A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

$100 Laptop Enters Testing Phase

Nicholas Negroponte’s vision to give every child in the developing nations a laptop is closer than ever to becoming reality. The Bangkok Post reported last week that testing of the $100 Laptop (part of the One Laptop Per Child program) is set to begin in Egypt, Nigeria, India, China, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina. The plan is to eventually sell the laptop to governments who will issue it to needy schoolchildren.

The One Laptop Per Child initiative was announced by Negroponte at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. The laptop has been designed to be Linux-based with a dual-mode display with four USB ports built into it. It is said to have a 500 MHz processor, 128MB of DRAM and 500 MB of Flash memory. The machine is cased in virtually indestructible hard plastic and has been redesigned to be pull string-powered generator rather than the hand-cranked generator which was a feature of the original prototype. Below is the first video demonstration of the working laptop.

The project has been criticized by Bill Gates, who was reported to have mocked the design of the laptop (specifically the size and the hand crank feature) at a Microsoft Government Leaders Forum earlier this year.

Blogs from Lebanon

The recent tragedy of war in Lebanon has spurred Americans, as well as people from lebis.gifIsrael and Lebanon, to turn to the Internet for support.  Groups of bloggers are publishing their struggles online.  These posts serve many purposes: providing a point of contact with family and friends, keeping others informed about what exactly is going on in daily life in the Middle East, and giving people from all over the world an accurate picture of the daily struggle faced by those in Lebanon and Israel.

The Lebanese Blogger Forum aggregates many individual blogs written both from and about Lebanon.  The blog From Fort Wayne to Beirut brings the war in Lebanon close to home, as it is written by an American University student who, in the middle of a study abroad program in Lebanon, found herself stranded with many other students in the violence of Beirut. The author of this blog has since made it back home to the US safely, and has dedicated her blog to spreading word about how the public can get involved and help the cause for peace.

CNN also did a short piece on July 22, called “Lebanon Blogger” about a Canadian-raised lebblog.gifLebanese young man living near Beiruit who is currently blogging about his take on the war in Lebanon.  Described by CNN as the “war in Lebanon, unfiltered”, Bassem Mazloum’s blog, “Lebanon Israeli Crisis”, provides a brutally honest view of the war from someone faced with the daily struggle of surviving in a war-torn country.

The war in Lebanon has also made it to YouTube.  Just by doing a quick search of “Lebanon war”, some 500 results came up, many of which are homemade videos created by people living through the war.

These blogs and videos provide personal insight to the war in Lebanon that is unusual to find among the jumble of propagandized stories published by the mainstream press.  It is quite remarkable how these bloggers and others have the frame of mind to write about and publish articles about their experiences even in such a chaotic time.  Despite the somber topic of these blogs and videos, this provides yet another example of how the Internet has changed the way people get news and the way they communicate with one another, even in a time of war.

Proof that the Internet is Fantastic: Social Networks for Pets

There are two social networking sites for dogs: Dogster and Pawspot. And one for cats: Catster. Below is a pic of Yuki, a boxer who is the second most popular dog on Dogster with over 3,000 friends.

A little web wisdom…

Gary's article on how communicators can adapt traditional PR strategies to the online environment has been published in Communique , a magazine devoted to healthcare marketing. You can find the article here.

Microfinancing online

Over the past few years, microfinancing has grown in popularity with a number of internationally focused entrepreneurs and international development workers. The concept of microfinance was introduced by Dr. Muhammad Yunas, who began an experiment in Bangladesh in the mid 1970′s. The professor gave a group of 42 women only $27 to start a bamboo chairmaking operation.  He found that that $27 allowed the women to take care of themselves and their families, sell their chairs and repay their loans. In the early 1980s, Dr. Yunas began the Grameen Bank, which extended small loans (typically less than $300) to the poorest of the poor to help them onto the road of self-sustainability.  The loan repayment rate is around 98% and the bank is now hugely successful, it’s worth having been estimated at nearly $2.5 billion. Grameen’s operations have been modeled by a number of similar microfinancing institutions in a number of other countries, including Nepal, India, Norway and even in the US.

Twenty-eight years after Dr. Yunas first loaned the $27 to the bamboo chair operation, a staff member of the Village Enterprise Fund, Jessica Flannery, along with her filmmaker husband, Matthew, learned that they could use Paypal to essentially wire loans to rural communities through a field operation volunteer who was with the Village Enterprise Fund. The couple worked tirelessly to figure out how they could get involved in microfinancing. They came up with this: an Internet driven microfinancing operation they named Kiva. (more…)