My friend Skud recently went to Vanuatu, and I caught up with her as she passed through Auckland on her way to SF. Vanuatu is a Micronesian nation with no real industry other than tourism. She has a Flickr set of photos of a “solidly middle class” family that’ll blow your mind if you’ve never been to a developing nation (her commentary on those photos provides some context).
She’s been organizing technical books for Vanuatu, helping the Vanuatu IT User Society build out their library. She’s got some amazing stories about the kids, and also the adults who have potential and curiosity and the same hacker sense we see in ourselves but don’t have instruction or even a computer of their own to build it out on. She’s also helping them to get OLPCs, not trivial because Vanuatu is so small it doesn’t rate on the scale against Africa.
I had a great afternoon with Skud, and was really inspired by what she’s doing. O’Reilly has helped similar projects in the past, getting books in the hands of those who need them and we’re going to send VITUS a box of books per Skud’s request. It was uplifting to see Skud’s passionate and pragmatic approach to helping the people she’d been staying with. It does us good to remember that the Internet can be used to connect people in more ways than Facebook friending.