Directing Inveneo’s ICIP Program

inveneo's goal
Inveneo ICIP in action

Back when I was Director of Geekcorps, we focused on developing appropriate technology to increase economic development. In the hot, dusty, off-grid environment of Mali, that meant developing solutions like the Desert PC.

While we only built a few for radio stations, another group, Inveneo, took the appropriate computing idea to the next level. They developed an entire product line of information and communication tools for rural and remote communities in the developing world.

But tools themselves are not enough. Technology is only truly sustainable when they are affordable and can be serviced and supported locally and the lack of qualified in-country ICT professionals is a great hindrance to technology diffusion. At Geekcorps we tried to solve this human capacity by linking international technology volunteers with local professionals for one-on-one training.

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Building Online Communities of Practice

listening to me?
Do I look official to you?

Sitting up here at the presenter table, I feel quite amazing. I am feeling a professional high, and that’s not because the presenter table is raised a few feet above the main floor. We’re still in a basement conference room, even if it’s a rather large room.

I’m all excited because this is a WSIS follow on meeting and the room is full of ICT leaders who are looking forward to my presentation. I’m about to speak on two topics of interest to this crowd: 4P Computing and online communities of practice.

The first topic, 4P Computing, or the rise of a new class of computing devices that are responsive to the performance, power, portability, and price constraints of the developing world, speaks directly to the crowd – they’re all interested in low cost user devices as that’s the stated topic of this session.

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An Underground Atlas in Geneva

atom at cern
Colliding atoms over men

Have you ever seen a supercollider up close and personal? Do you even know what one is? Today I deep inside the Swiss countryside, face-to-face with ATLAS, what soon will be the world’s largest proton supercollider. Or black hole creator if the swarms of particle physicists get their math wrong.

And right about now, fighting back jetlag while listening to George, our gracious host, explain the difference between protons and muons, and how his giant muon spectrometer will measure the deflection of muons after they pass through the Barrel Toroid, I’m in awe of the human mind.

Somehow, in the grey mush between our collective ears, we’re able not only to conceive the existence of “dark matter” and other universe-level mysteries, we’re actually able to build things like this Large Hadron Collider to smash beams of speeding, highly energetic protons together to explore them.

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The Comming Computex 4P Computing Competition

Mary Lou Jepsen with her XO laptop

Now that One Laptop Per Child has brought the 4P Computing vision into reality, and Asus proved its market with the Eee PC, expect to see an amazing plethora of form factors at this year’s Computex that ascribe to the power, performance, price, and portability required by the developing world.

But don’t take my learned opinion on the matter, just listen to Mary Lou Jepsen, inventor of the XO laptop’s dual mode screen:

So many new machines are coming out about the size of the XO laptop. I’ve heard that 50 distinct different laptop models will be introduced at Computex (in Taiwan) alone in early June. These machines use screens between 7-10″ diagonals – and have been slapped together rather quickly to capitalize on the momentum first created by One Laptop per Child.

Now she sees the new 4PC entrants being high on price, and they are. The cheapest 4PC laptops that I’ve seen are still around $450 for the base models.

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A Whole Other Kind of Taxi Time

taxi learning
Taxi, getting some learning

“Taxi! Come here Taxi!” This is what I shout on a daily basis now. I’m calling a Taxi in the morning, during the day, and even late into the night. But it’s not the taxi your thinking of.

This is not a New York Taxi story, nor a taxi experience in Macedonia, Russia, or even Bangkok, and its much better than the San Juan Taxi Mafia.

This is a story even better than Portland taxi driver perfection, this is a whole other kind of “taxi”.

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Deconstructing Downtown Washington DC

Deconstructing memories of youth

Walking to work the other morning, I was struck by an amazing sight. A pinnacle of destruction piercing the downtown skyline, another office building deconstructed in the name of development.

This office building was special to me. Back when I first moved to DC, I worked at its sister building across Connecticut Avenue and the two were the only buildings around that had windows that could open. On beautiful spring days like today, I loved listening to the hustle of commuters exiting the Metro and melodies of the musicians singing for spare change.

Over a decade later, I find myself deconstructing my own downtown DC experience. No longer am I a clueless beginner accountant in a small nonprofit. No longer to I think Washington DC is the shit. Now I’ve lived on the world stage. I’ve circumnavigated the earth twice, and I’ve even been on 60 Minutes. And I’m the better for it.

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Thomas Lee: A Married Man Now

thomas lee
View of married life

Ladies, its time to mourn. The most eligible bachelor between New York City and Beijing, via Toronto, is now officially off the market. Thomas Lee is a married man, and a lucky one at that. This weekend Thomas married his long-time love, Holly Krambeck is a sweet and swank shindig at the University Club in Washington DC.

The formal wedding ceremony, where I was Best Man and kept Thomas focused on Holly versus all the other stimuli, was followed by wedding photos at DC’s Spanish Steps. But not just any wedding photos.

Thomas, being Thomas, had the photographers take hundreds of photographs of the wedding party. His family, her family, both families, groomsmen, bridesmaids, and every conceivable combination that could include each group and Tom and Holly, or as they’re now known as “Ta-Molly”.

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May Technology Salon: Dialing for Digital Development

Mobile phones have established themselves as the communication and networking platform of choice for billions of the world’s consumers, most of whom are at the base of the global economic pyramid. Worldwide, mobile phone subscribers outnumber Internet users almost 3 to 1, with much of that gap coming from skyrocketing mobile phone use in Africa, India and China.
Yet new mobile computing platforms, such as the XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child and the Asus Eee PC promise to radically change Internet access with breakthrough portability, performance, power and price. Does “4P Computing” pose a challenge to mobile phone dominance, or does each approach blend into the other?

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