Rant: Computers for Children Who Need Food, Shelter and Security
Does this not all sound like yet another case of misguided charity? This is a reality, folks. Four hundred dollars gets you a laptop and sends a laptop to a child in a poor underdeveloped third-world nation. What a misplaced sense of charitable donations this is!
These laptops are going to children in countries with broken infrastructures and without the basic necessities of a modern civilization: running water, indoor plumbing, proper sewage disposal and an equitable food distribution network. Although it was ultimately a failure, I prefer the misguided charity of Bob Geldof and his pop culture friends in the 1980s. At least they were trying to feed the children. Unfortunately, the country they were trying to feed was under the jackbooted control of territorial warlords who regulated the transportation of anything from ports of entry to the country's interior. A large portion of the food purchased and delivered through Geldof's charities rotted on the dock because nobody could get it safely to the people who desperately needed it.
Now we have a group of misguided computer enthusiasts who believe that access to the internet and email will solve all the world's ills. If these computers actually get to the children, what will they do with them? How many Americans have set up losing money-making websites here in the US only to be disappointed that their financial status has not improved? The US may be an information economy, but most of the rest of the world still revolves around commerce in the basics of life: food, water, shelter, clothing. No amount of information will possibly help these children. You can't eat information. Information won't keep you warm on a cold night. Information won't keep the rains out.
Come on, people, let's get it together. Save your $400 and help these people find a way to rebuild their infrastructure. Give them sewers to wash away their waste and prevent disease. Negotiate a settlement with the warlords that gives up control of the infrastructure to the people who actually use it. Steve Miller had the right idea:
"Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, oh, there's a solution." (Fly Like An Eagle, 1976)
Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs and help satisfy these basic ones before moving on to luxuries such as personal computers, email and internet access. It is all too easy to think that simply by giving away something that is not of real value to us we are doing something to help others. This anonymity permits us to give inferior products and service while still believing that we are doing something of worth. Access to education and information may seem like a worthy thing, but when so many of theses computer's recipients are going home to unclean, unhealthy living conditions with little food, inadequate sewage control and little or no health care, this access to education and information seems useless and misplaced. My $.02 worth.