Archive for June 9th, 2007

Sista Hoods Spell Cyber Salvation

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digidivBoston’s plan to blanket the city with wireless Internet connections is set to pick up speed this month as companies jockey to play a role and a pilot WiFi project gets underway in a square-mile area of the Grove Hall neighborhood.

But the ambitious plan to create an “open access” wireless Internet environment citywide has hit some speed bumps, including the absence of major donors, delays in launching the pilot project, and blogger protests about Web filtering at WiFi hot spots.

Reeve would not say how much has been raised already, but she conceded that Boston has yet to line up the “key bucks” funders, such as companies, universities, or hospitals, it is hoping for.

The city has signed up about 20 families to give feedback about their ability to access city services, such as paying parking tickets or applying for food stamps, online . Some area residents have been loaned computers through a “taking technology home” program so they can take part in the program. “We do have a strong desire to address the issue of the digital divide,” Reeve said.

from the Boston Globe

The Free Wi-Fi contingent in Beantown is to be congratulated for their vision and humanitarian spirit. The Grove Hall area, where they are running their pilot project, is one of the most benighted of Boston, featuring endemic poverty, high unemployment and widespread gang activity. Just the sort of place that could really use a boost in legitimate economic activity and educational opportunity.

But is it any surprise business and academic sponsors are not lining up to throw money into this pot?

What we have here is a sort of “anti-redlining”, just as destructive, in its way, since it dooms to failure a project with the potential to improve millions of lives on both sides of the “digital divide.”

What is missing from this “Worst First” approach to technological bootstapping is that it fails to provide a Fair and Balanced access to the new technology.

In this kind of development, the haves and the have-nots need to be brought along together, hand in hand. Instead of launching in Grove Hall alone, they should have started in two spots, one from each side of the divide. Say, Grove Hall and the MIT/Kendall Sq. area. Then, maybe Chelsea (largely Latino) and Wellesley (Hillaryville). Then Mattapan and Harvard Square. You get the idea.

Furthermore, if this is a public system it would be in the public interest to encourage partnerships between the neighborhoods matched up from opposite sides of the digital divide. Make bandwidth and access speed in the high-tech areas dependent on the penetration and usage in their cyber “Sister Cities” or perhaps “Sista’ ‘Hoods”. Partnerships could expand to include workshops, joint projects, job training, and cyber-swaps of all sorts.

This way the business pull and corporate clout in the high-tech neighborhoods could find the funding the pro bono approach is missing, and at the same time pull their pre-cyber partners into the 21st century.

Two by two, like animals entering the Ark, the neighborhoods of this multi-faceted city could march into the digital age together.

Gaming the System

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olpcoxWhat will millions of poor children do with cheap laptop computers? Play games, of course. But not just any games.

The vaunted “$100 laptop” already being distributed in some countries by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child program lacks the horsepower to run flashy 3-D games like Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft. Besides, the idea of the nonprofit is to educate as well as entertain.

Game jam coordinator Mel Chua said it’s just the first of several such gatherings to produce useful software and content for the XO laptop. “We’re hoping to have music jams, movie jams, curriculum jams,” Chua said.

The software jams won’t be confined to the United States. SJ Klein One Laptop Per Child’s director of content, hopes the Needham game jam will serve as a model for software developers around the world. “We’re trying to formalize this as an idea that anybody else can easily run,” said Klein.

from the Boston Globe

If we know SJ, he’s going to make sure that these babies come loaded with the capacity to allow a group of 12-year-olds, transported to a virgin planet with nothing but natural resources, to completely recreate modern civilization, only better, and to have a blast doing it.

We are particularly encouraged by the fleeting mention of “Curriculum Jams”. All over the world, every day, creative tech-savvy teachers are creating content, on line and off, which they would be more than willing to share, given a channel and a chance to contribute.

We will be on the lookout for further updates.

Trucker Tries Unique Hood Ornament

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maninwheelchair.jpg(AP) A 21-year-old man got the ride of a lifetime when his electric wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a semitrailer and was pushed down a highway for several miles at about 50 mph.

Ben Carpenter was unharmed but was taken to a hospital as a precaution. He had been secured to his wheelchair by a seat belt. Carpenter, who has muscular dystrophy, told a television station that he thought he might not make it through the ride.

“I was probably thinking that this is going to keep going and not stop anywhere, 50 or 60 miles somewhere,” he told WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids.

Ben Carpenter’s father, Donald, told The Associated Press that his son had started to cross at an intersection Wednesday afternoon in Paw Paw, about 140 miles west of Detroit. The light changed to green while his son was in front of a semi, which started moving.

The wheelchair’s handles became lodged in the grille, the father said, and the wild ride started.

Motorists called police on their cell phones, and a pair of undercover police officers who happened to be nearby saw what was happening. They pulled the truck over and told the disbelieving driver, Donald Carpenter said.

The chair was undamaged except for losing most of the rubber on its wheels, he said.

“It’s a very bad story that ended very well,” he said. “We’re just thrilled that he’s still around.”

from CBS News

In another example of the ubiquity of cellphones producing red-hot eyewitness reporting, the photo appears to have been taken before paramedics were able to surgically detach poor Ben’s frozen fingers from his testicles.