Monday, 5 November 2007

One laptop per child?

The One Laptop Per Child foundation, OLPC, aims to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

They have done a superb job in producing a low cost, rugged, computer which can use alternative power sources - car battery, solar, foot-pedal or wind-up. Interestingly Intel produced a comparable laptop, the Classmate PC, with a similar aim of it being affordable for all, but they are now working in collaboration with OLPC. The Classmate can't use alternative power sources. Reading some of the reviews it seems that the OLPC is better aimed at younger children, and the Classmate at 12-16 year olds. Originally the idea was to use open-source software but there has recently been further controversy about Microsoft becoming involved.

The Classmate costs around $200 and the OLPC around $175, though they are hoping to reduce the costs when in full production. Apparently the sales have not been what might have been hoped.

Laudable as the idea to reduce the gap between the developing and developed world might be, have they considered just how many people in the world are struggling to live on less that $1 per day? That the most disadvantaged will fall still further behind?

If you can barely afford to eat, you are unlikely to go to school. If you don't go to school, you are unlikely to have a use for a laptop, no matter who buys it. And who is least likely to go to school in the developing world? In India there are 8 million fewer girls enrolled in primary education than there should be, in Africa 9 million. Even if they start primary education, girls are less likely than boys to complete it. Once again it will be girls who are most disadvantaged.


  1. Some years ago, I had read about some African country that had mortgaged its crops to buy weapons. I assume it was a socialist country, but it did not occur to them to spend the money on public education. I don't remember the country's name, but I do remember what a waste, to be in an arms race without a pot to piss in. Of course this was part of the proxy war and conditioning of the cold war.

    Now the aid the US sends is part of the values war. The sex and reproductive lives of women are more important than their poverty and lack of education.

  2. I agree with you on this matter. What also worries me is that I hope the children will really get the computers. And mafias or any of that sort will not get hold of the computers and then sell it anyway to people who can afford the computers but want to get a good buy. It has happened a lot of times that foreign aid/assistance really don't go to where they are supposed to go to.

  3. I just don't understand how people think when they are trying to give aid, hathor, I really don't.

    You have a good point, vlado & toni, I hope there is some accountability as to where the computers will go.

  4. Maybe that's not the point to start with either, there are sooo many other needs...


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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