18 thoughts on “OLPC – a few of my favourite things”

  1. I am sure these children would prefer stability, health, education and food before a laptop becomes slightly useful, no point in having a great linux machine etc when your stomach is empty, you have no idea what the keys on a laptop means and your family lives in squalor

  2. Technology can help societies move forward. These children can get online, learn skills, connect with other communities, create and share their culture digitally and much more. Why should these children have to wait to join the information age for base infrastructure to be put in place (such as electricity and phone lines)? I think the OLPC project is a fantastic way to give more opportunities to individuals who are otherwise quite disadvantaged.

  3. I don’t disagree technology when provided in an appropriate way can help countries move forward, but as a 1st world nation we often forget how the rest of the world really lives and have dreams of changing the world but do not face the reality of what it really takes.

    Look at countries of the subcontinent like Pakistan, most parts of India, Bangladesh, country areas China etc. The majority of the population lives not much better then what we call a slum and often the focus of life is day to day survival, education is a lower prioirity not because it is less important but because it isn’t life critical. The annual income is the price of the OLPC device, even at $100 USD and which marginal income will be dedicated to the purchase of the device. Now if they were to be donated in the thousands, fully maintained etc maybe this would be different. Maybe Bill Gates can support this as it requires that level of wealth to provide the devices in the numbers necessary to really touch the global population. In some cases a basic TV with cable access is more than most could dream of to provide information.

    How are they going to share online when many of the real 3rd world countries do not have basic phone and telephony capabilities. Many of these places require satelite infrastructure to provide basic network connectivity as the copper cable on posts or in the ground does not exist.

    I agree places who are slightly industrialised have some capability to “share” information and connect, but the true third world countries really do not have any infrastructure to “share” content

  4. You should actually read about the OLPC project ๐Ÿ™‚ The idea is that Governments buys them in the millions for $100 each (not individuals who as you correctly point out may not earn that much in a year!). Then Governments such as Libya, Nigera and Brazil (see the map of which Governments are getting involved for more details) can help bring their countries forward by relatively small investments in technology, and many Governments are already on board.

    When it comes to the internet, you should check out the initiative to run the internet over the train lines (more details available here) which would deliver online access to remote places that have nearby train lines such as much of India. There are also some great wireless initiatives happening using basic wireless access points to create a network that is connected at some point (such as in a city with phone lines) onto the internet.

    As you can see, these often remote and disadvantaged communities don’t need to wait for major infrastructure to be in place to be able to participate and benefit from the world wide web ๐Ÿ™‚ I can bet you once many of these children get access to more information and education opportunities, they will make it their business and be empowered to get more educated and hopefully create a better future for themselves and their communities.

  5. Hi David,

    I didn’t say small ๐Ÿ™‚ Relatively compared to rolling out infrastructure such as power and electricity across the board and then getting common modern (and more expensive) PCs out there.

    I think we all need to keep in mind that this is an opportunity for changing the education opportunities to these countries. It would cost a lot _more_ to deliver some basic books to all these kids, and online computer access gives them access to hundreds of thousands of books and other resources.

  6. Sorry I still don’t get it. You keep talking about the saving in spending millions of dollars, this is a bit like buying a dress on sale, but you didn’t need the dress in the first place. The devoloping countries of which you speak need power, clean and safe water, sanitation rather than spending millions building wifi points wather than laying copper cable. you still need some infrastructure between all those access points.

    I disagree this is cheaper than providing text books to the kids of these countries, to use the laptop you will need reading skills, be able to identify (I assume english language) characters, and therefore all the things text books give you the ability to do when presented with a screen. Yes a laptop can assit in this area, but it is a second level device not a primary learning tool. Stop thinking about how 1st world perspective

  7. Linus, you obviously don’t want to see the opportunity here which is sad. I lived in China for a while and certainly have seen how something like this could really help people. These children do need something more than what they have. It is such an inspirational project and all you have is negativity without any constructive (or even well-researched) input or alternatives.

    BTW, do the figures. Sending say 20 books per child (enough for a K-12 education?) to developing nations or sending one US$100 laptop which they can get online with and have access to thousands of books (such as at the Gutenberg project). Obviously there are countries who see the benefits in this as they are going ahead and doing it.

    Your opinion has been noted.

  8. I am not neagtive at all. I am a realist who doesn’t have rose tinted glasses about the world. Once again you foster a 1st world education system on a 3rd world country, 5 years of schooling for some is a daydream, 10 years an absolute dream. I firmly believe in education for all, but I also temper that with an understanding of the reality of the world.

    you keep saying get online….infrastructure to get online isn’t just some magic that happens, it requires money, planning, time and effort. Having spent 5 years working in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh this is the biggest hurdle, not the giveaway laptops. You need something to connect too enabling this device a provide value to its user, and these countries on the whole just do not have the present capability to get online for its population. The exception is using a GSM/Analog phone network to enable connectivity as this is more prevalent than anything else. If you can’t get online yes you can type and format a spreadsheet, but that is it

  9. >> How are they going to share online when many of the real 3rd world countries do not have basic phone and telephony capabilities. Many of these places require satelite infrastructure to provide basic network connectivity as the copper cable on posts or in the ground does not exist.

    Check out http://www.green-wifi.org/ for people working on a solution to this problem.

  10. Cool, finally a potential annswer, where has it been implemented to read about trials and tribulations?

  11. The first deployment is going out in India – there’s a mailing list you can sign up to for more info. Still trials to come no doubt ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. There are millions of people living in conditions that I think all of us in the 1st countries would not consider a state of living. These people lack stable food access, clean water and a place to sleep. I don’t think the OLPC project is particularly designed to supply these people with laptops, rather, people with a stable source of food, clean water and a shelter and already some form of education.

    I haven’t been to India or any of the other places you guys have described above, other than China where I really think there are some prime localities that really could benefit from this great free/libre/open source project. As an advocate of this software and things that can be created with it (free culture/creative commons), I think that the OLPC project will dramatically help the people who’s first concern isn’t food but education and positive movement for their societies.


    PS. Sorry Pia, forgot to close the sup tag. =S

  13. I agree with Linus. And it is hard for people in the 1st world to grasp, without seeing first hand what it means not ot have clean water or to truly go hungry…
    History already shows countries without clean water and reasonable norishment wil suffer on an accademic level. For them it is a daily struggle just to survive. Daily battles with simple deseases the 1st world generally never sees.
    Simply providing infrastructure to provide clean water dramatically improves the conditions these people live in.
    I agree that these laptops would be great in countries with basic infrastructure to support a population with food and basic communications, but when your fighting to survive, you want your government to provide infrastructure for at least basic standards of living and basic education (so that you can learn to read in the first place). And a book to teach you to read is far far cheaper than a basic laptop.

  14. At last year’s (LCA06) Education Mini-conference in Dunedin, NZ, a fellow named Edward Holcroft spoke about his work with NetDay in South Africa. NetDay installs thin client labs in very rural, very poor schools. Some of these schools didn’t have power (he installed solar power) and one didn’t have water. These schools need to apply to NetDay for these labs and Edward has a back log of schools that have applied.

    I was lucky enough to go out to dinner with Edward after his presentation and over a couple of beers got up the courage to ask him the question of whether it makes sense to provide computers to schools that have no water. He took a deep breath and I could tell he had been asked this question many, many times. I thought his answer was quite eloquent and, though I will probably mangle it here, he answered as follows:

    “I find it somewhat frustrating when people present this as an either or situation – water or computing. Or often it is presented as necessarily a serial process – first water then computing. I am the computer guy. It is what I do and I do it well and I do with passion. I am here now. You go find the water guy and ask him why he is not here now. Because we know he could be. We can both be working here at the same time.”

  15. It is fine if you are given both, typically funded by an outside source, and you do not have to choose one or the other

  16. Do we condemn the education system of a developing nation because it detracts from the labours of a child or drains the resources of the community? Do we deny them the printing press and copier because it is cheaper to transcribe notes from the board? At what point do we deliver good educational tools?

    Children need more than just pencils, teachers need more than just chalk. Our Cambodian sister school cannot afford to bring their school computers online. Whilst the cost is roughly equivalent to the annual salary of a teacher, there is still an interest in the local community and our Australian school to provide this funding.

    I recall in the late 1990’s that the computers and Internet access provided to South American schools were extensively used after hours by teachers, doctors and community leaders.

    Access to good information, ideas and a network of friends who really care are a precious resource that can help build the social capital for any school community.

  17. This all wonderful in thought and desire. I would love nothing more than to give every child in the world access to 1st world everything, food, water, education, computers, internet etc etc etc. The reality is choices have to be made because the world isn’t quite that equal today, and each item has a cost and value which a commuity must decide on.

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