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Switzerland, May 22, 2008

Building Online Communities of Practice

As a consultant to infoDev at the World Bank

speakers table
The view from on high
note my audience
Talking from the floor
Sitting up here at the presenter table, I feel quite amazing. I am feeling a professional high, and that's not because the presenter table is raised a few feet above the main floor. We're still in a basement conference room, even if it’s a rather large room.

I'm all excited because this is a WSIS follow on meeting and the room is full of ICT leaders who are looking forward to my presentation. I'm about to speak on two topics of interest to this crowd: 4P Computing and online communities of practice.

The first topic, 4P Computing, or the rise of a new class of computing devices that are responsive to the performance, power, portability, and price constraints of the developing world, speaks directly to the crowd - they're all interested in low cost user devices as that's the stated topic of this session.

The second, online communities of practice, is of interest to the meeting organizers, infoDev at the World Bank and UNESCO, because they hope to develop an online community of practice around low-cost ICT devices for education.

Funny enough, after an exhaustive search, they've hired an expert in developing communities of practice in technology for development, someone who's even developed one for the premier low-cost ICT device for education, the XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child. Yes, I am now a consultant to infoDev at the World Bank! Who would've thunk it? Definitely not me.

But here I am, in the basement of the International Telecommunications Union building, on a panel with representatives from UNESCO and the World Bank, all of us presented as peers in using technology to empower development.

A humbling experience for sure, but also a gratifying confirmation of my OLPC News efforts over the last two years. All that blogging, forum building, and media outreach built a rather comprehensive community that now is taking on a leadership role itself, driving OLPC as much as responding to it.

And now its time to build a new community, this time with real resources and funding. A dream challenge I excited to respond to in this basement conference room in Geneva. So if you'll excuse me, it's my time to shine. I've just been called on to speak and I'm gonna wow them.

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Switzerland, May 20, 2008

An Underground Atlas in Geneva

atom at cern
Colliding atoms over men
Have you ever seen a supercollider up close and personal? Do you even know what one is? Today I deep inside the Swiss countryside, face-to-face with ATLAS, what soon will be the world's largest proton supercollider. Or black hole creator if the swarms of particle physicists get their math wrong.

And right about now, fighting back jetlag while listening to George, our gracious host, explain the difference between protons and muons, and how his giant muon spectrometer will measure the deflection of muons after they pass through the Barrel Toroid, I'm in awe of the human mind.

Somehow, in the grey mush between our collective ears, we're able not only to conceive the existence of "dark matter" and other universe-level mysteries, we're actually able to build things like this Large Hadron Collider to smash beams of speeding, highly energetic protons together to explore them.

Continue reading "An Underground Atlas in Geneva"

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