OLPC and other bits

I recently read this news about David Cavallo (who isn’t listed here). Together with the fact that NN seems to be back at MIT, this pops up the question about the “learning” part of OLPC’s mission.

However, what interests me more is the OLPC Foundation and the stated purpose. How, if at all, does that get impacted ?

The OLPC Foundation’s mission is to stimulate local grassroots initiatives designed to enhance and sustain over time the effectiveness of laptops as learning tools for children living in lesser-developed countries.

I didn’t read any official comments about these and of course nothing much by the way of providing a forward looking statement.

How does this impact SugarLabs ?

Disappointed with deja vu

I had earlier micro-blogged about it. A bit earlier than that I was wondering about the ‘same’-ness of these meetings. The Kozhikode Declaration however, leaves me disappointed, dejected. It is a strange mixture of deja vu and ritualistic publication of well-meaning words that saps the energy. There is a large part of content talking about software engineers, entrepreneurs and source code but nowhere is it clear about a vision or, an objective that one should aspire to. Besides that there is the aspect of some quirk in the declaration. Just as an example, take the line

Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most powerful technologies ever developed by humankind. It has drastically changed the way we do things, the way we communicate and even the way we think.

ICT is supposed to be an amalgamation of communication and computing technologies and more often than not the abbreviation ICT4D is used in the context of using such a convergence to facilitate development. Even if we leave this strangely ambiguous statement aside, the single most important feature that the declaration lacks is the action plan to take it forward. I see a declaration as more of a mere PR exercise than an actual roadmap or, guide to implementation and sustaining the deployments.

A barrier to the adoption of Free and Open Source Software technologies in education and especially basic primary education is the mixing of the concepts of FOSS-for-Education and FOSS-in-Education. And inevitably, any discussion of FOSS and Education leads to a discussion, often misinformed, about the ways to improve the system. The root cause is often neglected – the lack of books/reading material/content that are necessary for anyone to actually adopt a methodology/pedagogy that is based around FOSS toolkits and stacks. If you pick up any book it would be obvious that there is a massive proliferation of non-FOSS technologies and terminologies in them. The change in terminology is fairly important as well – that leads to recognition of name and which in turn leads to awareness.

There is another somewhat odd aspect that I notice. FOSS concepts and discourses are being increasingly influenced by political currents. And, adoption of them are also depending massively on state-level political support. The potential downside of this is course that if political equations change, the discourses and deployments are also prone to get changed. Where would that leave us ?

 

A book on FLOSS and Hegemony

The actual title of the book is ‘Hegemony Resistance and Computing: A Study in Postcolonial Political Economy‘. And, as the author mentions, it took six years to write, a bit longer to haggle over the title and, finally, the short-hand of the title stuck :)

With the aim of initiating a conversation (link to discussion group) he has put for download a pre-release version of the book. I’ve been lucky, along with Sayamindu, to have had the chance to read drafts, drafts of drafts, notes of the chapters. Discuss over the issues put forward and sometimes help in looking up references or, cross-checking them. The book also got me to read up afresh on Hegel.

We often joke that he is going to end up with a triptych – the first book was a popular primer on GNU/Linux and was written in Bengali. Let’s see how that works out. It would be appreciated if feedback is provided to the author.