One Laptop per Child

Global Vision, Idealism, Inclusiveness, Education 

This is an incredibly interesting project because it is predicated on the idea of bridging the global and economic hierarchies that propagate and enable the digital divide. The OLPC project proposes the idea that children have unique abilities to learn quickly, absorb and assimilate information if they given the opportunity to access it. Access to electronic communication has transformed the lives of millions in poor countries, where a mobile phone becomes a device for information transaction – be it about satellite communication of fish to fishermen, to disaster warnings, to simple communication of services within communities. A similar adoption of technologies it was argued would challenge children to learn and access the open education revolution that is redefining the way in which information, teaching and learning is being shared across the world.

The project has a lot of drawbacks – some of these are about technology and the compromises that must be made for very low-cost products – and many are about the complex human relationships and cultural structures that do not work with the tacit assumptions of free information, autonomy and individual ownership. This is a fascinating project because it illustrates both the incredible grit and idealism to see a dream of a particular kind of justice, as well as the lack of understanding around the compulsions and problems faced by poor countries who cannot commit to such large sums of money.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit initiative established with the goal of transforming education for children around the world; this goal was to be achieved by creating and distributing educational devices for the developing world, and by creating software and content for those devices.

Its primary goal continues to be to transform education, by enabling children in low-income countries to have access to content, media and computer-programming environments. At the time that the program launched, the typical retail price for a laptop was considerably in excess of $1,000 (US), so it was infeasible to achieve this objective without also bringing a low-cost machine to production. This became the OLPC XO Laptop, a low-cost and low-power laptop computer. The project was originally funded by member organizations such as AMD, eBay, Google, Marvell Technology Group, News Corporation, Nortel. Chi Mei Corporation, Red Hat, and Quanta provided in-kind support.

The OLPC project has been the subject of extensive praise and criticism. It was praised for enabling low-cost, low-power machines; for assuring consensus at ministerial level in many countries that computer literacy is a mainstream part of education; for creating interfaces that worked without literacy in any language, and particularly without literacy in English. It has been criticized from many sides regarding its US-centric focus that ignores bigger problems, high total costs that may actually even be quite cost-ineffective, low focus on maintainability and training and its limited success so far. (Wikipedia)

Link Project: Sugata Mitra


Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?