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Tue Jul 28 06:35:29 EDT 2009

Front Page    =20

=91One laptop per child=92 gaining ground in India=20

T. Ramachandran=20

It is for those with little or no access to education=20

KOCHI: India has =91just begun=92 taking an interest in the One Laptop per =
Child (OLPC) global initiative that aims at providing poor children with la=
ptops to open up a world of education to them.=20

=93Now a number of stakeholders are beginning to demand OLPC and understand=
 that no other computing device=2C either as a technology or as an embodime=
nt of appropriate pedagogy may be as appropriate for village India as the O=
LPC=92s XO (laptop). As a result several stakeholders have begun placing or=
ders and budgeting for it=2C=94 OLPC India president and Chief Executive Of=
ficer Satish Jha told The Hindu when asked about the status of the project =
in the country.

The OLPC has made headway in other parts of the world. About 1.2 million ch=
ildren are using laptops in some 30 countries=2C he said. In India=2C small=
 scale OLPC-based projects are being tried out at a few places.

Mr. Jha disclosed that large-scale initiatives were afoot in India for the =
distribution of these laptops=2C ranging from about 50=2C000 to 1.5 lakh un=
its each. =93It is the privilege of the buyers to make announcements as and=
 when they consider appropriate.=94
Learning tool=20

The OLPC is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte=2C the co-founder of the =
MIT Media Lab=2C and aims at providing the specially designed and built lap=
tops to children with little or no access to education=2C as a learning too=
l and also a means of self expression. The initiative is spearheaded by the=
 OLPC Association=2C a non-profit organisation that is collaborating with g=
overnments=2C organisations and individuals in several parts of the world t=
o support the distribution and use of the laptops.

These are no typical laptops and=2C according to Mr. Jha=2C are now hailed =
as forerunners of the netbook revolution. They are built to be rugged and e=
nergy efficient. That they should be affordable was also a key requirement.

They use flash instead of a hard drive and come with a sealed rubber keyboa=
rd. The laptop sports a 7.5-inch TFT screen. XO is =93about the size of a t=
extbook and lighter than a lunchbox.=94=20
Minimum power consumption=20

Flexibility in design has meant that it can be used as a standard laptop=2C=
 for e-book reading and also gaming. OLPC Laptops are wireless routers and =
deploy mesh networking to reduce the need for dedicated infrastructure and =
make wider interlinking possible. Power consumption is minimal. They run on=
 free software.

The XO has to be adapted to local situations and this effort had already be=
en on in the country for some time. =93Technology issues are unique to each=
 project and geography and depend on various factors such as the deployment=
 plan=2C teams=2C teacher=92s and student=92s needs=2C languages=2C need to=
 tweak content and delivery style. The OLPC already has applications and co=
ntents in multiple languages and local technological challenges are handled=
 locally=2C=94 Mr. Jha said.

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S Adhikari

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