Blog Action, Poverty and Talking Books

Today is Blog Action Day and many bloggers are devoting a post today to the topic for this year of poverty.

Probably, a good number of blogs will discuss sites like that address that issue head on. I have written before about Kiva Microfunds is an organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to microfinance institutions in developing countries which in turn lend the money to small businesses. I have contributed to it and suggest it as a class project.

I came across this blogger from the Philippines that was thinking about what bloggers might do with this year's theme of poverty.

To be frank, I am already anticipating a barrage of essays condemning poverty as the most violent of murderers, subjecting millions to slow and painful death.

But I have mixed feelings about anti-poverty campaigns. Most times, the people who are noisiest about helping the poor are the very people who seek to exploit poverty for their own personal agenda.

In 2004, the PhilHealth card was the medium to exploit the poor to win an election. In 1998, the simple thinking of poor folk was exploited to also win an election. The Catholic Church has been exploiting the ignorance of the poor for centuries to perpetuate its power. It’s even true of the common man who assuages his “guilt” by donating to this and that charitable organization regularly as if the act eradicates any possibility that he could be an indirect cause of other people’s poverty.

Poverty is not only a state of deprivation. It isn’t just about people who have less material comfort. It is also a battlecry and a political issue. Politicians and activists oversimplify things when they make a sweeping definition of poverty based on family income. Consider this. Juan and Juana are poor because they are uneducated and unable to get decent paying jobs. They are uneducated because they grew in a remote rural area where the nearest school was a two-hour trek each way and there were no high schools and colleges...

My take on Blog Action Day is to turn your attention to poverty+education+technology. I can point you (teachers and students) to many places online like "Africa Counts on Education, Technology to Ease Poverty" or one of the essays on science and society like "Alleviating Poverty Through Technology."

I decided to focus your attention on one effort directed at literacy called Literacy Bridge.

Knowledge is power; but most knowledge is tied up in text. So how do the 774 million illiterate adults in the world access knowledge crucial to preventing disease, creating economic opportunity, and defending their political and human rights?

The Talking Book Project is Literacy Bridge's major program, developing new and affordable digital audio technology to provide vital, locally generated information and literacy training to people with limited access to either.

Imagine a $5 iPod used to play locally generated podcasts, plus a decentralized, digital content distribution system that reaches villages without electricity but also enables global content sharing. Aside from the innovative use of technology, partnerships with local businesses, civic organizations, and government agencies play a pivotal role in the project.

Take a look at this video with Cliff Schmidt, Executive Director of Literacy Bridge, sharing observations from Ghana and discussing the Talking Book Project.

Go to for updates, news and blog posts from around the globe.


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