Technology, Humanitarian Aid and Change of Focus

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How do you change the focus of your thinking?

Humanitarian aid is a challenging but important topic. Today, various new approaches to aid can be seen where social innovation is challenging many traditional approaches. Behind some of these ideas is a change of focus where ideas are developed that do not support traditional areas.

  • Change of focus on finding solutions based upon providing aid that support economic, medical or  health areas.

First you  identify the areas and assumptions of  the problem, then you try to find new areas that you can use to develop aid. For example, you can donate technology.

One Laptop Per Kid

Ethiopian kids who had never seen a printed word, taught themselves how to use a tablet and how to spell  English words. The children in the village had no books, no newspapers and there were no street signs. So a common approach  would be to teach these kids to  letters and to read and. . .  Or maybe not. . .

“Hey kids, here’s this box, you can open it if you want, see ya!”

The project One Laptop Per Child provided children with Motorola Zoom tablet PC. That is, they provided the kids with boxes of tablets containing the tablets plus solar chargers. This is what happened.

“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”

The children showed creativity and determination to find out more about the things in the boxes. Kids are curious and creative, if we provide them with opportunities to learn. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kid’s tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that. “

Change of Focus

Of course there are other areas where you can search for  ideas to improve humanitarian aid.

  • Redefine  aid to developing countries as Aid for World Economics – this change of focus could lead to ideas like all the money currently spent on aid could be directed to global challenges that affect the developing countries the most, like rising fuel and food prices.
  • Aid does not have to be directed at the poor people in a country – could focus aid on improving conditions for the middle classes and support them to help the poorest in the country.
  • Aid is a short-term method – change of focus could lead to ideas that teaching people to solve problems could be a better long-term solutions

What other aspects of humanitarian aid could you focus on changing? What ideas did you get as a result?

Go here to read more about using technology to change people’s lives.

Photo “Worldtree” by Salvatore Vuono

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