The following is a translation of a post by Rising Voices grantee and Plan Ceibal coordinator Pablo Flores, who details some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities as the OLPC project in Uruguay spreads to the capital city, Montevideo.
If we look at how the next phases of expansion of Plan Ceibal (OLPC in Uruguay), it is apparent that we are about to face some new challenges. The arrival of the plan to the capital, Montevideo, next year will bring a new unprecedented dimension to the project which involves the most marginalized communities in the country. For the first time, the poorest sectors will have a tool in their hands to connect to the information society. The children will bring the computers to their homes, the family will access the internet, and a new segment of the population will be online.
For the first time, those with little voice will have a medium of communication with which to describe their experiences, dreams, and needs from their own perspective, unlike the traditional means of researchers from other sectors of society speaking for them. Blogs, videos and e-mails are just some examples of ways in which this sector of society will be able to express themselves more strongly than ever before in order to show their culture, their way of thinking, their reality.
The same tool will be in the hands of both rich and poor in the country. Children, senior citizens, and the whole spectrum of society will be able to exchange mails, chats and favorite sites, in a Facebook-like manner.
Like never before, the most marginalized communities will have a powerful tool to make transactions and queries with public institutions. They may claim their rights from the government. If they are given the support, they may also use it for training, acquiring positions, and working remotely.
There will also be new means with which to communicate, to convey information of interest, culture, and new forms of entertainment.
Bringing technology to the most excluded classes is already starting in the provinces of Uruguay. Salto, the largest city in Uruguay after Montevideo, is one example. A belt of marginalized communities surround this city, which is currently being flooded by XO laptops in the hands of its children.
Residents of Salto also want to make themselves heard.
There is a new form of communication, which brings us enormous challenges. We could think of it as something dangerous. We could see it as a new opportunity. But we must address the issue seriously, because the parameters which govern public opinion could change. Ceibal is giving growth to the internet for children … and now for the poor. It is an opportunity for social inclusion that, without the attention it thoroughly deserves, could become a new circumstance of exclusion.