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Social tech needed to help US education keep up!

I’m glad I read Seth Godin’s “The forever recession (and the coming revolution)” after being in Kenya for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Because, there, the revolution Godin’s talking about was right in front of my eyes and in my ears. I heard a lot of smart people from Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo representing what he writes here:

“When everyone has a laptop [or a mobile phone] and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory,” Godin wrote. “Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.” This reminds me of how intuitively East Africans seem to be connecting “virtually.” I think of Arsene Tungali of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. He told us in a workshop on child online protection that residents of Goma, his provincial capital in Congo, have electricity only from 11:30 pm to 6 am, so he connects with his mobile phone, which is the way so many people in developing countries access the Net. Tungali understands the personal- and economic-development power of connecting people so well that he co-founded a nonprofit organization, Rudi International, that connects and provides tech training for African youth. [Tungali said he uses YouTube, Skype, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia on his mobile phone, which is not a smartphone (the way many people in India and other developing countries are accessing the Net, doing their banking, etc.).]

Project- not job-training

Think about this when we talk about US education reform and our children’s future careers: “The new revolution, the revolution of connection, creates all sorts of new productivity and new opportunities,” Godin writes. “Not for repetitive factory work, though, not for the sort of thing ADP measures. Most of the wealth created by this revolution doesn’t look like a job, not a full-time one anyway.” That’s good, because Kenyans told me how hard it is to find a full-time job in their country – a view many Americans share about their own. Think about this when you hear election rhetoric about jobs or our children’s futures in the election season.

“No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.” This may well be why, as US Amb. Jonathan Scott Grayson told my co-director Larry Magid in an interview, Kenyans spend 43% of their disposable income on mobile phones. Maybe they have little choice but to embrace the revolution, for themselves and their children.

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