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CACM Reports: A Report Card on the One Laptop per Child Initiative

June Issue also Examines Role of Computer Science in Serving the Developing World

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, May 26, 2009 – The June cover story of Communications of the ACM (CACM)  traces the journey of the One Laptop per Child initiative, which was planned to create a $100 PC as a teaching tool for disadvantaged children worldwide.  The project envisioned hundreds of millions of the laptops in use by now, but only a few hundred thousand had been distributed by January 2009.  The article chronicles the program’s successes, its failure to understand the culture of developing countries, and the unexpectedly uncompromising reaction of the PC industry.  The issue also features excerpts from BLOGat-sign_arial_12px.gifCACM, Communications' new Web platform that is updated daily to complement the print content.  Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format

            Information and communications technology for development can greatly improve quality of life for the world’s neediest people, says an article entitled “How Computer Science Serves the Developing World.”  Authors M. Bernardine Dias and Eric Brewer point to information-related technologies ranging from robotic tools and state-of-the-art computers to desktop and laptop computers in their traditional forms.  They also include mobile phones, PDAs and wireless networks as well as long-established technologies such as radio and television as applications capable of harnessing the power of technology to address the challenges of development.  Citing four projects currently underway, they conclude that computer science is uniquely positioned among all disciplines to have an immediate, large-scale impact on overcoming the challenges of the developing world.  

            "The Claremont Report on Database Research" presents the results of a 2008 discussion of the state of database research and its effects on practice by leading names in the field.  This distinguished group reached a broad consensus that the database community is at a turning point in its history due to both an explosion of data and usage scenarios, and major shifts in computing hardware and platforms.  They concluded that the unusually rich opportunities for technical advances, intellectual achievement, entrepreneurship, and benefits for science and society made it important for the database research community to address issues that maximize relevance within the field, across computing, and in external fields as well. 

            In "Beyond Computational Thinking," Peter Denning says that computational thinking is seen by its adherents as a novel way to say what the core of the field is about, a lever to reverse the decline of enrollments, and a rationale for accepting computer science as a legitimate field of science.   He worries, however, that advocates are merely repackaging the term with new paper and a fresh ribbon, and he concludes that the computational thinking movement reinforces a narrow view of the field and will not sell well with the other sciences or with the people the field wants to attract. 

            In an article on "Securing Frame Communication in Browsers," Adam Barth, Collin Jackson, and John C. Mitchell assess the effectiveness of Web site frames that embed third-party content, but that rely on the browser’s security policy to protect against malicious content.  Advocating a stricter approach to frame navigation policies, they evaluate two techniques for interframe communication, and propose improvements to provide appropriate confidentiality.  

            In an accompanying technical perspective, "Reframing Security for the Web," Cornell University Computer Science Professor Andrew Myers applauds the researchers' effort to illustrate the security vulnerabilities that new functionality brings to the Web.  He compliments their success in applying principled methods to identify and eliminate these vulnerabilities, and proposes a rethinking about the new challenges facing Web security.           

            Other June Communications articles:

  •     "Answering the Wrong Questions Is No Answer" examines how systems cannot be sufficiently protected against threats they face when developers ask the wrong questions about building and deploying systems.
  •     "Content Control" assesses the pros and cons of digital rights management as a way to prevent piracy, and hints at forthcoming changes to the policy. 
  •     At BLOG@CACM, Tessa Lau discusses why she does not use the touch screen on her in-car GPS unit anymore, and Daniel Reed considers the future of exascale computing, in which systems can handle a million trillion calculations per second.  Excerpts from their recent posts plus readers' comments are published in this issue.
  •     Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman ponders why "open source" misses the point of free software.  


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 


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