[OLPC India] Some questions

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Wed Jan 7 05:11:01 EST 2009

On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 2:54 AM, Satish Jha <jha.satish at gmail.com> wrote:
> One of my friends from Harvard Alumni Group had the following to say:
> I'm familiar with this great initiative. The question I would have is this:
> do you have studies on how the village changes when children get the XO?


> In
> a poor village can the child be "only" a school learner, or does s/he have
> other roles to play?

The child is an enabler for the rest of the family, for friends,
indeed for the entire community.

> How does the XO impact those roles?

We have been at this for only a year, and there are only a few studies
published. You can find them, plus a link to some anecdotal accounts,
at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Academic_papers. The first change of note
in the Ethiopia study is that before XOs, children were not allowed to
ask questions of a teacher, ever. After, teachers of their own
volition put question time in their lesson plans.

In Arahuay, Peru, teachers report that children are becoming much more
sociable, talking to each other more, sharing personal possessions,
and losing their fear of outsiders. They teach their parents how to
use the computers, and do agricultural and other research for them

We can provide many more observations, but no conclusions tested in
multiple locations. There are education researchers in a number of
countries conducting and planning studies right now, and we need many
more of them.

See also the Harvard Business Review study of the economic effects of
the ITC e-choupal project, where access to one computer per village
resulted in measurable growth in farm income.

> Coming off reviewing a major book on bio-tech, I'm impressed with the fact
> that we don't see things enough as flow, as context, as ecology.

At some point we will write Free digital textbooks on ecology and many
other subjects for K-12 education systems worldwide. See
http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Creating_textbooks for an outline and a
list of proposed partners in this new consortium. Most of them have
agreed in principle to join in the effort.

> The XO must
> have major impact, but is it to pull the child out of the village, mentally,
> and into the Mumbai-global economy world? Or does it lead to solving
> community problems and enhancing everyone's potential?

We propose to create a new economy. We don't know how it will work out
in detail, but we definitely intend to pursue the possibilities for
working over the Net from the villages. We propose, for example, that
the next wave of outsourcing in India will be from the cities to the
towns, and from the towns to the villages, as both education and
videoconferencing capabilities spread everywhere.

> The child connecting
> adults to resources, for instance.
> Questions, I see, not advice, and perhaps you have good answers already. Or
> perhaps this holistic view helps somehow.

Earth Treasury proposes such a view of the project, and has taken up a
number of challenges that OLPC and Sugar Labs consider out of scope.
These include

o Renewable electricity generation and storage for schools.

o Broadband Internet, even in the poorest and most remote villages.

o International microfinance, including e-commerce and IT services.

o A complete rethinking of Free digital textbooks, using the full
power of XO hardware and Sugar software.

o Connecting schools all over the world.

o Teaching children to use the video camera in the XOs to record and
share languages, cultures, oral histories, and whatever else is of
value to them and their communities.

o A curriculum on the basics of business, genuine economics (not the
current Free Trade nonsense), and so-called Intellectual Property law,
so that communities can maintain the rights to their own culture.

On this last point, I will cite only the attempt to patent a medicinal
use of turmeric, where the courts held that documentation of this use
in the Vedas did not constitute Prior Art. Examples can easily be

There are also initiatives in health education and health care systems
using ICT, and other possibilities for attacking every aspect of
poverty, neglect, and oppression. Simply giving every individual a
voice in the conversation about our shared future will be extremely

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And Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, The Truth my destination.

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