Tony Roberts has a new post on rural hackerspaces up on his blog. His previous work as CEO of Computer Aid Interna
tional distributing technologies to developing countries has done much good over the last 10 years. It is good to hear him describe the
possibilities of sustainable home grown solutions that may come about from the development of rural hackerspaces. This quote highlights the problems with lots of attempts at foreign aid to date:
Both errors – starting with technology rather than community, and locating power in the hands of foreign experts – disables local people.
These problems were the same with the initial responses to aiding the Arab Spring were for many aid organizations and as the standard response from the US Government. The difficulty in developing hacker spaces in poor areas is the difficulties of bringing in adequate tools, and sustaining a facility (paying rent). Taking this into consideration for GEMSI and attempting to assist the development of maker spaces in areas where tools cost might be a strain on people to start creating a space I believe that a microloan fund set up to initially fund the tools is a good way forward. It then not only provides an incentive for member growth at a space and increases revenue with membership fees it prevents the problems of requiring outside expertise.
The tools are purchased buy the members and support their current initiatives, it will attract collaborators who need those tools too. The knowledge about how to use the tools is less important than the access to the internet and a community of makers (world wide). Lastly they must plan their repayment schedule properly and manage their finances to do so. This ensures the loan is not a donation which often have less than lasting impacts, and provides GEMSI with the capital to refund a new space.
The climate in Cairo seems to indicate that this procedure may work. With a space in Cairo proper, a space would only need 30-40 members to support it. It’s my belief that once the first emergent nation’s hacker spaces are developed and the appropriate models are fleshed out, shared and disseminated. Once the language of community and DIY is translated into the relevant cultures tongues, we will see “rural hacker spaces” grow like dandelions.
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