[OLPC India] One Laptop per Child and You! - a perspective

Satish Jha sjha at vsnl.com
Tue Sep 16 08:20:49 EDT 2008

  *Walter Brown wrote:*

Dear Satish,

I really like your observation likening the OLPC to a vaccine against
ignorance, it is indeed that. The most impressive support of the OLPC
concept that I have encountered so far are two English sub-titled OLPC
YouTube videos about the use of OLPC in Brazil - Teacher Tania Mara de
Oliveira at Luciana de Abreu school talking about the hurdles and rewards of
introduction, and little children in Porto Alegre driving their own learning
process from the introduction of Brazilian fossils to the structure of
viruses - moving the virus lesson on their own volition to sex and HIV/AIDS.
Most impressive.

In Africa, I only know of Rwanda that has brilliantly committed to OLPC, in
recognition that only knowledge can avoid a repeat of the human tragedy of
recent history. High hopes in Nigeria seem to have been dashed by the usual
scramble for opportunity by the global IT giants with their competing
hardware and software, and the idea expressed by a minister that school
chairs are far higher priorities than PCs. There is a small group of OLPC
activists in South Africa, but the barriers against OLPC are immense -
multi-million dollar state projects building a few computer labs in largely
dysfunctional poor area schools, the fear of theft and even physical harm
stemming from OLPC ownership, and most importantly, the usual bureaucratic
barriers and "not invented here" syndromes. One blog wonders how many OLPCs
could have been purchased from Oprah Winfrey's $40 million investment in one
"upper class" school for girls in Johannesburg?

I think that the OLPC concept holds immense promise for Africa and all
under-developed regions, but our decision-making processes are almost
guaranteed to frustrate that the process of introduction. Still, I welcome
and support all efforts, in the belief that one OLPC is worth a thousand
books, and can, with the wireless mesh access that is prohibited by many of
our national ICT policies and regulations, even overcome the absence of
school chairs and even schools themselves. I find it a pity though, that
Nicholas Negroponte's vision that OLPC is NOT a PC but a powerful tool for
children rich and poor to access knowledge and learning, systematically
falls on deaf bureaucratic ears in most developing regions.

In conclusion, I will support every OLPC endeavour as far as I can. My own
focus is on developing strategies for ICT applications at the "Bottom of the
Pyramid", which must and will include the OLPC concept, but will strive to
get communities themselves to understand the benefits of the "OLPC Vaccine",
and demand and protect this marvellous tool that can lift their children out
of the vicious poverty traps by their own shoestrings, even if they can't
afford the shoes.

Good luck and regards,

Walter Brown.

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