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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain


The political blog of a social entrepreneur


Our wedding gift from Jimmy Wales brings Wikipedia to schools without internet access

When Nina and I got married in 2009, the most thoughtful present we received was that of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (I wrote about it in my Spanish blog). After I told Jimmy about the difficulties my foundation educ.ar (whose mission is to improve education through the use of technology) was encountering in securing internet access for the many computers we had distributed to schools, Jimmy had a very special surprise for us at our wedding: an offline version of the Spanish Wikipedia.

Rather than being a present for Nina and me, it’s really a gift to all those kids in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries who have no means of connecting to the internet, or only have very limited access. And now, more than one year later, educ.ar is finally ready to deliver those DVDs to schools in Argentina.

At first glance this might not seem like a big achievement, but it is. As Jimmy explains in his blog, the difficulty is not getting the content on a DVD (it fits easily), but rather developing a simple offline reader that provides basic search and display functionality, using only free/open source software. Just think of the millions of cross-links that make discovering new information so easy and enjoyable on Wikipedia.

The DVD educ.ar will begin distributing this year consists of three parts. First, the offline Wikipedia itself, called “CDpedia”. In addition, there’s a theoretical framework where experts comment on the value of using Wikipedia in the classroom and explain Wikipedia’s value in an educational and social context that is increasingly being influenced by information technology and is undergoing a permanent transformation. Lastly, the DVD contains general tutorials and a guideline showing how to effectively use Wikipedia in a classroom setting. Here is the online version of this project.

And so, what started out as a wedding gift from a single (and very special) person will now bring a world of knowledge to thousands of school kids all over Argentina, and later to even more people in every Spanish-speaking country. I couldn’t think of a better present.

Posted at Educ.ar, Foundation on June 14, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Obama has an opportunity to do in Egypt what Bush tried and failed to do in Iraq

Egyptians fought bravely, ousted Mubarak and gave power to the military. But it turns out that USA effectively controls the Egyptian Army. It financed it, trained it and should it go into conflict with it, it can easily defeat it. So Egyptian people, whether they are aware of this or not, gave considerable power to USA. In Latin America and other parts of the world, giving power to US backed military would have been seen as a huge step back in time. So this situation must change quickly and in favor of the Egyptian people. It could also change in favor of US and EU foreign policy in the region.

Continue reading “Obama has an opportunity to do in Egypt what Bush tried and failed to do in Iraq”

Posted at Politics on March 4, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Danish Cartoons and Muslim liberation: Where are the massive demonstrations this time?

You probably remember the uproar that was caused by the publication of Danish cartoons that some Muslims found offensive.  Demonstrations around the world were massive.  According to Wikipedia there were over 100 deaths. Now let’s leave aside the controversy over how offensive those cartoons were.  To me the point is that when Muslims want to organize and protest over something that is dear to them, they do.
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Posted at Politics on February 25, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

How do the Japanese do it?

I wrote a post in which I commented that we had taken out my kids from Spanish schools in Spain because the Spaniards are unnecessarily tough on children. As an example I mentioned that in many Spanish schools kids don´t have a choice of food and they are forced to eat whatever food there is. I also commented that the “colleja”, an unusual Spanish spanking that involves hitting a kid on the back of his head, is still considered acceptable by most Spanish parents as a way to “teach kids a lesson”. But at the same time in my post I recognized that Spaniards, as adults, are by far the most organized and ethical people in the Latin world. This includes not only all Latin America but also Portugal, Italy and France. I am not saying that Spaniards are a global model but they are more likely to treat you well, less likely to rip you off, than other Latins. They may not be the brightest, something that I attribute to an education that focuses more on memorization than on reasoning, but they are the best behaved and ethical. So the question here is: does being tough with kids pays off in terms of ending up with better behaved adults? My hope is that the answer is no because I don´t endorse some of the practices of the Spaniards vis a vis children. I would like to believe that a system like the American, that relies more in self discipline and rewards, is better.

Continue reading “How do the Japanese do it?”

Posted at General on February 18, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Latin America can be a model for the Muslim world

I read this article from El País (in spanish) in which El Houssine Majdoub, a Moroccan journalist, blames the West and its “repugnant role” for the suffering of Muslim citizens in their own countries.

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Posted at Politics on February 11, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Why is the President of USA the President of the World?

Because, the USA is a very federal country and there´s little a President can do to change the way America is going other than by convincing Congress, Governors and Mayors to go along with him.

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Posted at Politics on February 4, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Do we want there to be no rich people or no poor people?

I have been criticized many times in this blog for having done well in life. Especially in my Spanish blog. Many readers know however that I grew up in a middle class family environment –the son of professors– and that I made my money by founding different companies. They also know that I started my companies by writing a business plan, searching for investors, recruiting a good management team, and executing out a strategy. So there are not many secrets about how I made my money in technology. Criticizing me for being rich in my blog. If it is done with humor, I leave it. If it is a direct insult, I don’t publish it. But the attitude of some readers towards my makes me wonder if people who hate successful people realize that what a society needs successful businesses in order not to eliminate poverty.

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Posted at General on January 27, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

If you don’t like being alone…move to Spain

In our society we are accustomed to grouping people by their age, their gender, their nationality, their profession and their work situation, but there are not many who classify people as being either solitary or gregarious (what’s more, I don’t believe that a word even exists to describe someone’s level on a solitary/gregarious continuum). But if we were to do so, meaning, if we were to create a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is someone who doesn’t talk to anyone throughout the whole day and 10 is someone who lives surrounded by family, friends and coworkers, and is never alone, I would be close to a 10.

Continue reading “If you don’t like being alone…move to Spain”

Posted at General on January 21, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

American Consulates around the world are Inaccessible Fortresses, even for American Citizens

Is America really under attack to the point that the life of American citizens has to be so hard? This is what I felt when I had the experience of taking my son Tom to renew his passport to the American Consulate in Madrid, an ordeal that took three hours and still not ended until days later. My son is a US Citizen and his passport had just expired. My son is also a Spanish citizen, so I have been exposed to the process of renewing both his passports and I am sorry to say that the American system is a lot more inconvenient.

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Posted at General on January 14, 2011 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

European destroy their countries, Americans the planet

The story of how the smoke that comes out of cars is destroying the planet is somehow similar to the story of how the smoke that comes out of cigarettes are destroying people´s lungs. In both cases, an activity that was previously considered harmless turned out to be damaging. In both cases, awareness came slowly and by the time most people were convinced a great deal of harm was already done. And in the case of Global Warming the guilty party turned out to be the Americans. But an unusual element of Global Warming is that, until it was discovered, I would have said that, in spite of what Europeans believe, the Americans were more environmentally minded than the Europeans. Now the opposite is true.

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Posted at General on December 23, 2010 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack