The Creative Use of Technology Can End Hunger and Illiteracy

Frank B. Withrow - The Dawn Patrol

Research now shows that people who remain active are less likely to have Alzheimer diseases. One interesting report indicates that people who Google every day are warding off the disease. However, there is another compelling question, and that is, What constitutes creativity at any age? The digital world offers us new mindsets, new ways to examine and know our world on Earth and to explore the universe.

The mysteries of the universe are open to us to explore as the Hubble telescope brings us visions from the distant past. Ironically, in our classrooms or homes, the pictures of NASA probes come to us in living color. We take these pictures and decode their meanings. We now can detect planets around distant stars, and we must ask, Is there life outside Earth? If so, what is the nature of that life?

As we explore space and dream of a habitat on Mars, we still have unsolved problems on Earth. We have the knowledge to feed the hungry of the world, but 1.02 billion people go to bed hungry each night. There are 125 million children without a teacher or a classroom. Technology can and must open the doors of learning and knowledge for those children. Who will create the systems that reach into the minds of these millions of children and free them with access to the world’s knowledge? Children are our future.

We know the problems. We must develop the minds that can solve them. We have long preached peace on Earth and good will to all people. What child in our charge will provide the key that unlocks the will for man to live in peace? Technology enables us to share ideas in many different ways. The mere sharing of ideas enriches the collective knowledge of the human race. Among our seven billion people on Earth today we have a ground swell of knowledge. However, we also have the weakest among us who are living at a minimum level of information. Never before have we had so many well educated people. However, even in developed nations, there are countless people who remain uninformed. It is not enough to think of learning only in the developed nations. We must reach the children in the most remote and isolated corners of Earth.

We must make the 1990 Education for All goals created in Jomtien, Thailand, a reality. At that time 155 nations agreed that all children, male and female, are entitled to at least 6 years of school.* To our disgrace the nations of the world have failed to live up to their pledges. Educational rights are not limited to a single nation. All children must be educated if the world is to live in peace. There is no greater need than to ensure that all children have the educational opportunity that allows them to become all they can be. To our shame, some children know more about war than they do about reading.
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* I was in Jomtien. I thought that there were 161 nations. There was a long battle with the Muslim nations to fight for the inclusion of girls, but we finally did get their inclusion. My memory is that six years was agreed upon.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Frank.

    At the end of the July 13, 2009 Meeting the Needs of the Visually Impaired Persons: What Challenges for IP? (IP: intellectual property) organized by WIPO, the ambassador of Yemen to the UN in Geneva pointed out that people who are illiterate due to lack of schooling should benefit from the same copyright restrictions that were foreseen in the World Blind Union’s Proposal of a WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled Persons. People who weren’t able to go to school because of war or because their country is too poor are “Reading Disabled” too, the Ambassador argued.

    Moreover, these people could also make use of the same screen reading tech used by the blind, visually impaired and other reading disabled persons to access digital books, and other information and training resources. Provided they can afford the price of this tech and of digital texts, that is.

    As to the tech, though there is still room for improvement, some kind of screen reading is already be offered by several portable devices. But the the price of the digital texts remains a big hurdle, as Lawrence Lessig pointed out in his The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge: Just How Badly We Have Messed This Up lecture at CERN last April.

  2. The USA has had a federal program for the disabled since Abraham Lincoln in Gallaudet University and the American Printing House for the Blind that are Special Institutions in the federal budget. In 1967 the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped and is now OSERS. There is ample data that demonstrates that a dollar spent in educating disabled people returns many fold in tax dollars. Cochlear implants and visual aides for the blind are cost effective programs.

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