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Laptops & Role Playing: Is Technology the Answer to Poverty?

Laptops & Role Playing: Is Technology the Answer to Poverty?

Though Dungeons and Dragons has weirdly wormed its way into the campaign, technology is popping up worldwide as not an escape from the drudgery of every day, but as an escape from poverty. Laptops and role-playing games are a double click of cure.

One Laptop Per Child, a program designed to bring technology and opportunity to kids in developing nations has completely fulfilled that mission in the tiny South Pacific island of Niue. Every single kid, 100 percent of them, now has access to the Internet on the inexpensive, rugged, waterproof (and pretty cute!) laptops. Though Niue is a developing nation, they've been ahead of the technology curve — in 2003 they were the first territory to offer free wireless to all residents.

Once you've mastered the web, can gaming be a golden ticket? Oh yes. To find out how,


Almost half a million people in developing nations make their living playing online games like World of Warcraft, earning virtual goods, and the selling them to other players for decidedly unvirtual money. It's called gold-farming and its growing despite the industry's efforts to crack down. Based in China for the most part, the business garners $500 million, though the true size is hard to estimate.

Gamers gold-farm by offering services like "power-leveling" where one can pay a gamer to take one's character to a higher level faster, outsourcing one's hobbies, as it were. The game's service size is comparable to India's outsourcing industry, though relatively few know the former exists. Why do people pay to have someone else play a game for them? Says one researcher, "When you get people with more money than time and time than money the two will find a way to meet." Paying someone to play World of Warcraft for you!? Whatever next.

That said, has technology become the new Esperanto, a language the whole world speaks? Is access to it the antidote to poverty and crucial to survival?


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