Muhammed Yunus Vison - IT Solutions to End Poverty (ISEP)

Posted 15 Apr 2008 at 22:58 UTC (updated 16 Apr 2008 at 03:35 UTC) by lkcl Share This

Muhammad Yunus book, Creating a World without Poverty envisions a world in which everyone is useful and leads fulfilling lives (following Mother Theresa's example, who is on record famously for stating that she would not attend anti-war rallies but only "Peace" rallies, and at the acceptable risk of offending Professor Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, I would urge people to consider instead of focussing on "ending poverty" to focus instead on "Creating Wealth").

An excerpt - Chapter 9, from page 184 onwards - describes his vision - the creation of an organisation to bring the right kind of I.T. infrastructure into being. Tech Fusion Outline: Organising the World's Knowledge describes exactly that infrastructure.

exerpt from the book:

Social Business and IT Revolution

My dream is of a world in which technology is harnessed to create a better life for everyone, not just the wealthy few. So far, it's been largely profit-obsessive corporations who decide the uses to which technology is put...When it comes to the new IT , "business as usual is not acceptable". The emerging technologies are so overwhelmingly important in shaping our future lives that we cannot leave the development of tomorrow's IT to the board-room decisions of big business alone. Instead "social business" must step up to take an important role in creating the next generation of IT.

I see individuals as the best bet for starting this effort, particularly individuals who are IT enthusiasts and have a foothold in the worlds of business, technology, science, the arts and academia. There are thousands of brilliant idealistic people like this around the world who would like to devote their time, energy, and talent to finding ways of using IT to help poor people escape poverty. IT itself can bring these individuals together , using the internet to build a strong global force of people dedicated to applying the power on information to the world's most serious social problems.

(that's us, folks).

Around page 199, Muhammad Yunus describes how government control is made irrelevant by IT, and how weak democracy in countries like the United States and Bangladesh are rife with corruption and thus sustain the problems.

The technology exists - in pieces (anyone want to assemble them?)

The organisation does not (any backers, anyone?)

The need is there (as yet unfulfilled).

What's the next steps, folks?

Who are you talking to to make this happen?

What makes Yunus's approach work is its bottom-up nature., posted 16 Apr 2008 at 18:53 UTC by Pizza » (Master)

A thousand microloans of $40 each ends up doing more good in a rural town than a single loan of $40,000 to that town's government.

Give people the means to help themselves directly, with no [typically corrupt] middlemen (usually their government) to siphon it away and/or dictate how it is used.

This model doesn't directly apply to IT, as IT's usefulness tends to grow exponentially the more pervasive it is (thanks to network effects).

However, while IT can be a liberating force from government control, that only happens if the government doesn't control the IT infrastructure. Whomever controls the infrastructure controls (or at least heavily influences) the uses of the infrastructure. Great firewall of China, anyone? Comcast blocking P2P traffic?

(You might want to read "Code and the Laws of Cyberspace" by Lawrence Lessig; it explores this sort of thing in great detail)

peer to peer wireless mesh networking, posted 16 Apr 2008 at 22:33 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

is beyond corporate and governmental control.

there are many stories of people setting up even simple 802.11 wireless access points high up with good enough antennae to get half-mile range, and getting visits from mafia, corporations and governments with threats.

in combination with 80km beam-directed microwave links (mikrotik's products technology demonstrate that this is possible), inter-city connections can be established, using only 100mW transceivers.

when there _is_ no central point of control, there _is_ no "great firewall of china" and there _is_ no comcast to block peer-to-peer traffic.

please stop talking about problems and please start discussing solutions and how you're going to implement them.

a thousand microloans., posted 16 Apr 2008 at 22:46 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

A thousand microloans of $40 each ends up doing more good in a rural town than a single loan of $40,000 to that town's government.

yes. and usually, the people are so grateful that they've received any money at all that they absolutely work their damned hardest to repay.

the default rate on grandall microloans is something ridiculous like under 1%. the default rate in the "first world" is something ridiculous like over 85%.

there's something about living in third world conditions that makes people just go NUTS when they are actually given an opportunity to better themselves.

it's why the biggest market in the world is the emerging markets - those people who have heard of technology making a difference yet it's not affordable: that just makes them appreciate it more when they gain access to it.

in the so-called "first" world, where everything is handed to us on a plate, we consider ourselves "poor" if we haven't got a washing machine or a television; our food has been grown as monocrops for decades, resulting in zero nutrients in the soil (even fertilisers aren't helping), so that we're getting sicker and sicker because it's getting harder and harder to get any vitamins and minerals from our food...

we desperately desperately need access to information and knowledge just as much as the people of the third world need to know that things are not as green - literally - on this side of the world as they might have been led to believe by seeing a television show.

"total knowledge" is about rebalancing the world - so that people can find out how to improve their lives wherever they are.

and, also, can produce goods and services locally that are valuable wherever they are needed, without having to travel by car every day for an hour and a half.

using a vehicle (which takes three extra barrels of oil's worth of energy to PRODUCE the one barrel of oil that goes in their car) is planet-wide suicide.

and, also, people need to know that bio-fuels actually consume EVEN MORE energy than oil, to produce. and the crops being produced actually make matters worse because a perfectly good oxygen-producing field with plenty of bio-diversity and a natural eco-system was destroyed in order to plant a mono-crop biofuel which will be harvested to consume MORE energy and produce MORE carbon dioxide!

there is a great deal which needs to be made known.


i was not kidding about the urgency, here.

so is it or is it not beyond control?, posted 16 Apr 2008 at 23:51 UTC by Pizza » (Master)

So how do you reconcile these two paragraphs:

"there are many stories of people setting up even simple 802.11 wireless access points high up with good enough antennae to get half-mile range, and getting visits from mafia, corporations and governments with threats."

"in combination with 80km beam-directed microwave links (mikrotik's products technology demonstrate that this is possible), inter-city connections can be established, using only 100mW transceivers."

So you seem to be implying that if I have one of these on my roof (instead of an 802.11 tranceiver) I can expect the mafia (et al) to ignore me?

Peer-to-peer wireless meshes work quite well on a small scale. They don't scale up worth a damn without some (relatively) permanent infrastructure, and it's this permanent infrastructure that's vulnerable to government/corporate (is there really a difference, these days?) control. (Again, see my point about the usefulness of IT being exponential to its pervasiveness)

Also -- it's exceptionally foolish to talk about implementing "solutions" without first talking about the *problems* they're supposed to solve.

from here to there, posted 17 Apr 2008 at 16:07 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

pizza - thank you for pointing out that it's important to know where you are before moving to a different place :)

utilising existing infrastructure is an absolute given requirement to make wireless mesh networking "useful" - thank you for re-emphasising that.

many wireless points, posted 17 Apr 2008 at 16:17 UTC by lkcl » (Master)


it would appear that you are stuck on the idea of "only one person" vs "bullies".

exactly in the case of the "one fisherman", where i pointed out that "many fishermen" can overcome the "bullying merchants", "many techies with long-range wireless" can also overcome the "bullying corporations who seek to control communications".

just like in india where there are now gangs of women (up to 100) who are treated as despicable "outcasts" because of their lowest-of-the-low "caste".

these gangs dress in orange, and go round with quarterstaffs and sticks, as vigilantes.

they are living in poverty.

they have nothing to lose.

now they have a purpose: meting out justice on policemen or criminals who flout or ignore the law.

the same thing happens in hungary: it's traditional for old women to go shopping in "gangs" and their elbows tend to be accidentally sharp. people who stand in their way tend to get trampled - literally.

so - we as technologists, specialising in free software, have a responsibility to make it "easier" for the average person to set up this kind of infrastructure.

which is why i don't want to hear about how the problem "cannot be overcome", for this reason or that. i'm happy to hear about the problem - as long as it's accompanied by a willingness to listen to or create and implement a solution.

Wealth and poverty, posted 18 Apr 2008 at 12:51 UTC by chalst » (Master)

lkcl wrote: [A]t the acceptable risk of offending Professor Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, I would urge people to consider instead of focussing on "ending poverty" to focus instead on "Creating Wealth"
As an aside, let me point out that poverty elimination is a harder problem in advanced capitalism than wealth creation. Wealth doesn't seem to mind a bit the existence of poverty.

To get more to the point of this thread, where is this series headed? Are you proposing something like a Debian for hardware design?

to the point, posted 18 Apr 2008 at 17:23 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

chalst, hi, thanks for asking - and that's a really good idea, btw.

the goal is simple - and any suggestions which fulfil this goal are most welcome: the goal is "to lower the barrier to entry to zero the means for people to socially and economically uplift themselves".

THEMSELVES. not us (through charity donations). not us (through defining programmes such as those outlined by Government Aid programmes - read professor yunus "Creating a World Without Poverty". read it and read it well and listen to it)

please do mention any alternative ideas and proposals that you can think of which you believe can achieve more in less time more effectively: i'm proposing that people _consider_ the following, and that it all be done as "social businesses" as defined by professor yunus:

* create a "social business" with a social charter to develop IT Solutions to Create Wealth. (exactly the same as ending poverty, but much more socially palatable in areas where poverty is swept under the carpet, such as in the united states).

* the hardware will be specified, created and deployed not as a "charity" not as a "cooperative" not as a "non-profit" but as a "non-loss", "non-dividend" company (social business). the hardware will use local resources as much as practical, so that the people receiving and using it are proud of the fact that it is local.

* the software will be entirely free software, and will again be developed along "social business" rules. its development and deployment will have to be justified according to standard business practices, as defined by the "social business"'s charter and articles of incorporation.

just to note: on page 81 of professor yunus' book, "creating a world without poverty", he mentions that "Grendell Solutions", the I.T. social business set up by him, signed in September 2007 a "memorandum of understanding" to deploy WIMAX and Intel's OLPC-stifler-laptop in schools.

whilst i'm happy to see the WIMAX deployed, as long as it is part of an ad-hoc wireless mesh network rather than a point-to-point one (WIMAX is supposed to be a range-extension of 802.11 and so contains ad-hoc capability, but that is typically suppress in WIMAX deployments), whilst i'm happy to see WIMAX deployed, i'm less enamoured with the deployment of ms-based operating systems.

these kinds of opportunities are passing us by whilst we sit back and deplore the lack of uptake of free software.

what is it that makes governments so happy to order 1 million OLPC machines, and then cancel them when they discover that there's "no training support" for the teachers, yet they are happy to deploy microsoft plus intel?

what are we missing?

alternative answer, posted 18 Apr 2008 at 21:19 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

"To get more to the point of this thread, where is this series headed? "

answer: page 197 of "creating a world without poverty", by muhammad yunus.

and 198. and 199.

Re:OLPC, posted 18 Apr 2008 at 21:30 UTC by nymia » (Master)

It looks like OLPC has backed-out of the getting-first-into-the-mind game, a marketing stunt OLPC started and later on followed by competitors.

And it looks like OLPC hasn't made a move, a counter-attack to keep the dance going. Unfortunately, OLPC by not making the next move will get them sidetracked in their own quest to be first in the niche.

achhh, posted 18 Apr 2008 at 22:18 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

well, the blessings of the lack-of-momentum behind OLPC is that it _is_ free software - so all the development is not wasted. thank god. oh - and the screen is a really innovative development (superceded in some ways by microprojectors and a piece of white cardboard 12in away from the projector, but there you go).

one of the goals of OLPC is to bring "light sources to homes which haven't had one - ever". did it ever occur to someone that the people in emerging markets are far better off for enjoying natural sunlight, by getting up pre-dawn and going to sleep when it's dark? (btw it's not just OLPC: the same question needs to be considered by all organisations providing bright screened devices)

i think, basically, from reading professor yunus' book, that the lessons of OLPC are clear: insufficient thought has gone into the design and deployment of OLPC. the OLPC project itself - which has captivated the minds of the average westerner - is a fantastic idea, yet it is popular only amongst westerners, whose perceptions are coloured by their own experience with "laptops".

professor yunus has succeeded, where others have failed, in tackling the problems of poverty in bangladesh by actually going and looking at and talking with the people actually in poverty, rather than applying a single-minded dictatorial set of preconceived ideas. he recognises that people in poverty are extremely good at staying alive, with levels of ingenuity honed by their often daily brush with death. he recognised very quickly that the primary reason for their poverty was often exploitation - by many different people - but the underlying theme was that the wealth and creativity of people in "poverty" was being taken away from them (usually by moneylenders).

so, i think the key reasons why the OLPC project hasn't succeeded is because it's not being backed up by actual research into what is actually needed. again - the example of "Grameen Danone" springs to mind: you would not believe the level of resources (p143, p139, p135, p155 amongst others) spent on research and polls by the Danone Corporation in finding out what was needed.

that, and the fact that its initial promotion was for sale to governments, and its sale is *still* restricted in the "XO Giving" programme.

i'm inclined to suggest that the XO laptop, having been designed along Western Principles, is actually best deployed in Western Societies. places like the Warzone schools (which have to have single-occupant-turnstiles, metal detectors and pat-downs to take away the knives and guns that the kids have to carry just to get safely to the gates) would be a good start, with the Waldorf Schools being the next alternative locations.

XO Giving should focus on Waldorf Schools buying one for each of their students, mandating that the second OLPC laptop should be supplied to a Warzone School.

Re: OLPC, posted 23 Apr 2008 at 07:15 UTC by nymia » (Master)

Interesting statement, it may be true to state they are renovating the product in order to widen the focus (see Low-cost laptop program sees a key leadership defection).

correction (of attitude and concerns), posted 23 Apr 2008 at 18:43 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

intel's memorandum of understanding (p81) was at the same time as an announcement of "Intel Grameen" - a "social business" where intel would invest, just like Grameen Danone, into a "non-loss, non-dividend" company WITHOUT expectation of demands for profits, but merely the "return of the initial investment".

the press release announcing Intel Grameen in bangladesh went out on sep 4th 2007. suddenly i am *extremely* interested, excited, and absolutely 100% behind the Intel Grameen social business idea, as in particular i know that professor yunus will have learned greatly from the Grameen Danone experience.

as you may be aware, intel's classmate pc is typically preloaded with ubuntu (not the best choice in the world, but a damn site better than many alternatives).

Re:OLPC, posted 30 Apr 2008 at 23:25 UTC by nymia » (Master)

Luke, I'd like to see an opinionated article written about the current situation of the OLPC project. I'm wondering what your thoughts are about the spin in some articles floated a while ago. You don't have to be indicative about the whole situation, just present some facts and inject your own opinion and perhaps insight. Thanks.

mmmm...., posted 2 May 2008 at 00:22 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

let me think about that, because it's a multi-headed hydra (e.g. the latest news, about OLPC (SUGAR, at least), going onto a windows-xp base instead of a linux one just sounds _crazy_ but would actually have some merit to it (quotes acceptability quotes) if it wasn't for the "alienation-of-free-software-people" factor.

i just want to double-check, though.... i'm perhaps one of _the_ most outspoken opinionated people you could possibly ask - and have caused more flame-fests and been banned from more mailing lists than i care to remember :)

... so if it's ok with you i just want to double-check that you're serious about this :)

whoa, posted 2 May 2008 at 18:28 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

interesting - i've been reading up on success stories of OLPC (particularly that one in peru) and also comments where it seems that often it's the kids that teach the teachers.

so you've set me an iiinteresting challenge, nymia :)

NDiyo Fultola and Attridgeville Projects, posted 20 Oct 2009 at 12:10 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

in these two projects, in Attridgeville and Fultola, the creators of the ndiyo thin client have turned a single ubuntu linux PC with a GSM/EDGE mobile phone into a 4-user internet cafe.

Videos describing the deployments are here and here.

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