MIT's famed Media Laboratory and the new 2B1 Foundation announced today they are making an international appeal to contact innovative Third World educators who work with children and computers to break down world barriers of race, age, gender, language, class, economics and geography.
Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of 2B1 and co-founder and director of the Media Laboratory, said the purpose is to identify 200 people who would be invited to spend five days at MIT, in Cambridge, MA, July 17-22, for a free-form discussion about how 2B1 can pursue its goal of bringing the digital presence to the children of the world. Transportation to the United States, food and lodging will be provided for a limited number of invited participants.
Mr. Negroponte, author of "Being Digital" and a founder and senior columnist of WiReD, said, "The people we want to meet most urgently have brought computers and children together in an unlikely place, or in a surprising way, or against seemingly insurmountable opposition and obstacles."
"Half the participants are expected to be activists who are doing something somewhere that is in line with the 2B1 mission. For example: a teacher who runs a computer lab in an elementary school in a rain forest; the organizer of a community computer facility in a remote village; an administrator who has fought hard for the idea of bringing computers to schools in a country where there is little modern technology; a forester who has used on-line computers to engage children in data gathering for environmental studies.
"But we also hope to find people who are running projects we have not even imagined. Other participants would be people who bring ideas, technical knowledge, political connections and offers of personal service that will help us help these activists and encourage many more to join their ranks.
"The mission of 2B1 is to use the digital world to enable a united planet. The world's children (0-18 years) number over two billion. Nearly 9 out of 10 live in developing countries. Nearly one billion are of primary school age. As the world enters the second century of the Information Age, more than 85 percent of the world's children have no regular access to a telephone. The majority have never made or received a telephone call.
"2B1 will build on the intrinsic value and compelling attraction of the Internet. The primary intent of 2B1 is to combine with others to enable a global network of children that enriches by its very nature. This network also has the potential to support programs and goals in education, health training, and economic development in partnership with 2B1," Mr. Negroponte said.
MIT Media Laboratory Professor Seymour Papert, 2B1 vice chairman and chief scientist, said the July forum at MIT "will consider not only what the digital world can offer the world's children, but also what children provided with appropriate computing technology and connectivity can give to the world." 2B1 is a not-for-profit organization collaborating with MIT in this effort to initiate and support actions "aimed at preventing a growing economic and information abyss between the 'digital haves' and the 'digital have-nots.' We see the children of the world as central to achieving this goal."
Dr. Papert, a mathematician, is recognized as the seminal thinker about ways in which computers can change learning. He is the author of "Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas;" "The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap;" and "The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer." He is the LEGO Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Laboratory and was a co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.
Peter B. Cawley, president of 2B1, is deputy director and chief financial officer of the Big Apple Circus, a New York not-for-profit organization focused on entertainment, education and health care. Cawley urges interested individuals to visit the 2B1 Website. "We want to cast a broad net, and ensure that innovative individuals from all corners of the world learn about this initiative and have the opportunity to apply as participants."
2B1 Directors Others involved in 2B1 are Vice President Thomas Grant, a managing general partner of Applied Technology Investors, a venture capital firm specializing in media and information technology start-up companies; board member Saj-Nicole A. Joni, managing director of Financial Services, CSC Index; board member Rodrigo Arboleda-Halaby, senior vice president for business development of the Ogden Corporation, member of the board of Save the Children, and former Ambassador-at-Large for Colombia; and Dimitri Negroponte, director of product development and technology specialist in computer interface design, currently at Telecom Italia.