Thursday, November 17, 2005

United Nations' Newest Folly

The UN's latest idea to bridge the technology gap in undeveloped countries is a hand-cranked laptop computer.

The $100 device was shown in the NY Times today with a technologically savvy Kofi Anan bravely cranking the device at about 100rpm so he could watch a DVD, perhaps Out of Africa. The computer was developed by MIT and Annan expressed hope that the free computers would help spur learning in poor countries.

This little project has to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the UN lives only in its own world. A place far removed from the reality where the rest of the world resides. I think the second you step through the gates at UN headquarters you are instantly transported into an entirely different dimension where daily worries of hunger, war and sickness don't exist.

MIT said it does not plan to sell the laptops, but will only distribute them through large government programs. I have no idea whether the UN intends to pursue this little project, but before it decides to sink a few billion dollars into the venture let's hope these questions are answered first:

1. How many innoculations would $100 buy? After all a person dying of typhoid is not likely to need a computer.

2. How many teachers could be hired with the money? Computers do not educate, people do.

3. What good is a computer without the Internet? Are there enough Starbucks outlets in Rwanda so the average Tutsi tribesman will have access to a wireless network

4. Will the average Sudanese tribesman use the laptop as a club to defend himself agains the local warring factions instead of finding hard core pornography.

5. Finally, what is the average kick back the UN official in charge of the distribution program can expect.

Where are the UN's priorities. You have the vast majority of Africa dealing with an AIDS epidemic, Avian flu outbreaks across Asia, various Muslim groups attempting to kill everyone all across the globe and yet the UN's leader is wasting time with a device that will help none of the above affected groups.


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