better life for the future, not just today.  

About 12 years ago, Iqbal Quadir started to wrestle with the idea of implementing technology in developing nations.  His research showed him that the more connected people were, the more efficient they could be.  In essence, connectivity is productivity.  In his case he experimented with cell phones, however my idea is using the internet.

Since 2007, organizations such as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) have sent laptops to children in developing nations.  Their mission is "to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning."  Since 2007, they have sent 1,494,500 laptops to over 12 countries including: Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uraguay, Peru and Colombia.  This idea is great because it allows children to have a new way of enhancing their reading and writing skills.  However, the connection seems to end there.  We need to find a way to connect the modern world and the developing world so that we can work together.  The fact is that we have so many resources here that can easily solve problems for others.  The idea that many people in developing nations still don't have access to clean water is mindboggling, however by sharing our resources we can improve others' everyday lives.  By showing them how to make use of solar power, clean water and wood resources, just to name a few, we could dissolve their everyday problems.  From all of this came my idea to create a wiki where I compile resources from the Peace Corp, Red Cross, etc. that focus on improving healthcare, sanitation needs, as well as education.  This idea seems so simple and yet it has the potential of making a huge difference.  

Iqbal Quadir's TED talk:

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