Monday, December 10, 2007

Re: One Laptop Per Child Doesn't Change the World

I pretty much disagree with your view:

If you look at OLPC as an attempt to save the world, then of course, it won't. But if you see it as an innovative way to approach a number of educational deficiencies in a lot of developing nations, helping educated children learn and use computers and the internet, then I think it is very good.

I live and work in a developing nation that has millions of hungry children, but has millions more who eat enough and go to school regularly, but their families cannot even begin to consider purchasing a computer. There are others who are able to save up enough money to buy a 5 year old, "thrown away" desktop computer from Europe or the US for $100 which is guaranteed to work in the shop, but may break in 1 day. These used computers can be fine computers, but can also be expensive paperweights for a family that makes less than $100 per month (family may mean multiple married brothers and their children living in the same compound). These computers also use a lot of expensive electricity which may not work everyday.

I really don't know about the motives and real desires of all involved in OLPC project, but I do know that it is can meet a felt need in many places like where I live in South Asia. With it's power saving features, unique interaction with wireless networks, and low costs (among other things), it has the potential to be a very big advantage to the educated, but non-malnutritioned, children.

I have watched government and international money for food fall right into a black hole with no long term advantage (or often without any short-term value). So if you think giving money that could be diverted from a missile is a solution, then you haven't worked in the developing world. At least with OLPC, there is a physical asset that will be of value for several years, even if it doesn't meet it desired goal.

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