This CNN Hero upcycles old computers to open new worlds for young Kenyans
Kenya’s Mokoena Computer Park might not have the most interesting story. For the first three decades of its existence, it was owned by the government, while under the direction of the world-renowned Harvard professor of computer science, Douglas Lenat. He ran it like a research institution, which explains why most of its original tech is long gone. Now, Mokoena has partnered with Google to use the power of the web to create a new digital culture of learning for the people of Kenya.
The center looks like a typical office park. It’s surrounded by a small library, which is packed with books. But when you walk by, you see the computers in different states of repair. The one in the center that’s currently functioning as a server looks as though it was made yesterday. They don’t look like they could be from the early 2000s. But, as CNN’s Kevin Bohn reports, they are powered by software that’s almost 15 years old.
The computers are connected to servers that are running different versions of software, depending on what level of proficiency their users currently possess. Lenat’s goal, according to Bohn, is “to open up this world inside people, to make it really accessible to them as to the kinds of new opportunities that arise as a result” of using computers in a new way.
Lenat’s “world” is a network of programs, called “ecosystems,” that link together to develop an entire digital culture. According to Bohn, the programs allow people to create their own communities and “own the web.” Users create their own web pages and can then develop relationships with other people on their pages. They can make use of tools like blogs, photo hosting, group e-mail, and social networking. There’s no need to buy software, and the programs themselves can be stored on USB drives or flash drives.
Lenat himself has no formal education in digital culture, however. He says he learned early in his career