Sunday, December 09, 2007


The current issue of WORLDVIEW, the magazine of the National Peace Corps Association contains a message from President Kevin Quigley concerning "More Peace Corps," a plan to exert influence on presidential candidates--and other elected officials--to allocate more resources to the Peace Corps, desperately needed now at a time when the U.S. has alienated itself so widely. Quigley reminds us that JFK's plan for the Peace Corps quixotically envisioned a million volunteers per decade. To date, close to 200,000 volunteers have served. That's quite a few, but there could be far more, judging from the number clamoring to join and the number of countries requesting more help.
The same issue contains several articles on how technology is slowly changing the developing world. Cell phones are helping Indian fishermen market their catch and Maasai herdsmen sell their cattle. Sam Goldman, a former PC volunteer in Benin, is working on an LED light that could replace the potentially dangerous and expensive kerosene lamps used so universally in the developing world. And Wayan Vota provides an update on the lagging "One Child, One Computer" movement, Nicholas Negroponte's scheme to get cheap computers in the hands of students in developing countries. Here are answers to frequently asked question about the project.
Negroponte is facing several problems with this ambitious scheme. The cost of the computer is roughly twice what he was hoping for; thus, the "Buy one, give one" plan, which encourages people to spend $400 to own one and donate one. The problem there is that these computers are specifically designed for children who can work with others owning the same hardware and software. There's likely to be little demand for them in homes with enough money to make such a donation. Another issue is that while some countries (Peru, Brazil) have expressed an interest in purchasing at least some, the idea hasn't caught on in a cost-effective way. Educators need to be convinced that the "constructed learning" that the computers are designed for is a viable approach because it poses a radical change from a more traditional teacher-centered classroom.
One way to interest schools and communities in the so-called XO-1 is to give them to Peace Corps volunteers to distribute and use in their classrooms. That would be a way to both make the technology available and to ensure that it is used well.

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