$100 laptop “Sustainable education project”

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The “100 $ Laptop” is an educational program that aims to manufacture relatively cheap Laptops in order to allow the children of the developed countries to have access to modern education and technology. This project was initiated by OLPC (One Laptop per Child), a non-profit organization formed by faculty members of the MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

My initial impression about this project is very positive. It appears that such initiative has the ability to reduce the widening educational gap between developed and developing countries. But lets us not fall easily to our hopes and let us closely analyze this project.

The project clearly differentiates itself from other projects which try to recycle part of the 100 millions desktops. The project offers brand new laptops with a combination of modest and cutting edges capabilities. Instead of hard drives, the laptop will have a .5GB flash memory. It will have a wireless connection for peer-to-peer networks in ad-hoc manner as well as couple USB ports and a low cost display. A Linux based operating system will run a 500 MHz processor with 128 MB RAM.

The main goal of the project is to have students experience computers, play with it, write and even learn basic programming. The project hopes that governments will buy these laptops to its citizens.

Aiming to be objectively critical, there are a lot of negative and unconsidered aspects that can hinder the goal of sustainable education. First, many people believe that this project fits only the American and European lifestyles, where the children go to there already computerized school and return to their fully equipped houses, unlike the situation in Africa where children have other worries concerning their basic physical needs such as “seeking clean water and food”. Second, just providing laptops does not ensure that children will actually benefits from them. There is a need of skilled people who can direct the students in their initial explorations, a task usually done by school teachers and family members in the developed countries. Without proper guidance or sufficient learning resources, few will ever benefit and worse, laptops might be discarded due to the slightest software malfunction. Another issue is the fear that corrupted governments might abuse this project and use it to achieve some political ends. By restricting its gift to regional or ethnic or religious groups within the concerned developing country, political mafias destroys thus the concept behind the project, i.e. resulting in a total demolition of its child supportive spirit.

After considering the previous points, my positive impression was deeply shaken. Sure it is much better to light a candle than curse the dark, but in places where the words famine, starvation, child labor, discrimination, water scarcity are daily issues, the winds are still strong enough to shut off this candle.

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Posted in community, economic development, sustainable living
3 comments on “$100 laptop “Sustainable education project”
  1. Jason Charron says:

    Interesting initiative. I was initially struck by the relatively low price of these computers ($100) but fast realised that my reaction was one of a westerner. $100, $1,000, $2,000…it’s probably all the same to a family who earns $1 day. What these computers do is reduce the cost of not-for-profits to distribute more computers. Instead why not focus on quality instead of quantity? As you say in your article, the computer is but one element in a comprehensive approach to the education and development of poor children. Interesting stuff…

  2. Fawad says:

    Another advantage of this problem is personal charities in developing nations. A number of individuals and families are starting out small charity institutions that are too small to qualify for grants or afford latest technologies but small enough to be quite effective if managed properly. Charity schools would make good use of these $100 laptops that could be purchased by the individual on behalf of students studying in the school. This would fit perfectly in my belief of the need for charity at the grass roots level.

  3. Kerim says:

    As mentioned, in developing nations its realization is a question. With competing interets and unstable politics this project could be open to misuse. But nevertheless setting the stage and providing different avenues for development in the developing world. An example from Canada: COMPUTERS FOR SCHOOLS – ONTARIO http://www.computersforschoolsontario.com/en/default.html
    This project not only helps K-12 students access to computers but also enables the diversion of technology products from landfills for a longer period of time. Actually, 1400 tons of technology diverted from landfill sites since 1993. Similar projects are available worldwide Free Computers http://opencollector.org/freecomputers.html
    These projects deliver to a location where the computers can be housed and enable direct use for its intended users.

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