Tuesday 27th February, 2007

 

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Red signals stop, think

Technology has done much to separate people, dividing knowledge workers from the computer clueless, opening the doors to limitless knowledge for those with access and leaving those without access further and further behind.

Two initiatives that use technology strive to close that gap, one focused on bringing technology to children who might not otherwise have access to a computer; the other leveraging high tech style and fashion to raise money for those who have been left behind.

Project Red

There have been pink iPods and almost mauve iPods, but until U2’s Bono sat down with Apple’s Steve Jobs to discuss his fund-raising project, there had never been an unequivocally red iPod.

Now there is, and it’s part of an effort dubbed (Product) Red headed by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa (Data), an activist organisation that focuses on those issues to create a boutique sub-brand of products that will funnel funds into projects that will bring a positive focus on Africa.

Among those issues are killing diseases and the fund supports the Global Fund to Fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. But the effort also aims to build the capabilities of the people of the subcontinent by developing trade initiatives that fall under the umbrella of Product Red.

Apple’s vivid red iPod is actually one of the least committed products in the project, the computer company setting aside just ten per cent of the proceeds of the product.

Motorola’s special edition red Razr products commit 50 per cent of proceeds to Project Red, while the Gap sells a special edition T-shirt made in Lesotho from local cotton and Converse offers a Chuck Taylor sneaker made from African mud cloth which buyers can customise on purchase.

The UK Independent has given three editions over to celebrity editors and 50 per cent of revenues from them to the project. Other supporters include Amex, who offer a red credit card and Giorgio Armani.

OLPC

Project Red is part of a new initiative to change the way that help is delivered to challenged economies.

Another is the One laptop per child (OLPC) project, spearheaded by Nicholas Negroponte, former chairman of MIT’s Media Lab.

The computer, designed to be hardy electronic tool for children with a cost of US$100.

The laptop, powered by an AMD Geode GX500 chip, sports a special dual-mode LCD screen that can work in black and white and colour modes, three USB ports, WiFi connectivity and runs Fedora Linux on 128MB of RAM, there is no hard drive; software and documents are stored on 512MB of flash memory.

The laptop, dubbed the XO-1, isn’t designed for brute power, emphasising ruggedness, portability and utility. The laptop’s charging system is being built to adjust to a wide range of potential power sources (early demonstrations of the device showed a hand crank) and multiple devices can form a networked “mesh.”

Countries that have signed up for the project include Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Thailand and Uruguay. Nigeria was the first country to buy one million of the devices.

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