Saturday, November 8, 2008

Courtship Difficulties

Long overdue note, but here's a recap on our progress over the past few months (focused on lesson plan development and pilot deployment).

Thanks to the efforts of our Berkeley students we were able to refine our initial lesson plan to create a structured lesson with background materials suitable for instructors and students of all ages. Though not translated for the various pilot countries, our matured bundle positions our effort well for rapid transition to any of our targeted pilot groups. Our difficulties mainly lie in the wavering support within each of the remote ecosystems. Here's a synopsis of our communication thus far:

OLPC Thailand
Our main POC has been "Roger" Arnan who has taken the lead on the coordination efforts among Thailand's 4 pilot projects. On the other hand, NECTEC, the former local tech support team, has lost some interest due to the loss of government fiscal support. Roger has been very supportive of our effort and enthusiastic towards the receipt of prototype samples; however, limited remote tech support has created the need for new partners. Roger is currently investigating the availability of students at Chang Mai University to help us with prototype assembly. In the near-term, we'll look to build 4 prototype samples for distribution and work with a few of our dedicated volunteers to translate an abbreviated 3-page lesson to Thai.

OLPC India
Arjun was kind enough to introduce me to Satish Jha, the new head of OLPC India's effort. There seems to be quite a bit of activity on their list-serv, but the remote team has been primarily focused on the infrastructure rather than content development. Initial communication with Satish broke down after a few initial e-mails, but I'll try again shortly to setup a Skype discussion.

Oscar Becerra, a former IBM Peru top executive, has taken the lead of the Peru effort which currently commands about 150,000 XO laptops (and 140,000 more by the end of the year). Similar to India, they have been battling infrastructure and policy issues. I have been very interested, but have been unable to get reports of the first-hand experience of Peru children in spite of the overwhelming support of the Peruvian Ministry of Education. I received an initial inquiry from Oscar during the summer, but I have not been able to follow-up with a one-on-one discussion until recently.

Our near-term goal is to build 10 prototypes, along with our software build and lesson plan, for distribution to these three target pilot groups. It would be great if we could get these out before Christmas and make it our special Holiday gift for the children.

In order to further explore the clinical applications of our peripherals I've reached out to various health care non-profit organizations. In particular, I've contacted Ellen Ball of Boston-based Partners in Health. Our specific intent is the identification of a clinical partner who has focused on environmental hazards re: air pollution. Unfortunately PiH has not dealt with these concerns as highlighted in Ellen's response below:
"Most of our hospital/clinics are in rural areas (Haiti, Rwanda, Siberia, Lesotho, Malawi). The exception is Lima, Peru which has a pollution problem. But we deal with infectious disease – MDR-TB and HIV."
I'll continue my efforts to identify a suitable partner who would kick-start a Youth Venture project in Thailand. If anyone happens to have established relationships with organizations dealing with asthma-related issues, please contact us.

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