source : http://www.linuxhaxor.net/2008/10/12/how-linux-can-help-reduce-poverty/

Poverty is a global problem, which is not limited to third world developing countries. Even mature developed nations like United States has ~18% poverty rate. There are many reasons and causes of poverty, which includes but not limited to, natural disasters, war, disease, politics, religion, and over-population and so on and so forth. Some of these causes are beyond our control while others are beyond our means. There is no single factor that can totally eliminate poverty, even the almighty latest Linux Kernel release; but many ideas and anti-poverty initiative can come together to reduce the causes of poverty.
What can Linux do?

women

There is a popular saying that goes like; “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to use a cheap Linux powered computer and you have fed him for a lifetime” (something to that effect). OLPC is such a program whose mission is “..to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.” Based on Fedora, there is an estimated 550,000 XO laptops sold in 23 countries since the program started. While it’s too early to say if the mission is a success, we can only see the effect of this program a decade or so from now when this generation of XO laptop users grow up. There are other large scale adoptions of Linux in Education Institute:

  • Government officials of Kerala, use only free software, running on the Linux platform, for computer education, starting with the 2,650 government and government-aided high schools.
  • In Indiana, 22,000 students has access to Linux Workstations at their high schools.
  • In Germany, 560,000 students and school stuff migrate to Linux.
  • By 2009 all computers in Russian schools are to be run on Linux.
  • One of India’s 28 states plans to distribute 100,000 Linux laptops to students.

Price is right.

Linux can also play a crucial role in government offices and administration as they can be easily deployed with very low-powered computers, thus bringing the cost of computers within their reach. Especially in third-world developing nations, this can play a vital role as an increase number to talented work force can finally afford to compete with the help of low-cost, “legal” software and operating system. There are several large-scale adoptions of Linux powered computers by government in many countries:

  • In January 2006, law in Venezuela went into effect, mandating a two year transition to open source in all public agencies.
  • The Federal Employment Office of Germany has migrated 13,000 public workstations to OpenSuse.

Long way to go.

While these examples are very little compare to the amount of work that is needed to help empower local government and educate children in poor nations by adopting Linux and open source software. This is a step towards the right direction to help reduce poverty, even by a very small amount, with the help of Linux.

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Currently the ICT4DEV working group blog and mailing list has focused on the ideas of software.  However, hardware is the initial step in the word of ICT in development.  Recently I visited a Boot Camp held in Cambodia. A ‘ Boot Camp’ allows for anyone to share and express ideas concerning the ICT industry.

I came across a demonstration by the Open Insititute on low cost computing.  The idea was to research the use of a portable / low power consuming computer that could be deployed in isolated areas within Cambodia.

Four different scenarios were researched;

Brief Description of two scenarios.

Scenario 1 : A low powered, portable but secure solution for Windows and Linux.
Scenario 2 :  A central computer with multiple users over multiple monitors and keyboards.

One solution was available for under 300 USD running under 9 Watts.

The conclusions of the experiements can be found here on a wiki.

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A recent report indicated how ICT has become an important development in the past decade for developing nations.  Indicating the economic successes from countries such as India and China as well as the social impacts with distant leaning becoming more popular.

ICT is a broad and expansive concept featuring an array of different ideas.  The idea’s of previous mistakes such as donating old and damaged computers, telephone exchanges and tractors are being challenged.

The conclusions are :-

  • ICT components are kept simple, relevant, practical and local;
  • ICT practitioners are involved in the design of ICT strategies;
  • significant community involvement;
  • new solutions are built on what is already in place;
  • there is a focus on training to ensure success and sustainability.
  • there is a plan in place to replicate and scale up the project if it is successful.

The report is a brief introduction on the ideas of ICT within poverty; however the above highlighted points are essential in the progress of ICT within the development industry.

Simplicity is the key in a complicated world of jargon and expensive widgets.

An example of ICT fighting poverty.

Please click here for the report.

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Mobile Advocacy

Tactical Tech specialises in strengthening technology within development organisations. They are currently releasing a range of FOSS (free open source software) specifically designed for the NGO sector.

Mobiles In a Box - Tools and Tactics for mobile Advocacy

The increase of mobile phone use within the development world has provided NGO and development workers with new ways with communicating with the community. The use of the mobile phone in a development context has many possibilities such as disaster management, distant learning, reporting or even another way of accessing media.

Tatical Tech have developed a complete software solution for small organisations.

The toolkit includes :-

  • Tactics and case studies for using mobile phones in advocacy, including: Outreach and Participation, Resourcing Advocacy, People’s Media, Coordinating and Mobilising
  • Tips on working with mobile phones, including sections on security and privacy issues, and budgeting and planning.
  • How-to guides to get started with mobile advocacy, such as: how to create ringtones, how to set up a bulk SMS service, how to update your blog from your mobile phone.
  • A selection of tried and tested tools and services

The software will be available from October

For more information Please go here

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