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March 17, 2010

The transformative power of thinking outside of the box.

Niue is a small island in the South Pacific, commonly known as the Rock of Polynesia. It is officially self-governing, although in practice New Zealand conducts diplomatic relations on behalf of residents of Niue. Queen Elizabeth II is its official head of state.

It seems that until the 18th century, there was no government to speak of in Niue. Rather, chiefs and heads of families led segments of the population. The first European to settle there was Captain Cook, and for the next few centuries, “moderns” knew the island by the name of Savage Island.

In 2001, the “Savages” of Niue showed that they have “come a long way, baby” when the former “Savage Island” became known as the “WiFi Nation”. Niue was the first territory to offer all of its residents free wireless internet. As of August 2008, 100% of its primary and high school students have a specialized laptop provided by the One Laptop per Child project, or OLP-XO-1.

The OLP-XO-1 project was developed by a Greek-American architect and computer scientist named Nicholas Negroponte, and its stated goal is to provide children in developing countries a specially-designed laptop to be used as a learning tool. Their website can be found here.

People who read this blog regularly may wonder why this post has been included. My point is this: sometimes the most transformative ideas come from thinking “outside of the box”. A case in point: the transformation of “Savage Island” into the world’s first “WiFi Nation”. When we reflect on opportunities to give back to others, we limit ourselves by choosing the obvious.

Negroponte seems to have followed the advice found in 1 Peter 4:10 - Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

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