Can Inequality Fuel Revolutions?

Since the beginning of the year, we've been bearing witness to popular uprisings across the world: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Malawi, Gabon, Uganda, Chile... What drives this unrest? What is it that pushes people to take the streets? We examine the underpinnings of these "revolutions".

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G-20 and the World’s Poor

Poor countries did not create the crisis, but they are bearing of the brunt of its human toll.   In countries where social safety nets are non-existent, even a modest economic decline puts lives in the balance.  The World Bank estimates that if the financial crisis is not brought to heel soon, 1.4 million to 2.8 million children in the developing world will die of malnutrition in the next six years.

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Founder of One Laptop Per Child Responds

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, reponded in the comment section of a post in which Alanna suggested that the "dream of one laptop per child is over."  Here is Negroponte's comment in full.  (NB: Negroponte says this is a "UN site." It is not.)      UPDATE:  Some readers are having trouble seeing comments on Alanna's post.  I've copied those comments to end of these posts.  We truly appreciate alternative perspectives on this question and enjoy the debate. 

The dream is not over. When OLPC started there were no low cost laptops. We created the category less than four years ago and it now represents almost one third of the world production of latops. I am not aware of too many technologies that have gone from “impossible” to such wide adoption.

The million laptops, our little green ones, that are in the hands of children, are currently in 19 languages and 31 countries. Another million are on their way. Not bad. But even better, these countries include Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, as well as places like the West Bank (and next month Gaza). Even better, eh?

I suggest you look more carefully at Uruguay, Peru and Rwanda. In the case of Uruguay, every child has one. That is pretty amazing. Peru is headed there. Rwanda too. In fact, we have moved our learning group (as of early June) to Kigali perminently, to be in the field and get the kind of feedback you claim we ignore.

Anyway. I do not normally answer press and blogs, because we would spend all our time with words, not actions in the field But you are on a UN site and the UN is our partner. Check out Kofi Annan’s words -- they have been fulfilled. Has it been harder than I expected? Yes. But do you know why? It is not due to what I had anticipated, things like corruption and logistics. It has been due to commercial interests and press, stories like yours.

As a small non-profit, humanitarian organization, it is hard to battle giants who view children as a market, not a mission, and have other agendas. In spite of all that, the change is huge. I no longer hear people arguing against “one laptop per child” as a concept. The issue is purely a matter of funding and there are many ways to do that. Wait and see.

Nicholas Negroponte

More comments below the fold.