How’s this for a story? Told to me by one of my PhD students…
A colleague in Ethiopia had just bought a MP3 player, but found some data already on it – so guessed it had been stolen! He could not translate the data, so sent it to a friend in the UK. Thinking it might be Korean, this friend then asked a Korean colleague in the UK to see if the owner’s name might be somewhere in the data – and it was! So the name was swiftly dispatched back to Ethiopia, together with the name of a primary school that was mentioned in the files. Armed with this information, the challenge was then to find out whether that person was actually still in Ethiopia. Via the school the Korean owner was tracked down and eventually they were able to meet up in person so that the MP3 player and the original owner could be reunited!
Lots of ideas come out of this: theft, friendship, digital music, linguisitic diversity, space-time and the inteconnected world, the lives of machines…
What’s the connection?
Well, according to a report by Shubhajit Roy in Express India, Vikas Swarap (whose first novel Q and A provided the basis for the film Slumdog Millionaire) says that he was “was inspired by the hole-in-the-wall project, where a computer with an internet connection was put in a Delhi slum. When the slum was revisited after a month, the children of that slum had learnt how to use the worldwide web. … That got me fascinated and I realised that there’s an innate ability in everyone to do something extraordinary, provided they are given an opportunity. How else do you explain children with no education at all being able to learn to use the Internet. This shows knowledge is not just the preserve of the elite,” Swarup said, while talking about the project, in which NIIT chief scientist Dr Sugata Mitra had carved a ‘hole in the wall’ that separated the NIIT premises from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji in 1999. Through this ‘hole’, a freely accessible computer was put out for use and with no prior experience, the children learnt to use the computer on their own”
A similar report, by Vikas Swarup, was also published in the My Week section of the UK’s Sunday Times on 18th January 2009
Google’s business model has proven to be fantastically successful – they give users something for ‘free’, but that use actually gives the company something of real value. Should Google therefore pay users?
A chance meeting earlier this month in Berlin, reminded me that in October 2007, the UK’s Sunday Times published an interesting article entitled “Google. Who’s looking at you?” – it is well worth a read.
I have often pondered about the notion that the young are the only ones who can really work effectively with new ICTs. After all, I’m no longer that young myself!
Mark Weber (Group Director of Client Services, BDP Media and Atticmedia) has recently posted a provocative video of his lecture on this theme, entitled “Fear and Awe of the Digital Native” – it is well worth a watch.