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A challenge for everyone - change your perspective

This morning I had the good fortune to read an enlightened letter to the editor of the Daily Dispatch. It juxtaposes wonderfully the difference between emotional and rational thinking. We can't feel like others, but we should try to see through their eyes.

The challenge Mthethe throws down is that we do this for people we don't necessarily like, and who are dissimilar to us. This means finding something out about them, and seeing our common humanity.

Here is Mthethe's Letter as reproduced in the Daily Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.co.za/2007/03/17/editoria/letters.html).
We all suffer for the sins of our forefathers – black and white

DEAR Shaun (and any other white South African who feels that they are being punished for their forefathers' mistakes):

I cannot pretend to know how it feels to be white in this country and how that impacts on your job prospects.

Having said this, I would like to share some thoughts (as a young, 29 -year-old South African) on what could be done to deal with the anger you and other young white South Africans feel.

Growing up in Mdantsane township during the apartheid regime made it very difficult to feel good about myself. From early on I was made to feel second-class and not good enough because of my skin colour (black). To make things worse, all state institutions endorsed this by segregating our schools and distributing resources according to race with black learners received less money.

Some white South Africans feel that there is reversed racism and that we should not have affirmative action but should focus on giving people jobs on merit.

With all these systems in place, many black people remain unemployed and hopeless and desperate. Have you driven past Duncan Village and seen the conditions under which black people live?

I am not suggesting that you should not feel the way that you do. All I am pointing out is that perhaps even those 17-year-olds in Duncan Village feel hard done by by the government because they had hoped they would get houses and opportunities.

I read that you were considering getting a British passport and I can tell you that those 17-year-olds in Duncan Village, Reeston, Mdantsane, Newlands do not have that option. If they are fortunate enough to get a job, those 17-year-olds would have to buy their families proper houses – and I don't mean in Beacon Bay or Vincent Heights but rather a four-bedroom house in the township.

When I was 17, my mother lived in a squatter camp (I think it's called Joe Slovo, in Mdantsane Zone 6). I imagine that the 17-year-olds who still live in that squatter camp feel hopeless.

I had to buy my mother a house and supported my brother and my extended family. I always challenge myself to think beyond my own frame of reference and I guess I am posing the same challenge to you. I really believe that any 17-year-old in South Africa (white, black, Indian, coloured) needs to feel he is wanted, hopeful and that he can make a contribution.

We need to build this country and no one is going to do it for us.
History will judge both of us as to the contribution that we make in
building this country.

We need to hold our government accountable and, given that racial
segregation is not tolerated any longer, you are as important in SA as any other 17-year-old.

In reality, I think we are all suffering for the mistakes of our
forefathers. – Mthetho C Tshemese, Melville, Johannesburg

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 18th 2007 06:35

Changing Perspectives

From this height, the Eastern Cape province is a frothy milky white plain, it is a convuluted dark ridged surface, hilly green and olive region bounded by the blue of the ocean, which stretches away to vanish into a wall of tall white clouds - clouds which seem to live here above the warmer waters of the tail of the Mozambique current. Although the perspective is unusual, the feeling for this piece of land is the same. I know what beauty lies down there below me. Even from up here it remains, but transformed. Now a golden fiery snake winds its way beneath. It's broad body is incandescent in the rising sun, twisting this way and that between what must be tall mountains, but seem to be bumps. It can only be the mighty Caledon, the other boundary of this region.

Beside the mighty river, hut roofs glint like diamonds. I am transported into a future where the inhabitants of these dwellings grow up knowing that they have a right to know, that they have the means to know and that they can know about all subjects of human knowledge. The economy that powers this knowledge is built to 95% on renewable energy. Photovoltaics have been revolutionised - their efficiency ratio is still not much above 12,5%, but they are manufactured from cheap plastics that are in turn derived from agricultural by-products and seed oils, right here in the Eastern Cape. These cheap cells are everywhere, and the plentiful sun of this area keeps the knowledge turning over. Solid state cells built of myriads of capacitors keep systems running over night, during darkness, etc. Or cheaper hydrogen cells which occasionally need to be watered, like crops. Even the aeroplane I am sitting in is run on a mixture of Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen all produced through the renewable power.

A future I look forward to and am building towards.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: October 2nd 2008 05:53

Disruptive Technologies

I was recently in Finland and wrote the following:

I am in Helsinki, trying to forge new partnerships for awareNet and the Siyakhula Living Lab. I am always amazed anew at the propensity of the Finnish people for technology. The way the taxi driver switches on a TV display next to his steering whell and proceeds to change channels, all the while turning onto on-/off-ramps and dodging traffic, I have to think of the term "disruptive technologies". I am pretty much hoping that this technology will not prove to be disruptive to my stay.

In several ways I am reminded of the Eastern Cape: there the propensity of the people is no less in terms of love of technology. There too we are faced with serious ethical considerations when bringing in technology. Freedom of choice is an important aspect of that ethical consideration constellation.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 31st 2009 12:05

eKhaya ICT Honours Project at Rhodes University

In addition to cooperations with the Freie Universitaet Berlin, eKhaya ICT now also has two Honours Projects at Rhodes University. The projects are on "Real e-Services for Rural Development": the idea is to piece together exisiting e-commerce and m-commerce B2C solutions which can easily be stitched together for simple use by a rural telecentre operator. The projects will be tested within the framework of the Siyakhula Living Lab, at Nkwalini. Hopefully by Siphiwo (see previous blog).
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 15th 2009 08:30

I am a learner

I have always found the "learner" designation for schoolkids a bit of a misnomer. "Learner" implies something concrete to be learned, as in "learner driver". At school you are learning all sorts of different things, the teachers are also learning in fact we're all learning all the time, whether we like it or not (even old dogs are learning, just not necessarily tricks). When you stop learning your life is over.

It seems to me as though this nomenclature were introduced to entrench the "teacher-learner" dichotomy. That is so stale. Wake up you hierarchical monolithic dusty old Department! This is not the education of/for the future! We need agile minds, creative thinkers (who may also kick balls brilliantly), not order-following ball-kickers (who can't think of anything but the glory of winning).

This all echoes Jeff's sentiments in the OLPC-ZA Archives.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 26th 2007 02:59

LearnThings Workshop II

The second LearnThings workshop is taking place this week. Content was delivered to the teachers on USB Flash Drives which they got to keep. The drives were donated by Intel, resulting in the following image:


By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: November 11th 2008 08:06

Perspectives shape your life.

These are ancient thoughts, but I have been waxing lyrical lately (must be the strain of all the work) and thought I should share. For instance, here are some thoughts on the paradox of life:
"Life just is ambiguous, any computer can tell you that - you just have to be able to decipher the error message." - in an email to my brother, 2007-08-13

"Life is an eternal paradox. The ambiguity springs from your perspective. When you dissolve your ego and become one with the universe, there is no more ambiguity and besides a couple of religous zealots, most people call this state, "dead"." - on my wall

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: August 13th 2007 10:54

Solid state laptops: OLPC XO, Classmate and Asus EEE

OLPC [1] have been working on a light-weight easy to use laptop specifically for children and their education. As they have been releasing beta products for testing, adults who have seen these pretty little green computers have been totally enthusiastic and clamouring to buy them - for themselves. On the OLPC mailing lists a number of entrepreneurs want to buy large numbers for sales to private individuals.

The rival of the OLPC, Intel's classmate [2] - also a solid state computer with scaled down specs and flash drive instead of hard-disk (hence solid state - there are no moving parts in these machines) - seems to have slowed down somewhat with Intel joining the OLPC consortium in October. Also Intel are not talking to us (maybe were just not big enough) so I can't report anything else there.

Now as OLPC have launched their buy two get one offer, it seems Asus [3] is also taking on the Christmas shoppers with their Eee, which seems to cost anywhere between $200 (the original price Asus marketed in the second half of 2007) and $399 because of demand. Asus are reporting a unit sold every 6 seconds - making between 6000 and 14400 per day depending on how many sales minutes there are per day. That is not bad to quite good indeed. The Eee also has its own operating system, which seemes to be built on the Windows platform.

Ubiquitous computing in the developed world is good news for the developing world - apart from environmental/recycling issues(!).

[1] OLPC
[2] Intel Classmate
[3] Asus Eee
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: November 26th 2007 10:08

Wishing Zimbabwe a great 2009

At eKhaya ICT we are very optimistic about 2009. We had an excellent trip to Europe which will be reported on in our next Village Scribe Association newsletter. We have made very meaningful contacts in Europe and have pledges to support our ECSPIRT project (on which eKhaya is performing major work).

Please visit: http://www.villagescribe.org/

The actual trigger for this message is the fact that things are getting even worse in Zimbabwe (who could have thought it possible). Rhodes University endorses the following mass campaign. SADC countries need popular pressure now to act. While I am not very optimistic about online campaigns, this one might just give the Zimbabwean people the support to become a great country once again!

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: January 21st 2009 01:29

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