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Bootstrapping Cambodia ... and Team Slashdot

By eries in Culture
Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 01:45:22 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Some time back, I posted a story about a site called CambodiaSchools.com. In that post, I proposed that members of the Slashdot and K5 communities get together, in a sort of TeamSlashdot effort to build a new high-tech elementary school in Cambodia. Thanks to the support and encouragement of many who saw that initial post, that idea is now a reality. Read on for the details.

Our site is up, and being hosted at http://badge.sourceforge.net/cambodiaschools as part of the Badge open source project. We are accepting no-fee credit card donations online, thanks to a non-profit web site called JustGive.org. 100% of the money we collect goes directly to American Assistance for Cambodia, the umbrella organization that administers the Cambodia Schools project.

In the original K5 article, I included a poll, in which 72% of respondants indicated they would give $14 to an effort like this. It is my sincere hope that this article will encourage those people, and many more like them, to get involved. Thanks to the wide distributed nature of the internet, each of us giving only a dollar can make a real difference.

Now, I know that nobody likes getting solicited, and if you don't want to give any money, that's fine. The real significance of this project, IMHO, is the ability to prove that the power of communities like ours can be harnessed for real-world impact, and not just for DES cracking. So, if you want to get involved, please drop me an email, or post a comment, or spread the word. The implications of this project are something I hope will make for interesting discussion.

This is a repost of the original submission, which had a line at the end here that some people objected to. It took me by surprise, but I think a repost is better than leaving people with a bad taste in their mouths. My point, in the original article, was that the connectedness of a project like this is interesting to me - that casual actions here-and-now have an impact that is heavily displaced in time and space, which I think is an interesting and completely unforseen impact of the internet.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Would you donate $14 to create a new K5 Elementary School?
o Yes, I will give 25%
o Yes, I will vote 'Yes' because I think it's the right thing to do, but I don't actually plan on following through. 41%
o No, I don't have $14 to spare 17%
o No, I don't think virtual communities should meddle with real ones 15%

Votes: 112
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o story
o CambodiaSc hools.com
o TeamSlashd ot
o reality
o http://bad ge.sourceforge.net/cambodiaschools
o Badge open source project
o JustGive.o rg
o American Assistance for Cambodia
o 72% of respondants
o Also by eries

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Bootstrapping Cambodia ... and Team Slashdot | 23 comments (16 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
So what exactly are these kids gonna do once... (3.46 / 15) (#3)
by marlowe on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 05:09:48 PM EST

they've got the Internet? Kids in the U.S. don't have enough sense to do much useful with it. What are a bunch of third world waifs gonna get out of it?

I say just give `em books. You can't use books to post adolescent drivel about UFOs and drunken rape on hapless blogs.

Oh, and send them some milk to help build up their bone structure. No, scratch that. Milk is evil or something.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
i have a better idea (3.80 / 5) (#6)
by rebelcool on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 05:52:40 PM EST

send them teachers to teach them useful things like Reading, writing, agriculture and medicine. Computers should come after the people have the means to live without fearing disease or starvation.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

not so simple (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by danny on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 06:10:45 PM EST

Yes, literacy and health and nutrition matter, but communications and access to information are often critical to providing those. I've started an FAQ on this (on my free software advocacy site).

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

nothing.. (none / 0) (#8)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 12:21:30 AM EST

can compare to a human teacher demonstrating things. These people cant read, much less use a mouse and keyboard. Teach them how to live. Then teach them the computer. Anything else is a ridiculous waste of money and time.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

hate to bring in facts... (none / 0) (#18)
by eries on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 05:46:48 PM EST

to a good ol' argument, but if you check out the Cambodia Schools web site you will discover that $2000 of the $14000 donation is set aside for teacher salary. Although that may not sound like a lot to you or me, it's a very large amount by Cambodian standards, or so I'm led to believe. The program has been successful at attracting and retaining quality teachers.
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]
just an added perspective (none / 0) (#19)
by gtx on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 10:48:19 AM EST

before anybody asks "who would teach in cambodia for $2000?" *I* would teach in cambodia for $2000.00... which brings me to ask a question: instead of raising just money, why not look for volunteers as well? or maybe this question was already answered... i'll go look...

i don't have anything clever to write here.
[ Parent ]
Re: just an added perspective (none / 0) (#20)
by Amorsen on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 03:00:00 PM EST

Cambodia already has people enough. No reason to send more. Foreign capital on the other hand is a scarcity.

[ Parent ]
This is going to sound heartless and cruel (3.66 / 6) (#12)
by rednecktek on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 09:53:58 AM EST

I won't do this. I have a severe problem with charities outside my community. I define "my community" as all direct influences in mine or my family's lives.

I have a god-son who goes (not for long) to a school where:

  • The paint is peeling off the walls and broken windows can be seen from the road.
  • Some child gets escorted away by the police everyday (usually after someone else leaves in an ambulance).
  • Removal off some contagion happens constantly. This year, a chemical dumping ground was discovered less than 500 feet from the school.
You may think I'm exaggerating; I'm not. Unfortunately, this is not restricted to one school. The above directly affects my community. It may sound very selfish and short-sighted, but why should I contribute to outside charities, when the resources of my own community are so badly in need of repair?

In addition, from http://badge.sourceforge.net/cambodiaschools/ (referenced in the article):

... build a new high-tech elementary school in war-torn Cambodia.
Exactly how does your charity foundation expect to keep this school from being "war-torn" shortly after it is built? If warring factions blow it up or burn it to the ground, who will rebuild it? How many times will you give your $14 to a cause that can readily destroyed without hope for immediate resurrection? ?

IMHO, my charity is best served at home.

If you mod me down, just make sure it isn't because you don't like my view.

Just remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.
why Cambodia? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by eries on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:12:58 PM EST

I've had to answer a number of similar criticisms ever since I made the mistake of posting this story on K5. I understand that there are people who prefer to give to charities in their local area, and I think that is terrific. We have many problems here in the US, not the least of which is our decaying education system.

Now, it's my humble opinion that the problems with the education system in the US are complicated, and cannot be solved by relatively small outlays of cash, but need to be solved with both high-level and grassroots political action. As I've said previously, I will take vouchers, but if you have a better idea I'm all for that.

So, given the fact that I thought it would be interesting to see if we could organize a distributed network of small donors, giving a few thousand dollars to the US educational system is hardly worthwhile, because the proportional impact of that amount of money is basically nil.

On the other hand, Cambodia has just been through one of the worst Communist regimes in history, and is just coming out of a devastating civil war. I emphasize "been through" and "coming out" in response to your cirticism:

Exactly how does your charity foundation expect to keep this school from being "war-torn" shortly after it is built? If warring factions blow it up or burn it to the ground, who will rebuild it? How many times will you give your $14 to a cause that can readily destroyed without hope for immediate resurrection? ?

I am no expert in Cambodia history, but neither, apparently, are you. This is the kind of argument that I just can't understand. There is no war in Cambodia at present, AFAIK. The country, which thanks to its recent past is one of the poorest in Asia, is trying to rebuild itself. We're not talking about incrementally improving the education system, we're talking about creating the education infrastructure from scratch. I can't take any credit for that, of course, I'm just an American who read a story about it on Slashdot. The real credit must go to Bernie Krisher, who is a real hero.

So, to sum up. $14K doesn't do much good here in the US, but it goes a very long way in Cambodia. Cambodia is worthy of our contributions because they are trying to bootstrap into the modern world. Last, you should do your homework before you criticize a project like this one.
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]

You were doing so well (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by rednecktek on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:31:33 PM EST

I had to agree with everything you said. AFAIK, there may not be a war in Cambodia at this time. AFAIK, $14 may go farther toward schools in Cambodia than here. But, you said ....
Last, you should do your homework before you criticize a project like this one.
<FLAME MODE ON> You are correct I didn't do any "homework" on the project you are groveling money for. How much of my post did you read before insulting me on the last line of your response? I never criticized your project. I gave a point of view (coincidently not in line with yours), and my reasoning for my point of view.

Take some of your own advice, read what you're responding on, before you post.

Just remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.
[ Parent ]

flames (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by eries on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 05:43:35 PM EST

What has been most remarkable to me in the process of starting this project is the amount of flamage I've been subjected to because of it. It's really funny, I think. If I had dedicated myself extra hard to overclocking my CPU one extra MHz, or written yet-another-article about the problems with Open Source development, or reversed engineered the CueCat again, I wouldn't have to put up with this kind of stuff.

"the project you are groveling money for" - is that really necessary? How am I supposed to interpret Exactly how does your charity foundation expect to keep this school from being "war-torn" shortly after it is built? except as a criticism?

What's even more strange, though, is that this is not my project. I am not building a school in Cambodia. All I have done was to organize a way to collect donations online to make it easier for people like you and me to contribute. That seemed to be one of the complaints that people had way back when the original article was posted.

So what's going on? What I have I done that is so offensive to you? I pointed out that you didn't know what you were talking about. Although your point of view is valid in a general sense, your criticisms and concerns do not apply, as far as I can tell, to this project. Is that really what is bothering you?

Or is it something else, some kind of deeper issue resulting from the cognitive dissonance caused by the desire to act selfish without seeming it? I honestly don't know. I'd welcome your insight on the subject.

Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]

A question of priorities (none / 0) (#22)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 04:32:48 AM EST

I see what you mean, and you have a valid point. But perhaps your local school wouldn't be in that predicament if the federal gov. had in previous decades spent less money on bombing SE Asia back into the Stone Age, and more on schools? And don't you think it proper that the US should foot at least part of the bill for undoing the effects of the chaos it caused in that region?
[ Parent ]
Priorities or responsibility? (none / 0) (#23)
by rednecktek on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 11:21:36 AM EST

I see what you mean, and you may also have a valid point. However, I want to clarify your statement.

Are you saying that the US government is responsible for repairing what was destroyed? I might agree with that statement, IF US military action was not requested by the local governments, either through direct contact or UN approval. For the record I don't agree with the UN, period.

Or, do you mean that because I am American, and the US bombed the hell out of SE Asia, I am responsible to foot the bill to rebuild their infrastruture? The US has been involved in many conflicts which I didn't support. I have no direct control over the conflicts we become involved in. I have no choice in a military action who lives or which targets are attacked. In short, I do not see how the American people could be held personally responsible for the actions of our government.

Just remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.
[ Parent ]

MLP about priorities. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by HypoLuxa on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 10:22:47 AM EST

Check out this Wired News article which discusses some of the issues of bringing technology to schools in Mexico (which I think will have obvious parallels to bringing technology to schools in Cambodia). While that in and of itself is an admirable goal, the article goes on to explain that when kids don't have books or paper or pencils or heat, wiring up a school to the internet isn't going to solve the problems.

I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
Why these kinds of donations are wrong. (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by typo on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 05:39:02 PM EST

In a perfect world (and reread that before you start flaming) your taxes pay for everyone to have shelter, food and decent education and health. In the US that's plain wrong I believe. In Europe, constitutions enforce that but states are all too keen to have around these pointless fund raisers, which are just another layer of taxes if you look at it right.

In Portugal you can expect to pay 40 to 60 per cent of your income in taxes which give you health and education and a pension plan for when you stop working.

In with the fund raisers and you're paying, from your remaining 60 to 40 per cent, basic services that the state (so says it's constitution) must suply.

But the world isn't perfect so let's help the Cambodian people.

Just Been There (none / 0) (#21)
by concept on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 11:05:52 PM EST

I just got back from Cambodia. I visited Siem Reap, the second largest town in Cambodia, on the main national highway ('highway 6') -- which runs from Phnom Penh (the capital) along the northern part of the Tonle Sap lake, through Siem Reap and off to Thailand. (pics @ roofless.shac -antigoogle- knet.nu:7901/photos/cambodia/ ;)

From the short time I spent there, I saw that very few people have landline telephone services at all. The 'internet' computer at my hotel didn't actually work. The cost (for tourists) was ~US$8 an hour. The hotel staff mumbled something about the lines to Phnom Penh (it had been raining a lot recently).

Without basic landline telephony, affordable internet access is out of the question at the moment. High cost LMDS and other wireless internet services COULD be deployed, but the market just isn't there -- a PC would be hideously expensive in a country where people sell pens for a GOOD living.

Surprisingly, mobile phones are starting to take off there .. though they are still out of reach for many.

As for internet services, prior to my visit I had a look - the only company that seems to have a presence there is Telstra (good ol' aussie company), though their prices for connectivity, even in Phnom Penh, are expensive even for westerners like myself. (check them out at bigpond.com.kh). This is because it has been commercially infeasible to lay cable in to the country (I guess), so Telstra relies on leased satellite bandwidth ... that's my take, anyway.

NFI what to do about the country .. more education + English + some better physical infrastructure I guess ... someone has to lay the $ down ... putting PCs in without teachers would SUCK. (I'll volunteer to teach, though!) ... and putting PCs in with teachers without internet access would SUCK. Need cheap net access .. methinks one would need to get some company with $ to lay out the infrastructure....

- concept

Bootstrapping Cambodia ... and Team Slashdot | 23 comments (16 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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