Even two years into the project, Watson is constantly confronted with various problems. “I don’t think I’ve ever, ever had something go according to plan,” he said. But his love for problem-solving makes it all an exciting challenge.
Watson is also continuously attempting to improve his computers to make them more efficient. The current design of his computers features power consumption as low as 20 watts, with a 17.3-inch screen, a fast processor and a 250GB hard drive. Each of the computers is loaded with an operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Ubuntu, and also contains a digital library with textbooks and other books, as well as free resources from various universities’ educational projects.
Of course, such dedication on his part has reaped Watson many valuable rewards. He was able to take many pictures of the local scenery and culture, which he hopes someday to make into a photo book. He was also able to witness concrete changes in the places his project has reached. For instance, returning to a school in the Philippines three months after he installed computers there, he saw that school attendance was up, students were proficient in computer usage, and they were even using computers to practise for a chess tournament. He also had the opportunity to modify computer games, incorporating educational elements that would help users master double-clicking and touch typing.
He has even experienced being beaten by a bunch of near-professional Ghanaians footballers in a heated match, and being made to dance in front of everybody at a funeral.
Watson believes his most precious reward is being able to understand that everywhere in the world, people are people. “People all around the world are telling jokes, talking to friends, striving for a better education, striving for a better job – it’s really shattered a lot of the common depictions I see on television about what poverty means. If you are looking to benefit someone’s life, you have to first view them as a person.”
Despite having been away from home for two years, Watson does not mind his current “lone-wolf status”. He is never far from an internet connection, and a combination of blogging, Facebook and email makes him feel that he is never far from home. He can keep up with what is happening in the rest of the world. “Some would say that I wasn’t even raised in Hong Kong, that I was raised on the internet,” he laughed. “Plus, I get to enjoy bragging rights.”
Watson’s gap year taught him how little he really knows in the field of computer science, and he hopes to go to university to further enrich his knowledge after his second gap year.
These are the footprints of the self-described “world’s luckiest geek”. He walks into less developed regions, introduces his invention and laughs along with the local people. He walks into various offices, asking for donations. With a mission to bring technology to the less privileged, this geek is sure to go far.