Google, UNICEF, and One Laptop Per Child recently announced the launching of the Our Stories project. The effort records the stories of children from different parts of the world and places them on a Google Map. But more than just an oral/video history project combined with geotagging, the effort claims to be:

A joint initiative to preserve and share the histories and identities of cultures around the world by making personal stories available online in many languages. Using laptops, mobile phones and other recording devices, children will record, in their native languages, the stories of elders, family members and friends. These stories will be shared globally through the Our Stories website, where they can be found on a Google Map.

By making these stories accessible around the world, the Our Stories project hopes to contribute to a better understanding of our shared humanity across countries and cultures, across religious traditions, across languages, and across generations.

While these type of location based media projects with a social purpose are not new, and Google has done them before with things like Crisis in Darfur, there is an interesting new element here. And that is the leveraging of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. OLPC aims to get their “$100 laptop” in the hands of millions of poor children in developing countries, and the ability of Our Stories to aggregate and share the stories of OLPC owners has the potential for some significant and high volume cross cultural exchange.

One way to increase those exchanges between global North and South – if OLPC isn’t already planning on doing it- is to ask the purchasers and receivers of the OLPCGive One, Get One “ laptops to swap stories directly. “Give One, Get One” asks consumers to purchase 2 OLPC laptops for $400 – one of which they keep and one of which is donated to a child in the developing world.This way the donor is able to know exactly who got the OLPC laptop they purchased through the “Give One, Get One” program, and the receiver can learn the same. Thus creating an instant, multimedia penpal and unprecedented opportunity for large scale international exchange.

There is a great opportunity here to revive the pen pal – and create international dialogue – in a dynamic and unprecedented way!