Sunday, April 15, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

The first One Lap Top Per Child school has received its computers, and I am sure that the teachers and children and community are very pleased with them. You can see more pictures at
including children smiling with their shiny new computers.

While there is something to be said for Negreponte's One Laptop Per Child programme, and the computers cost $100 each and are wind up I do wonder if this is the most useful use of resources in a country that has huge class sizes, considerable poverty and easily curable diseases.

It seems to me to be part of the furore over the "digital divide" from a few years ago, which wasn't a digital divide at all, it was, and is, a wealth divide. Poor people have less access to technology because they are poor. The solution is not to give them bits of technology but to address the underlying causes. But that is more expensive, more difficult and if really done would affect the life styles of the rich:

Nigeria has something like 80 million children, so perhaps 50-60 million school age children, so the cost of simply buying the laptops is $8 billion. On top of this each school will require a satellite dish to connect to the internet - and that will need powering, so will require a generator and then there will be whatever the connection (usage) costs might be.

Then there is staff training if the computers are to be used effectively in school the pedagogy needs to change from one which is based on lack of resources - including text books - with the result that it is highly didactic to one which is based more on participation and sharing. This will be a huge culture shift for the whole of society. It may well be a good thing, but without such a change the project is likely to end up as little more than a way of downloading electronic text books. (Plus any personal use that the children may make of the computers).

If I am right about this then the cost of the computers will be a small fraction of the total cost of implementing a meaningful One Laptop Per Child programme. - running the systems, developing resources, staff training, IT support etc.