Re: Proposing the Includer to Google.org
I've been thinking about your observations. You're right that we shouldn't emphasise the Includer as a device or concentrate on it being yet another low-cost computer project. There could be Includers at all 'price-points', some affordable by individual user/owners and some bought for them by governments, schools, employers, NGOs, etc. It's a bit like mobile phones or computers. It's not for us to dictate the price. The market or organizations will decide.
If the Includer has some benefits compared with buying a laptop, then people will use it. That isn't neccesarily price, it could be ultra-low power, ruggedness, being assembled as a system from local parts to save shipping, etc. Any of those could provide a Raison d'etre for it, as a device.
Okay, so instead of concentrating on the Includer as a device - Minciu Sodas's strength is in mobilising large numbers of people. I've thought about "What specific piece of work can we do for Google.org that makes good use of our people?".
To fit in with one of Google.org's aims, to provide easier access to government information to citizens, to improve government services, I've written this new Worknets section...
It's an idea that's specific and concrete, to make government information about public services available via email auto-responders, and more specifically via GMail, to the offline world. It includes the idea of having a GMail Mail Server to login into, on each Includer (or laptop). This fits in with your idea, Andrius, of 'How can we extend Google's API or services to the offline world?'. If we start with this one example of GMail, then other services could follow.
Please read the Worknets section for details.
Also, could I ask you to re-size your slides a little, so that the text is readable without scrolling left-right, and maybe mention on slide 1 that people can share a flash-drive, so they don't all have to go to the cyber cafe in person (if that's not getting too detailed)? It's to show that we're doing something new. Taking a flash drive to a cafe is something many people do already.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Peter Burgess" <peterbNYC@...> wrote:
> Dear Ricardo and Andrius
> I wish you well with your efforts to contact the decision makers at
> Google and Yahoo, and any or all of the other big name and well
> resourced organizations.
> Tr-Ac-Net has made some progress in the past ... but not enough to get
> any funding so far. Tow of the Tr-Ac-Net initiatives are central to
> what both Google (Dr. Brilliant) and the Gates Foundation have
> indicated are important themes of their work, notably performance
> metrics and health. Our work with Community Impact Accountancy
> (CIA)has a huge potential to make performance metrics powerful,
> universal and affordable, and thus make accountability practical, and
> our work with the integrated malaria management consortium (IMMC)could
> improve malaria control cost effectiveness by an order of magnitude.
> I am hopeful ... but not holding my breath. Most people, even the
> employees of well meaning organizations, are risk averse, so flowing
> resources down a proven path is likely to be the way the money goes.
> In any event, however, best wishes.
> If either CIA or IMMC can be helpful in your efforts, please let me
> know and tell me how I might help.
> Peter Burgess
> The Transparency and Accountability Network: Tr-Ac-Net in New York
> Community Impact Accountancy (CIA)
> Integrated Malaria Management Consortium (IMMC)
> The Tr-Ac-Net blogs ... start at http://tracnetvision.blogspot.com
> 917 432 1191 or 212 772 6918 peterbnyc@...
> On Tue, Jun 10, 2008 at 5:24 AM, ms@... wrote:
> > Ricardo,
> > Thank you for your astute observations about how to present the Includer
> > http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?PresentingTheIncluderIdeaToGoogle
> > I will disagree with you on some matters of emphasis, although I find your
> > thinking very helpful and I share your points below.
> > Friday I had lunch with Charles Warren who works at Google. Saturday I
> > had lunch with Christian Crumlish who works at Yahoo! I know both of them
> > through Jerry Michalski, who is priceless.
> > Charles suggested that I write a one page email about the Includer that he
> > could send to Google.org which is the philanthropic arm of Google.com, in
> > particular, for their initiative "Inform and Empower to Improve Public
> > Services". http://www.google.org/inform.html This is an initiative to
> > help citizens get information so they could get better service from their
> > governments. I think the Includer and our Minciu Sodas laboratory in
> > general can help people and their wishes and ideas be heard better and so
> > I call my presentation "Includers - Online Sharing of Offline Caring".
> > Charles noted that Google.org and Google.com do talk which means that the
> > social and business aspects can support each other rather than rule each
> > other out. However, the first interest would be on the social side. So I
> > think it's good to emphasize those strengths of our lab, that we are
> > actually able to help our participants.
> > Christian and I talked and I shared my conclusion that for a good
> > relationship with a client, it's important for our lab that the money be
> > understood as 10% or less than the assets that they and we are putting in.
> > Which is to say, if either Google or Yahoo! had five employees who
> > personally cared about the Includer and our lab, then we would be on solid
> > ground, especially if it somehow related to their personal visions.
> > Otherwise, the relationship will be too flimsy.
> > Indeed, even in these rather benevolent organizations, people who are
> > working there can feel a lack of control. They can work on projects that
> > end up getting axed for reasons that may not even be good. There is a
> > real need to organize the independent thinkers and encourage their
> > leadership. The likely leaders are the ones who are not afraid to lose
> > their jobs, and then there is a whole spectrum of people who can take
> > larger or smaller risks. If our lab could find five champions in such a
> > company, then there will always be ways to justify working with us. Our
> > projects have enormous potential and it's not a matter of convicing the
> > company, it's actually a matter of finding a handful of people within the
> > company who might be supportive.
> > Christian agreed to champion our efforts and in the next two weeks try to
> > find another person who I could meet and who might likewise be interested
> > in our lab. Also, we agreed that a good goal for one year would be to
> > find ten independent thinkers in Yahoo! and/or Google who might like to
> > support each other as such and might champion our lab. Then it seems
> > likely that we might find some resources for our work.
> > These are some of the reasons why I'm emphasizing the social value of our
> > laboratory and not simply the Includers. There are business reasons as
> > well. I'm interested in your analysis of the OLPC, which I alert also to
> > Edward Cherlin. My personal feeling is that it's counterproductive to
> > focus on the low price (such as 100 USD) because that positions it as a
> > "product", and one that ever loses value. Instead, I want to emphasize
> > the ever increasing value of the people, as assets to invest in, and who
> > make the device valuable (a thoughtfully designed Includer could be more
> > useful than a laptop) or even unnecessary, because our lab's network is
> > our biggest asset. (It's not the software that makes Facebook valuable, or
> > even Google or Yahoo!) The business opportunity is not so much in selling
> > devices to poor people but rather in integrating poor people into a
> > wealthy economy. Another weakness of OLPC which you note - the
> > overselling of the constructivist education - is I think rather a case
> > where they did not have the energy to place the emphasis on actually
> > exploring and advancing such education (and I think Edward Cherlin is
> > helping address that). I believe that the value of supporting and linking
> > creative teachers both in the developed and developing worlds is much
> > greater than the value of the laptops themselves or even the value of
> > supporting the students. We need to free teachers to be able to teach as
> > they think best, and first of all, to teach themselves and each other, so
> > they can be enlightened people. Ricardo, your comments are very
> > thoughtful and that is why I wanted to be sure at least to respond, and I
> > may drift over to you on various points over time.
> > I'm presenting the basic points about the Includer in terms of six "visual
> > thinking" slides. I have the first two up at:
> > http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?PresentingTheIncluderIdeaToGoogle
> > 1) We're bridging the online and offline worlds. (I'm framing our
> > relationship in terms of mutuality, that we're helping each other, it's
> > not just one-way.)
> > 2) 1 billion people can walk to the Internet. (I give the logic of
> > shuttling between an Internet cafe and an offline computer.)
> > 3) Extend online services to the offline world. (I will propose that
> > companies contribute to a new interface that we will build for offline
> > computers.)
> > 4) Includers are ideal offline devices. (I will note the ideal device
> > that this leads to, what we want it to do, what it will be like, and the
> > variants we envisage.)
> > 5) 100 thoughtful people create 1 harmony. (I will note our Pyramid of
> > Peace as an example of what citizens can do working together.)
> > 6) Invest in people who care to think. (I will conclude with the
> > principles by which our laboratory filters in such wonderful participants
> > and note their value and potential.)
> > Ricardo, thank you for your help and I look forward to your comments and
> > ideas! I will try to write the other 4 slides tomorrow and send them to
> > Charles.
> > Andrius
> > Andrius Kulikauskas
> > Minciu Sodas
> > http://www.ms.lt
> > ms@...
> > +1 312 618 3345
> > -----------------------------
> > # Emphasise what Google gets out of any collaboration - One way to 'Bridge
> > the Digital Divide', attracting millions/billions more users for their
> > services, who may upgrade to internet PCs later, knowledge of local
> > conditions, introductions to many other potential partners, ideas,
> > expansion of their services to speakers of African languages (with the
> > number of speakers around 3 to 15 million for each language, like some US
> > states or small European countries).
> > # 'Serving and organising independent thinkers', with 'daily writing', is
> > a worthwhile objective, but Google is a commercial company and would most
> > likely be interested in the Includer's multiplicity of uses, like a PC,
> > not a single purpose. To draw a comparison with the OLPC project, it
> > attracted many critics, just because they over-emphasised and repeated
> > their 'constructionist learning' agenda until people got tired of it.
> > People liked the laptop as a product, but didn't see why it needed an
> > ideology to go with it. They just wanted to be free to use it however they
> > wished, even if that means for conventional instructional teaching. The
> > Includer as a device or class of devices lets the 4 Billion people without
> > internet access take part in almost all the same activities as the 2
> > Billion people that have internet access already. It doesn't place any
> > restrictions on what you could use it for.
> > # The Includer project lets people join virtual communities and
> > discussions, for any subject that interests them.
> > # Like a PC, it lets people access a wide range of services (email,
> > forums, uploading web-pages, commercial services like printing, mail order
> > shopping, etc)
> > # It may allow people to take part in online/offline knowledge-work,
> > perhaps as part of a team.
> > # Is the Includer a Model of Computer or a Class of Devices?
> > # A key requirement is that The Includer must have USB Host Capability, so
> > it is the heart of a computer systsem like a PC or Laptop, able to
> > read/write files to Flash Drives. In a minimal system, the only
> > peripherals may be a flash-drive as a hard disk substitute and another
> > flash-drive for Sneakernet communication. If the system is expanded, it
> > could control peripherals, like a printer or a GPRS phone for internet
> > access. It isn't a slave, peripheral device. The usefulness of many
> > electronic items, such as PDAs and Mobile Phones, is crippled because they
> > are considered slave-devices to a PC. You can't get files in/out of them
> > without owning a $600 PC or Laptop, or a long walk to a cyber cafe. USB
> > Host capability could be achieved by using a bi-directional USB OTG (On
> > The Go) interface, where a device can be a master or slave at different
> > times when 2 devices communicate. Some microprocessors have a built in USB
> > OTG interface.
> > # USB Host lets the Includer a) Use the cheapest possible USB add-on
> > devices, such as USB PC Keyboards and/or mouse for just a few dollars, b)
> > Use keyboards etc that are already present in the user's country, to
> > reduce shipping costs.
> > # Some designs of Includer can be built from locally available parts, plus
> > shipped-in light-weight parts.
> > # Please don't overemphasise 'job creation'. That's often a sign of
> > mixed-purposes and a project doomed to make a loss, such as building a car
> > factory in an area of high uneployment, miles away from component
> > suppliers. Meetings can get side-tracked into one unimportant aspect and
> > waste time, if opinion is divided on whether something is a good idea.
> > # We need to state clearly who would pay to buy each Includer, the user or
> > someone else (government, NGO, etc). It should be individuals, so we don't
> > need one organizations approval before selling any at all. If the user is
> > to buy their own Includer, it needs to be down at 'calculator-like
> > prices'. Sometimes, Andrius, you mention that a price of $500 or $1000
> > would be justified for the Includer, because of what it allows people to
> > do. Although it's true that $500/$1000 would be justified if someone other
> > than the user is paying for it, if we decide that the user will pay for
> > each Includer, putting forward this $500/$1000 argument would probably
> > just cause confusion. Google might say "So what's new? Why bother doing
> > the Includer project at all, when you can buy an Asus Eee laptop right now
> > for $400?". I think "A device at calculator-like prices", "Reducing the
> > barriers to entry to as near-zero as possible" would be a more effective
> > way to present it. Any thoughts?
> > # Electrical Power - We can tell/remind Google of the appalling state of
> > the electrical supply system in many parts of Africa. So, the Includer
> > needs to use re-chargeable batteries, as a minimum run for the same time
> > as a mobile phone and ideally go for hundreds of hours between charges,
> > like a calculator. It could use a non-backlit display, for example.
> > # The telephone system in Africa - We can tell/remind Google of the fact
> > that most people use mobile phones in Africa, and the phone companies have
> > no interest in maintaining or installing a landline, copper-wire telephone
> > system. In some places, they are ripping copper wires out. So, for many
> > people, DSL/ADSL broadband will never happen. On the plus side, faster
> > mobile phone services like GPRS/EDGE and HSDPA are already available in
> > major cities.
> > # Many projects run by US/European teams (Open Source or Companies) start
> > by thinking of Designs for products to be used in developing countries.
> > Maybe a more important thing is put more emphasis on the earlier phases,
> > and send in 'Requirements Capture Teams', to find out what people really
> > need, and what conditions/constraints exist on the ground (power,
> > communication (such as mobile-phone coverage or standards sometimes being
> > better, not worse than you would expect), transport, cost, weather
> > (stopping people walking/travelling to a cyber-cafe, etc. Minciu Sodas can
> > help, we have a lot of contacts to find the current situation in
> > urban/rural areas.
> > # Multiple designs of Includer.
> > # Sneakernet doesn't just mean one person taking a flash drive to/from a
> > cyber cafe for their own files. A single $10 1GB flash drive or $1 700MB
> > Re-writeable CD can serve a whole community. A page of text, for email
> > etc, is only 5 or 10K Bytes, so a flash-drive or CD can carry thousands of
> > files for hundreds of people. This means any labour or transport costs are
> > shared between many people, reducing the on-going communication-cost per
> > person to almost zero. It's an organised communication service, with a
> > seperation between users and operators, like internet-clients and ISPs.
> > The user can stay at home and just use it to send/receive files and
> > messages. He/she doesn't have to worry how it works, or do the work of
> > transporting flash-drives. A Sneakernet could be general-purpose and serve
> > all kinds of devices, such as PCs, Laptops, PDAs and Includers used
> > offline, Memory Cards to/from digital cameras, etc.
> > # The Includer needs to be the cheapest possible, entry-level device, not
> > made unneccessarily expensive by 'sugar-coating' it with too many
> > features. However, the USB Host interface means it can be expanded into a
> > very sophisticated system if desired, using a wide range of standard PC
> > and Laptop peripherals. These will need a mainstream operating system,
> > that software drivers have been written for, such as Embedded Linux (Free)
> > or Windows Mobile ($3).
> > # The applications, such as a text-editor and an email-editor could run on
> > top of a Java Virtual Machine, on top of the chosen Operating System.
> > Hence, the same applications could run on all Includer models, without
> > re-compiling from source.