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Old 09-05-2005, 10:54 AM   #1
Brian
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Crossing the Digital Divide: Mobile phones for learning

As mobile phones become the primary communication and computing devices in developing countries, a new project called MobiLed - Mobile phones in informal and formal learning in developing countries aims to use handhelds to help educate the masses.

Smartphones, multimedia phones, and internet tablets like the upcoming Nokia 770 will be used for project-based learning, problem solving, and inquiry learning using resources like Wikipedia and MediaWiki.

According to Teemu Leinonen from FLOSSE Posse, Nicholas Negroponte's Hundred Dollar Laptop project for developing countries isn't the answer for the Digital Divide.

For more information about how mobile phones are helping people in developing countries, see this article from The Economist, and this article from the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide.

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Old 09-05-2005, 11:30 AM   #2
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This is good news all the way around, and not just for developing countries. The sheer quantities of units that may flow into these locations will surely bring economies of scale and more resources focused on technology development and product design.

And my personal hope is that people this sort of door into news and education will revolutionize lives. It's great to see, even if there are some false starts along the way.

The reason I like the laptop approach in conjunction with phones is that I'd like to see people become participants in computing, not just receivers of information or connectivity. For example, with a mobile phone you can reach friends and get wikipedia information which is great, but you aren't likely to be learning to code very much like some especially bright and industrius people might try on a laptop, even if they don't have much help and information around them. Even though they may not have educational resources like school classes, there are enough resources on the internet that some might just be able to do development with a laptop.
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Old 09-05-2005, 03:19 PM   #3
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I agree that this will help drive handheld technology and portable content, and I also agree that a combination of mobile phones and computing devices like the Hundred Dollar Laptop and AMD's Personal Internet Communicator will all play important roles in bridging the digital divide. As Bob points out, a larger device with a full size monitor and keyboard is more suitable in certain applications.

I do think it is becoming pretty evident that handhelds like smartphones and wirelessly connected PDAs will soon become our primary computing devices, and portable content including media, reference, and learning aids combined with the mobile web will only get better, and it will happen soon. I also think Free and Open Source operating systems, software, and open standards will be embraced more and more as a way to ensure the democratization of technology and information.

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When I look to the future here, I look at products like treo and its successors, I imagine very small devices that will be very reliable and affordable by everybody--almost everybody, at least a large portion of the world. It will have major social impact, and I think it'll have a lot to do with freedom and democracy too."

- Jeff Hawkins, 2001 COMDEX Keynote Speech
Linux based smartphones might not be such a bad idea for Palm & PalmSource afterall.

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Old 09-06-2005, 09:36 AM   #4
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I think this is a great development! I watched a report yesterday where they showed a small village in Peru for which they built an Internet cafe as part of a broader project. Kids were tought how to use computers and the Internet, and although they weren't forced to participate, interest was strong and no available computer seat stayed empty. So if you just give them a chance, for instance by introducing smartphone handhelds to them, they will learn fast and perhaps get a chance to participate in the "modern world". (that is if they want to do that).
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