But what concerns us today is the modern-day equivalent of that saying. And that is the One Laptop Per Child project, which has decided to target Haiti as the latest place where it will deploy its XO laptop. Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was in the news recently when people rioted to protest against food prices.
Hence the OLPC has decided: if they haven't got food, give them laptops instead. Brilliant.
For those who haven't a clue about the project, here's a morsel: the OLPC was set up by MIT media labs chief Nicholas Negroponte to supply laptops to children; it has morphed from a $US100 laptop to a $US188 model and has had a fair number of hiccups in its short existence.
BusinessWeek has a long, detailed article on the project which is well worth a read; among many memorable passages is this one: "Just getting started in Haiti will be a challenge. The group's second trip there was delayed by riots over food shortages in April. The first shipment of laptops was held up in customs for weeks. Donors are paying for some laptops, but not all. Asked how Haiti can afford to pay for PCs when its citizens are starving, Guy Serge Pompi, the Haitian educator coordinating the project, answers: "You can't just focus on the present. The starving is the present. The future is education. We need to train our students for better jobs and a better future"."
Yeah, the OLPC is going to change the world. Going forward, I guess.
There were a lot of high-sounding goals set when the project kicked off. Now the gloss has been replaced by rust - despite all the spin by the organisation about the numbers it has deployed, BusinessWeek tells us that there was a target of 150 million laptops by the end of 2008; only 370,000 have been shipped.
Look at those numbers again - would any chief executive survive such a disastrous performance? Would any organisation have the gall to continue functioning and claim that it had any idea of what it was doing after such an appalling performance?