Mobile phones, cheap laptops, Open Source and ODR – The killer trio

For the past couple of years I’ve advocated that ODR service providers, practitioners and thinkers should take note of mobile devices as a means to not just spread the use of ODR, but also to make it more accessible and cost effective to the millions (even billions) of citizens who will never be able to afford a PC in their lives. Interestingly, as I noted several years ago on a trend that has held, many of these citizens who don’t own PC either own, are going to purchase, or have access to, a mobile device such as a mobile phone. Commentators are already saying that in Africa, mobiles will leapfrog fixed internet points.

In my paper Mediation from the palm of your hand: Forgining the next generation ODR systems on your hand, I pointed to technologies such as the rapid miniaturisation and development of smart phones and PDA that could be used, along with technologies such as Skype and Portrait, to take into the field multimedia tool hitherto chained to the PC.

Apple Inc.’s sickeningly gorgeous iPhone is a case in point as to how much phones will evolve this year. Available from June 2007, this phone is a harbigner of models from other manufacturer’s that will emulate the functionality & features pioneered by Apple.

What is even more promising for the future of ODR, especially in the developing world where it can be, as I’ve proposed, be used for complex ethno-political dispute transformation, is that along with new phones, the $100 laptop (that I’ve written about extensively earlier) will become reality this year. News that individual laptops can be bought makes it a viable opportunity for small foundations or NGOs to purchase them.

Supporting this trend of cheaper, more powerful and accessible hardware is news of open source developments such as the recent announcement by Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, that it has released client source code for Second Life under GPL. I can only echo the words of one of my mentors, Colin Rule:

This is a bold and audacious move, and I applaud the Lindens integrity and foresight in making it. In the choice between changing the world and enriching themselves this feels like they’ve leaned toward the former, and I believe that deserves a lot of respect. I can’t wait to get in there and play with it myself.

Smart phones, cheap laptops and open source. The killer trio that will ignite ODR this year.

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