I’m attending a conference call right now about LiteracyBridge. I believe I’ve mentioned LiteracyBridge before, but if I can’t find it right now.

LiteracyBridge is the maker of the Talking Book, which is a low-cost information distribution device, originally intended to help literacy – which is still a goal – but more importantly to disseminate information to help people with health, farming, and other educational topic, in parts of the world where literacy is low and information is lacking.

To give one tiny statistic, folks using this device had a 45% increase in crop yield over those who didn’t have the device. Hard to believe, but a fact.

Talking Book media player from @literacybridge for #ict4e

The Talking Book costs $29. Compare this to the $100 laptop offered by another organization and you’ll see how it might have greater success in very poor countries. Cliff mentioned that in Ghana, local governments have a $60 per student budget. That includes teacher salaries, buildings, feeding the kids, and so on. Adding a $100 laptop to that, even if it lasts 5 years, it’s simply not possible.

He also mentioned something that seems obvious in retrospect. A lot of schools don’t have lavatories. Girls don’t go to school if there’s no lavatory. Providing a toilet a school makes it much more likely that girls will be educated.

I’ve long been uneasy with the emphasis the geek community puts on the OLPC program. It seems useful for middle-income countries, but it’s simply not useful for the parts of the world where there’s real need, like west Africa, where Cliff started his journey into this realm. It’s much shinier – we geeks like to talk about a “cheap” laptop, and about the fact that it runs Linux. It just frequently strikes me as a solution in search of a problem. But because it’s more exciting than an MP3 player, it gets more interest and more donations.

I encourage you to take a look at LiteracyBridge, and if you can contribute any time or money to this project, there’s lots of room for volunteers. And if you’re interested in working on documentation, please volunteer and get involved. I’m excited about helping out more with this project.