Saturday, September 20, 2008

It ain't easy...

In my continuing series of efforts to reorient tech-happy tercermondialistas to "give books a chance..."

Why not make an solar-powered LED projector powered that can project microfilm literacy lessons on the wall and then literacy instructors can teach at night in villages without electricity? Why not! Seems doable, with enough MIT brainpower etc. So Design that Matters is doing it, (project name: Kinkajou). They have a $500,000 grant from USAID to field test the apparatus in 45 literacy centers in Mali. Looks cool and great. The one comment from their field visit that caught my eye was that several of the literacy instructors had apparently never bothered to take the solar panels out of the box... Hey, it's schadenfreude all the way down, baby.

Another aside... when I spent an enjoyable week in the Sudan Archives at Durham, I came across an archived box of glass "lantern slides" in beautiful color. So what's deeply curious and slightly delicious about kinkajou is that
(1) the instructors and students in Mali are all using kerosene lanterns to read their adult literacy books and notebooks (Aside. A guess: each person in the adult literacy class probably has one book? And just one book?)
(2) a technology (the so-called magic lantern and see here for how to build) has been around for 400 years to use a kerosene lamp to project images on a wall
(3) and nobody in the village has ever used that
(4) but they're jumping straight to LEDs and solar panels.
I wonder whether USAID would fund a project that proposed to create a set of 100 glass slides of literacy lessons and 45 kerosene-burning magic lanterns, with a project cost of maybe $1,000. They'd say it was too dangerous. PS: A lantern that you can make at home.

1 comment:

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