Thursday, May 29, 2008

Microsoft's alliance with OLPC, and the exit of Walter Bender!!

I have several problems with Negroponte's philosophy on the OLPC Project. At the outset, I must confess my admiration for any "disruptive" idea or technology. By that count, the OLPC is a good disruptive technology. However, Negroponte’s business model of initially insisting that poor countries purchase 1 million units at $100 a piece was a real stinker. Imagine, having to shell out $100 million for an unproven concept!! No matter how relevant and exciting the OLPC technology might have been, that is not the way to gouge poorer countries with unproven concepts and products. Poor countries have scarce resources and have the right to prioritize usage in their own unique ways.

The right way to proliferate the OLPC in these countries would have been to align with philanthropic foundations that would put up the money to deliver OLPC devices to poorer countries.

Then, this recent OLPC tie-up with M$ has come as an absolute shocker. The initial focus on the "constructionist" learning model will now vanish with M$'s focus on the dollar. Young students starting out with XP will become robotic users of mobile computing devices and applications as defined by M$, rather than develop as creative human beings capable of personalizing open source software to their unique situations through incremental or deeper changes.

I am glad Walter Bender has seen the light and moved on to Sugar Labs where he will continue with the constructionist learning philosophy.

Since Sugar is open-sourced, we would love to put it on our own hardware, the Encore Mobilis which I designed and built with a small dedicated team of engineers at Bangalore, India. We are justifiably proud of our own product but also appreciate the good features, like Sugar, in competing products. I am glad we will now be in a position to offer Sugar on the Mobilis, should we decide to, and provide our users more choice.

Good luck, Walter, and keep the open-source flag flying!! Freedom of choice is important for all of us. Let a thousand flowers bloom.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Social and Business networking study- Make your voice count!

This is the first of a kind event- where we are using the 'social web' to spread the word about how everyday people can make an incredible impact on a Sustainable Energy Future for us all. We have selected 10 videos and you need to VOTE HERE:

You can view the videos (they are inspiring!) or vote based on your cause. Winner gets $5000 prize and there is a $500 BEST RECRUITER prize. So if a friend told you about the event- make sure to give their name- $500 buys a lot of pizza and beer that can be shared with many friends!

Videos are as follows:
1. Shelby Tyne- Greenway Farms - S. Africa – Biogas Shelby teaches others how to manage farm waste and generate elec
2. Dan Robichaud - Canada - Solar Heater
Dan shows that anyone with a bit of initiative can create their own low-cost energy solution.
3. DAXU - China – Biomass
Replacing coal with biomass bricks for home cooking.
4. Practical Action - Peru - Micro Hydro
Local schools keep teachers in villages with electricity.
5. AIDS - Phillipines - Hydro pumps
Over 15,000 people now have access to clean and safe water
6. SKG - India - Biomass & Biogas
Mothers and daughters making income from selling fertilizer and making electricity
7. BioTech - India – Biomass
Keeping the streets clean and reducing the spread of disease.

8. Center for Rural Technology - Nepal - Micro Hydro
Each improved mill replacing diesel offsets 2.4 tons/yr of CO2
9. Deng Ltd - Ghana - Solar PV Panels
Maternity wards now benefit from reliable lighting and refridgeration for vaccines.
10. SEEDS -Sri Lanka - Micro financing for Solar
Financing of over 52,000 solar home systems in rural areas of Sri Lanka

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Social Mission as Strategy

It is becoming quite popular these days for a non-profit to position itself as a business- to show streamlined operations for example. But often a non-profit is missing a strategic view of its social return on investment. It is possible to go one sep further - have the social mission be the strategy for the company. Check my article in WITI magazine for three case studies where social mission has become a differentiating and competitive strategy for the business. They are:
Southwest Creations Collaborative, a 501c3 non-profit enterprise in New Mexico, integrates a successful contract sewing and handwork business with a social mission to enhance dignity in the lives of families. Website :
Digital Equalizer, a flagship program of the American India Foundation, is charted with bridging the digital divide by taking advantage of computer and internet technology to engage, educate, enrich and empower India’s underserved children. Website:
Vamos Blogar (Let’s Blog!), a Reuters Digital Vision Project at Stanford University, is aimed at improving employability of at-risk youth in Brazil through an innovative literacy curriculum based on multimedia web logs. Website :