“Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had
disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”
Well, no, the only idiot in this story is Negroponte, as the hacking story is a lie. They actually
pressed the reset button on the side of the tablet. On this definition the
local baboon could have ‘hacked android’. So why would an MIT academic tell
deliberate lies? All in his team knew the hacking tale was wrong, yet no one
came out and said it.
When I wrote a critique of the project, I had my suspicions, now those
suspicions have been confirmed. At E-learning Africa this week, I spoke to someone on the ground, who was
furious about the publicity the project had received. He is doing sterling work
with laptops elsewhere in Ethiopia and resents the TED hype that surround Mitra
and Negroponte, as it distract from the necessity of training teachers and
being sensitive to the context and culture into which technology is placed.
perfect example of this type of cultural insensitivity, is the ‘Alphabet Game’
where they had to ‘recite’: A for Apple, C for Cat… O for Octopus – OCTOPUS!
Did anyone tell Nick that Ethiopia doesn’t have a coast? You’d need a passport
to see an octopus.
Wenchi Crater was a spot where dozens of tourists a day visit, ride
horses and go for boat trips on the lake. He thought the idea that these kids
had never seen any written word on packaging, road signs or print,
Mosquito and the tortoise
This is one of those annoying ‘mosquito’ projects. In
Africa, there’s ‘mosquito’ projects and ‘tortoise’ projects. Mosquito projects
are noisy, short-lived, suck you dry and often have nasty side-effects.
Tortoise projects, take their time, have a protective shell of sustainable
self-sufficiency. They are quiet, often unobtrusive but long-lived.
A tortoise will have sustainable technology, sustainable stakeholders, sustainable teaching, sustainable learners, sustainable change-management, sustainable electricity, sustainable plugs &
cables, sustainable resources. They
will also be sustainable in their language, culture and context. Above
all they need to be sustainable on COST.
Sustainable innovation is what Africa needs not just innovation in itself,
Without sustainability there is no real innovation, only 'bad' innovation in
projects that fly for a short time and die.
Mitra, is doing more harm than good with these short-lived mosquito projects.
It’s nothing more than self-aggrandisement that detracts from more worthy and
long-lasting efforts. Even worse, speaking to someone senior in the European
Commission, Negroponte was shameless in getting his brother, John Negroponte,
former US Deputy Secretary of State, to pull strings for meetings with EU
decision makers (and others elsewhere in the world). This is the sort of stunt
that amounts to little more than educational colonialism. I should add that I have no problem with the OLPC project in Rwanda,where an enthusiastic guy is trying hard to make it work.