[LINK] $100 laptop could sell to public

Danny Yee danny at anatomy.usyd.edu.au
Wed Jan 17 14:58:35 AEDT 2007

Stewart Fist wrote:
> In places like Africa, philanthropic support for different projects are
> entirely fungible.  

This isn't true.  Different NGOs have very different charters:
you won't see MSF funding agriculture projects, for example, and
if WWF funds a health project it will be a an accompaniment to
a conservation project.  And it's the same with state resources:
different departments and sectors compete for funding and attention
and argue over legislation.

There's no fundamental difference between Australia and Africa in this
regard, and insisting that there is or should be is neo-colonialism.
If it's unethical to do charity work in Kenya that isn't directly
helping people who are actually hungry or homeless or sick or
illiterate, then it's just as unethical to give money to any charity
in Australia not dealing with the homeless and hungry and sick and
illiterate -- and check out the state of indigenous health if you
think we don't have any problems here.

> And the problems are so obviously at the base public
> health and survival level, that, to even consider spending good money on
> laptops for every child, is patently ridiculous.

So you'd rather the government spent the money on weapons instead
of laptops?  If everything is fungible, that's just as sensible a
comparison to make, and by that standard the OLPC is a 100% no-brainer
great idea.  (If we assume a "laptop project" is to be funded out
of general revenue, then in many poor countries that would mean less
than 1% of the money is being taken from public health and over 50%
of it is being taken from military spending.)

And again, I stress that both access to information and the ability
to lobby for entitlements is critical for public health.  In many
countries, the problem with public health systems is less how much
funding it gets than how little of that actually reaches the people who
need it.  Anything that improves their ability to pressure governments
to improve this may be far more signficant than just pushing more
money into the existing system.

And projects like OLPC are like panda conservation projects.  From no
biological cost-benefit perspective does it make any sense to devote
the amount of resources to pandas that they get.  But they
	1) attract publicity that more important projects wouldn't get
	2) attract funding that less charismatic projects won't get
	3) have spill-over effects in other areas
	4) are a positive contribution to the world

Of course, if it were up to me I would have started with the
experience of projects deploying "conventional" hardware to network
local organisations, and tried to address known problems that might
be fixed by hardware innovation...

  http://dannyreviews.com/ - over nine hundred book reviews
  http://danny.oz.au/ - civil liberties, travel tales, blog

More information about the Link mailing list