Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Portables Government Hardware Politics

Thailand Government Cancels OLPC Participation 196

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the roll-a-hard-six dept.
patiwat writes "Thailand's new junta-appointed Education Minister has cancelled Thailand's participation in the One Laptop Per Child project and scrapped a plan to give a 2B1 laptop to every primary school student. He has also cancelled plans to roll out computers and a broadband connection to every single school in Thailand. The cancellation of half a million scholarships for needy students is being studied. He cited the lack of readiness of teachers and the need to focus on basic education standards. "We will not focus too much on technology and materials. We will focus on substance," he said. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of the Thai government's open source policy."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Thailand Government Cancels OLPC Participation

Comments Filter:
  • by lecithin (745575) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:46AM (#17012372)
    "He cited the lack of readiness of teachers and the need to focus on basic education standards."

    This guy needs to manage my Data Center. It is a well known thought (from a sysadmin point of view) that throwing hardware at an undefined problem may mask the issue for a time, but it does not 'usually' solve the problem.

    High technology CAN be a liability if it isn't managed correctly.
    • by Ummu (830131) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:52AM (#17012410)
      I agree, but right now he seems to be focused on saving money instead of redirecting learning curriculum. I doubt he would bother to train better teachers.
    • by rwven (663186) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:13AM (#17012532)
      I think what the guy has realised is that a cheap laptop is certainly not going to be some silver bullet in the heart of bad education. It's going to take far more than a flashy new piece of hardware to turn around a stumbling educational system...

      Even if the technology is managed perfectly, most of the kids are still going to look at these laptops as new toys and expensive nightlights...
      • by SQL Error (16383) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:22AM (#17012612)
        I think what the guy has realised is that a cheap laptop is certainly not going to be some silver bullet in the heart of bad education.
        Given what's been happening [bbc.co.uk] in southern Thailand [abc.net.au] of late, that's probably not the best choice of metaphors.
      • by strider44 (650833) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:26AM (#17012628)
        I fear that you're wrong, and the guy is just a conservative technophobe. Internet access in schools can be amazingly useful for helping the students teach themselves. No matter how many books the school has, it can't come even close to the amount of knowledge contained in the internet.
        • by dch24 (904899) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:59AM (#17012812) Journal
          I fear that you're wrong, and the guy is just a conservative technophobe
          The new Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont [wikipedia.org], is a born-and-raised military man. He seeks to strengthen Thailand. I suspect that spending large sums on outside technology which will tend to increase the influence of outside media (such as the US and China) leads him to take a dim view of the OLPC project, along with the other cancelled and soon-to-be-cancelled educational initiatives. I don't think this action is related to the cancellation of the open source policy.

          I do think Thailand is aware of the benefits of technology. They are having quite the political upheaval, though, and this is probably closely related to the Southern militants [wikipedia.org]. The southern part is where all the violence around schools is happening. (This post [slashdot.org] links to the BBC [bbc.co.uk] and ABC [abc.net.au])

          There is definitely a battle for the identity and control of Thailand. I think it's incredible how little blood has been shed in the recent coup. I hope that the government moves back toward democracy, but it looks like Thailand is becoming more of a Communist state.
          • by quigonn (80360) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:23AM (#17013580) Homepage
            The new Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont, is a born-and-raised military man. He seeks to strengthen Thailand. I suspect that spending large sums on outside technology which will tend to increase the influence of outside media (such as the US and China) leads him to take a dim view of the OLPC project, along with the other cancelled and soon-to-be-cancelled educational initiatives.

            (Metaphorically) killing off great opportunities for better education, and trying to reach some stage of technological autarchy, all from a man with a military background... sounds like a mix of the Khmer Rouge agenda with the North Korean Juche system, without all the suppression and genocide, of course...

            No, I don't think that his goals will do his country any good.
          • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @05:08AM (#17013886) Homepage Journal
            ``I hope that the government moves back toward democracy, but it looks like Thailand is becoming more of a Communist state.''

            I hope you don't mean to suggest that communism is the opposite of democracy, communism is totalitarianism, or similar nonsense.
          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:27AM (#17016806)
            He seeks to strengthen Thailand. I suspect that spending large sums on outside technology which will tend to increase the influence of outside media (such as the US and China) leads him to take a dim view of the OLPC project

            Well in that case he really screwed up, since one of the biggest distinguishing features of the OLPC is its conspicuous lack of corporate influence. Apparently he doesn't realize that whole thing is explicitly designed to facilitate the creation of new media by the children and customization to fit into their culture.

            Not to mention that if he doesn't like Free Software, the only alternative is -- you guessed it -- Microsoft, which really would increase the foreign influence!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:59AM (#17012814)
        Last Sunday I heard a brilliant talk on the use of FOSS in Indian primary schools. It was pretty evident that the biggest problem is that the teacher does not know how to use the computer. The solution is education and development of easy software, which was oriented towards some very specific limited goals. https://foss.in/2006/cfp/speakers/talkdetailspub.p hp?talkid=183 [foss.in]
      • The guy has realized that his dictator friends might not have much interested in a learnèd populace. After all, that's what (real) democracies are about, and Thailand's a democracy no more.
      • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:08AM (#17013500)
        I think what the guy has realised is that a cheap laptop is certainly not going to be some silver bullet in the heart of bad education.

        You're being generous. A cynic might suggest that this guy is trading away the technological future of his country's children at the behest of a well heeled international corporation.
      • by Ash Vince (602485) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @08:38AM (#17015280) Journal
        More likely is that someone has offered him a few quid to throw a spanner in the works for a while.

        Funny how alot of US companies (Microsoft for one) were against this program from the very beginning. Certainly from the MS point of view one of the reasons their monopoly is doing so well is because everybody now learns windows by default so are comfortable with the interface.

        If a large proportion of kids were learning another OS one of the main obstacles to more widespread Linux adoption would evaporate when those kids entered the job market. This is one of the main reasons why Microsoft and Apple both have such a generous discount scheme for both students and teachers.

        I bet it is a whole lot cheaper to buy a Thai politician than to buy a US of A politician.
    • by SmokedS (973779) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:32AM (#17012668)
      OK.
      So, after a military Coup a major education project under way is canceled along with a reform of the countries IT policies, and teachers in the south of the country start to spontaneously grow bullet holes.

      Call me crazy, but somehow I don't really think this new regime is honestly out to create the best education they can.

      • by Threni (635302) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:07AM (#17013494)
        > teachers in the south of the country start to spontaneously grow bullet holes.

        That's not because of the coup. There's an issue with Muslims in the south which has been going on for a long time (indeed, since the south of the country was annexed by the Thai leaders almost 100 years ago).

        Having a coup is a Bad Thing, but they're possibly correct in stating that a laptop isn't the most efficient use of a great deal of money.
    • by reporter (666905) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:08AM (#17012862) Homepage
      Using the GDP-per-capita (under the assumption of purchasing-power-parity) [wikipedia.org], $100 spent in Thailand is comparable to $495 being spent in the USA. $495 = $100 * USA_GDP_per_capita / Thai_GDP_per_capita.

      $500 is not expensive but also is not cheap. There are better uses for that money.

      As well, how much can an elementary-school kid get out of a laptop besides playing some games and doing e-mail? Playing games and sending e-mail can be learned in a day. They do not require the kid to own a laptop. He can learn that mindless simple stuff on the library's computer.

      The story might be different with a high-school student. He would have enough mathematical knowledge or scientific reasoning to do some nifty projects for the local science fair. Alternatively, he could also use the laptop to write insightful political research papers solving the Iraq quagmire in which Washington is stuck.

      The Thai government should consider buying a laptop for all freshmen in high school instead of the pouty kids in elementary school.

      Of course, the first computer lesson in high school is "Here is how you write biting commentary in Slashdot. The Slashdotters love that stuff."

  • Oh Well... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:47AM (#17012384)
    250,000 less to show up on EBay.
  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:48AM (#17012386) Journal

    Hopefully, /.'ers and others won't look upon this as an Open Source failure, it isn't. It's (in my opinion) more of a triumph somewhere of sanity... Technology has it's place, but a laptop for every child smacks of the program's hubris and less of a sane approach to helping poor countries.

    I think they show real insight when fearing little return on the effort because teachers are poorly trained. Heck, even in wealthy countries teachers consistently have no computer smarts (my sister is a teacher, she hasn't a clue!). Compound that with a techie-Linux platform (I love Linux, but for the mass public, with minimal background and training?) and this program was running off the rails from the beginning.

    There are excellent examples of schools in the United States where huge investments in technology for schools showed no tangible gains in students' profieciencies and at the same time examples of poor schools shifting emphasis to basics, discipline, and community with strong academic results.

    Technology for technology's sake is just that, but not much of a salve for third world economies, at least not by giving a laptop to every child. I think this is actually a positive development because it has (had) so many ways it could have gone wrong allowing companies like Microsoft down the road to point fingers at Open Source as the culprit, and if only Microsoft had been chosen to save the world.

    (For the record, this whole OLPC effort would be just as much of a train wreck with Windows, just a whole heck of a lot more expensive.)

    • by sien (35268) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:20AM (#17012590) Homepage
      How do you know the OLPC program is a failure? What criteria were set for it to be a success that it hasn't met yet?

      It hasn't even started yet. It may be a failure, but to declare it a failure is like declaring who has won the 2010 World Cup today.

      The OLPC may go to more places than developing countries. There are a number of places that are doing a trial of the system.

      With Libya's order going through they have enough to get serious volumes being made. Once they show that then other countries, including richer developed countries may be interested. OLPCs may work well as text book readers. How much does the average school system in a US spend on textbooks per student per year? Who can say now whether some of these uses will take off.

      The OLPC may fail, but it hasn't failed yet and it is silly to describe it as having failed before it's even been tried.

      • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:04AM (#17013174)
        How do you know the OLPC program is a failure? What criteria were set for it to be a success that it hasn't met yet?
        More to the point, what criteria were set at all for the program? All I see, looking at the laptop.org web site, are a bunch of fuzzy "Think of the kids!" generalities that talk about how wonderful it would be for the world's poorest kids in the remotest regions to have laptops. Not because there's hard evidence to show that having a laptop will substantially improve the quality of education for these kids, but because it'll make them feel good, and give them a sense of responsibility.

        Don't believe it? Go look for yourself. The OLPC FAQ page [laptop.org] brings us such disarmingly trite generalities as:
        Why do children in developing nations need laptops?
        Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to learn learning through independent interaction and exploration.
        That's right! Little Juan, Choudary, and Byung-Sun need a "tool" with which to think -- and I thought it was called a "brain". No, they need a window into the world, and a way to learn learning through independent interaction and exploration! Never mind that all of that can be accomplished *without* a $100 laptop in the hands of each child. Want a window into the world? Get them a good library with a few current events publications, and a computer lab with a few internet connected computers. You can build a heck of a good public school library (or 2 or 3) for $50 million dollars

        But wait -- there's more in the FAQ [laptop.org]!
        Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?
        One does not think of community pencils--kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to own something--like a football, doll, or book--not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.
        Where to begin?? To compare a $100 dollar laptop with a pencil that literally costs pennies is ridiculous. And the final argument, that warm-fuzzy-hot-chocolate-lump-in-your-throat claim... "It's important that the kids OWN something to maintain through love... and care." Awwwww.... how can we say NO to that?! Once again, footballs, dolls, and books don't cost $100 per child.

        Your final claim:
        The OLPC may fail, but it hasn't failed yet and it is silly to describe it as having failed before it's even been tried.
        Makes my mind boggle. By this same logic, anything that hasn't been tried, no matter how stupid, far-fetched, or wrong-headed, should be tried. After all, if it hasn't been tried, it's silly to predict that it will fail, right? Might as well just spend the 50 million dollars and see what happens!

        50 million dollars (500,000 laptops * $100) is a LOT of money to gamble with in a developing nation. I'd much rather see them spend that money on projects that have been shown to have a significant positive impact on educational quality -- smaller class sizes; basic health care so that kids don't miss weeks of school; upgrading school facilities with good lights, good water, and a reasonable amount of climate control -- good roofs to keep the rain out, ventilation to keep things cooler in summer, heaters to keep things cooler in winter. Save the OLPC project until it's actually shown that a laptop in the hands of each child will benefit them, rather than wasting money, wasting time, and putting yet another cement block around the neck of developing countries.
        • by nietsch (112711) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @08:13AM (#17015016) Homepage Journal
          You seem to be making the mistake that (every/the) receiving country is totally in a deplorable state and has needs lower in maslov's pyramid. For those country OLPC does not make sense, and these countries/regions do not contract the OLPC project to sell them those laptops. But there are countries that have their basic needs fixed and think they might profit from this project. And they are not basing their investments on a english-language PR website, that is for the donors, hence the sentimental tones.
          I think the problem is not hardware for the infrastructure. That is something some well spend money/training can solve. The problem is in the actual curriculum. Where are the books/texts these kids need to read on them. Who is going to write those? What is this going to do the rest of the local market for educational books? This content is instrumental in the succes of the project, but I have seen very little info on how they think to solve that.
          50 Billion is a lot of money anywhere, not only in OLPC countries.
          • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:42AM (#17016064)
            You seem to be making the mistake that (every/the) receiving country is totally in a deplorable state and has needs lower in maslov's pyramid.
            Actually, no, no I'm not. The OLPC site specifically says that children from the "poorest" and "most remote" places would stand to benefit. "poorest" and "most remote" does not mean "urban, modernized, and reasonably well developed." But, even if I concede your point that it's only geared towards students in fairly developed countries, that still doesn't answer the fundamental question here: regardless of what country the children live in, is there any data that supports the assertion that simply "having a laptop" makes for a better educational system? If there's no good data, then this is simply a solution in search of a problem.

            By all means, show me where you derive your expectation that the OLPC project "makes sense", in the sense that it will result in a substantial, quantifiable improvement in the educational outcomes for these students. I'm perfectly willing to hear the argument, but I've yet to see it made.

            The problem is in the actual curriculum. Where are the books/texts these kids need to read on them. Who is going to write those? What is this going to do the rest of the local market for educational books?
            All good questions. All questions which the OLPC project does not address. Where are the books & texts? "Give them a computer!" Who's going to write them? "Give them a computer!" What will it do to the rest of the local market? "Give them a computer!" There seems to be this bizarre expectation that children will log onto the web and magically be transformed into Richard Stallman or Bill Gates.

            Take, for example, the children who speak Tagalog. If there are no textbooks written in the language, where is the "wealth" of online information they'll find, written in Tagalog? Do we point them to the couple thousand articles on Wikipedia and say, "have fun!"? This money is better spent on one of two things: Translating textbooks to local languages, or teaching the kids to speak English (or some other, widely spoken language in which good textbooks are printed -- French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, what have you), and then hiring & training qualified teachers to teach.

            I'll use OLPC's argument against them: In their FAQ, they compare having a laptop to having a pencil. Did you become magically smarter when your teacher handed you your first pencil? Right -- it's a tool. Not an outcome . It's a means, not an end.
          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:34AM (#17016940)

            Was Thailand a member of NATO or otherwise a US ally during the Cold War? No. Therefore, it is not a "first world" country. Was it a member of the Eastern Bloc? No. Therefore, it is not a "second world" country. What's left? The "third world," aka "everywhere else." Thailand is a third world country.

            By the way, as far as categorizing countries by prosperity goes, I've heard of really poor countries being called "fourth world," not third.

      • by grumpyman (849537) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:22AM (#17013570)
        With Libya's order going through they have enough to get serious volumes being made. Once they show that then other countries, including richer developed countries may be interested. OLPCs may work well as text book readers. How much does the average school system in a US spend on textbooks per student per year? Who can say now whether some of these uses will take off.


        OLPC original definitely is not just a text book reader, dude. By considering redirecting the target market, seems like you're admitting the idea of OLPC in developing countries is a failure.

      • I think textbooks are a bad example to show where olpc gives a financial gain since the printing cost of a textbook is ~$5-$10, most of the cost is in the copyright.
    • Yeah, let's be thankful to authoritarian military cocksuckers for showing us how a reasonable education policy is done. We should listen to those types more carefully, I'm pretty sure they have much to teach us in other realms as well. Right now I'm thinking civil rights, women's rights and labor laws. I can see it now, why bother providing schoolchildren with laptops, when they could serve their country much better toiling 12h a day in sweat shops.
    • I don't see as a failure, because it isn't.

      Sure, maybe Thailand need to organize their education system first... But look at Brazil, where I live, we already have a quite well organized educational system, it has been forgotten, but it seems that it's on our government agenda again.

      Here we have the same educational program across all public schools, the government distributes free textbooks for the children, and most of the teachers come from public schools. Of course there are problems, like underpaid teachers and unequipped schools, but if we can trust the news these are going to be addressed as well.

      So Brazil is ready for the OLPC, more than that, we NEED something like OLPC. There's already computers being sold with Linux, they have tax reductions under the "Computador Popular" program, that hope to make computers accessible for more people. Linux is well known around here, even among computer illiterate... and there's lots of active user groups.

      Theres lots of OpenSource efforts within the governament also, the main government site uses ZOPE/PLONE (www.brasil.gov.br)! And probably I'm one of the few here at Slashdot that can brag about being able to do my taxes on Linux!

      Now, if we only could get something like OLPC for small business... that would be a hit around here too!
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @05:20AM (#17013972) Homepage Journal
      ``Compound that with a techie-Linux platform (I love Linux, but for the mass public, with minimal background and training?)''

      Oh, cut the crap. Linux is just the kernel that does the work behind the scenes. Users don't interface with the kernel directly. Your end users get to work with what's built on top of the kernel, and there's absolutely no reason that would be more "techie" than the stuff you would build on top of another kernel.

      Even if your end users do dig down to the kernel level, Linux is a good choice, because it's well-known, open source, and widely used, meaning that users may know how to tinker with it, are allowed to tinker with it, and can apply what they learn to other systems they might encounter later on.

      Besides that, Linux is free, supports a wide range of hardware, and is stable and well tested. All of these are advantages for a project like OLPC.
  • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:52AM (#17012406)
    You have to admit, that man has some. To cancel such a high-visibility project like this... Wow. Especially while admitted that they were ploys to get elected. Wow. Even while admitting that it was an election-winning campaign, he cuts it.

    Not that I necessarily disagree with him. If those schools are worried about their power bills, giving the kids laptops and high speed internet is NOT the solution. Maybe the cuts necessary to pay the power bills could have come from some other crazy scheme, though. I dunno. I haven't seen their budget.

    At least he didn't mention starving children, though.
    • Re:Steel ones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:22AM (#17012602)
      Which part of "military coup" did you not understand?

      More likely, he is canceling this because the last thing a military dictatorship wants is informed citizens.
    • Re:Steel ones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:29AM (#17012656) Homepage
      What surprises me is how few people really disagree with you here. I think there's a growing sense that OLPC is a boondoggle, and it is to their credit that more and more geeks are realizing it.

      It occurs to me that one of the stories told about widespread internet use is that people would be able to do things like "look up how to fix their irrigation systems on the web". Well, I've been using the web since Mosaic 2.0, and I'm much less able to fix a truck, repair an irrigation system, care for a garden, or do a whole bunch of other things that I know a lot of other people who aren't using the net know how to do. If I want to learn how to fix a truck, I might use my laptop to find a school or a place to do it - but then I'm just replacing the yellow pages. I'm more likely to find someone in my own personal social network who has the skills I want to acquire, and hang out with them.

      The one practical thing that net connectivity has given me is access to recipes for cooking that I didn't have before. If the OLPC enables children in the developing world to cook eggplant parmigiana, I guess that's a good thing, but it's probably a lot less ambitious than what the creators had in mind.

      The early zeal of the project isn't even a matter of "having a hammer and seeing every problem as a nail," it's more like "having a cantaloupe and thinking it's a hammer, and then throwing your cantaloupe at vaguely nail-shaped kittens."
      • by tftp (111690) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:01AM (#17012826) Homepage
        The one practical thing that net connectivity has given me is access to recipes for cooking that I didn't have before.

        There are a few more:

        1. Books, all of them
        2. Pr0n
        3. Music
        4. Digi-Key [digikey.com]

        But outside of that I guess you are right. I don't cook, so I can't say much about your recipe theory. I would only add news to the list, but that's hardly necessary, and all that matters will eventually propagate through traditional means anyway.

      • Re:Steel ones (Score:5, Insightful)

        by femto (459605) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:49AM (#17013064) Homepage

        It depends on the person.

        Some people aren't into DIY, so they use the web to look for someone to buy from.

        Some people are into DIY and use the web for things other than shopping.

        In my case, some of the things I have used the web for are:

        • Information on growing food in my garden: varieties of plants, propagating from seed, care of plants, ...
        • Information on caring for and chemistry of swimming pools.
        • Design of irrigation systems and rainwater collection systems
        • Investigating the feasibility of systems to supplement my house's electricity supply
        • Information on house maintenance and how to do various jobs
        • Furniture and cabinet making

        Probably not the things a person in a developing country might look for, but that is because I don't live in a developing country. It does demonstrate that the web is a useful reference library, and I contend that the web contains information that is useful to a person in a developing country, that they would otherwise miss out on.

        For example I've heard of villagers using the web to monitor world prices for various crops they grow, placing them in a stronger bargaining position when the people they sell to try to understate prices.

        I don't think there is any question that the developing world needs the Internet. The question is how to best get it to them. Many people seem to view the Internet as a luxury, which it is if used for entertainment or amusement. The flip side of the Internet is textbooks, meteorological reports, market prices and the like, which are necessities for anything but a subsistence life style. Maybe people in developed countries take these necessities for granted, so don't notice the Internet's role in providing them?

        If not OLPC what then? Information can be distributed on paper but as the volume and timeliness of information picks up the Internet is cheaper. OLPC seems like a cute misnomer for "Internet without infrastructure".

      • Re:Steel ones (Score:5, Informative)

        by Potor (658520) <farker1@g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:03AM (#17013154) Journal
        I taught in a Thai high school for a year. Thai children, at least in Bangkok, are quite proficient with computers, more so than you would think. BKK is rife with pc cafes and gaming spots, and the schools are largely wired. However, the level of teaching ALL SUBJECTS is appalling, outside of the private schools. Thai children constantly do very poorly on benchmark testing, within ASEAN itself.

        It is not permitted to fail in a Thai school. So, the teachers either keep testing and testing until a pass is obtained, or they simply make the lowest grade a pass, and distribute the rest of the marks accordingly. I know, because I was forced to do this. The Thais need to focus on sham. And as far as I know, the Thai university system is not accredited.

        In the provinces, things are the same, except not nearly as wired.

      • by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:03AM (#17015542) Journal
        One thing that web access in the third world can do is to lower barriers to trade. Farmers in most third world countries don't have a buyer for their crop lined up until it is about harvest time, which is entirely the worst time to try and get a high price for it. They sell to local and traveling middlemen, who are able to turn quite a profit by selling that crop to wholesalers at real market rates.

        If a farmer knew what the actual market rate for his crop is, he would be in a much better position to negotiate a fair price. Even if it is only a single computer in a village that had this access, the whole village could sell their crop as a cooperative, cut out the middleman, and have real bargaining power.

        As it is, lacking this information, they are completely at the mercy of what the middleman is gracious enough to pay.

        And, yes, they will have better information for fixing and upgrading their irrigation systems. You don't use the internet to learn how to fix your truck because it is a much better use of your time to take it to a garage and let a professional work on it while you go to your job and make money to pay him with. In the third world, there aren't any professionals, and people wouldn't have money to pay them with anyway, so they must do that kind fo repairwork themselves.
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:39AM (#17012706)
      You have to admit, that man has some. To cancel such a high-visibility project like this... Wow. Especially while admitted that they were ploys to get elected. Wow. Even while admitting that it was an election-winning campaign, he cuts it.

      No bravery. He cut projects of the PREVIOUS government. They had a coup a few months ago, the army appointed the current government. It's traditional to cut the previous administration's pork barrel projects to make room for your own.

    • by Chemicalscum (525689) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @08:27AM (#17015156) Journal
      When you come to power by a military coup you don't need to win elections.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:53AM (#17012414)
    OLPC in Thailand would have been a real coup [wikipedia.org]
  • by alshithead (981606) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:56AM (#17012444)
    I don't see cancellation as being necessary. Perhaps a more moderate, phased in approach would work. Start with magnet type schools and go from there. Taking time to do it right makes sense but to outright cancel seems extreme.
    • by tftp (111690) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:26AM (#17012624) Homepage
      Computers in magnet type schools do not require personal attention of the government, in any country. A mayor would be the right person to set up a few of such schools for children who can (and want to) take the course. And about cancelation - this is the right time, and the only possible time, to do it. Children don't need computers if their teachers haven't been trained to use them, as the minister points out. You can always spend money on computers, this is not a one time offer; in the mean time, he thinks it's more practical to use the limited funds on hiring more teachers and paying them more.
  • by CalSolt (999365) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:56AM (#17012446)
    An education minister that's taking serious steps to increase the quality of education in his country instead of just throwing money at useless projects? How do we get him appointed to the US cabinet?
  • by guanxi (216397) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:01AM (#17012478)
    Did you see the poll?

    There was no poll -- who is asking the citizens? It doesn't matter what a poll says or what the citizens want. Unless, of course, the generals decide it matters.
  • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:04AM (#17012490)
    I'm sure the money would be much better spent on basic education and materials than on computer hardware. The very idea that giving computers to children will somehow make them learn more is just stupid. Maybe there is a very small minority of kids that would take the computer and hack around and learn stuff, but the vast majority of the kids are going abuse the computers (both physically and software-wise) and not get anything out of them but smoke.

    -matthew
    • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NeilO (20628) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:43AM (#17013040)
      According to the OLPC wiki [laptop.org] the concept is more than simply giving computers to children "to somehow make them learn more." Instead they write: "While the technical aspects create a platform for change, the real benefits will come from improved educational practice enabled by immersive access to connected laptops." So, no claim that simply giving children laptops lets schools off the hook.

      The OLPC advances an idea (to me somewhat orthogonal to basic educational practice) that connecting laptops connects the students together in ways that gives rise to other beneficial effects. Since we're all sitting here reading Slashdot it's an easy analogy -- Slashdot creates a community with a shared common interest, but with diverse opinions on those interests, and at the end of the day it's that diversity that is of interest. We read to learn what others think. So OLPC (ought to) create a means for children to interact with other children with the same effect, but on many other topics besides "news for nerds." And that sounds like a fine idea to me.
      • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:37AM (#17013332)
        According to the OLPC wiki [laptop.org] the concept is more than simply giving computers to children "to somehow make them learn more." Instead they write: "While the technical aspects create a platform for change, the real benefits will come from improved educational practice enabled by immersive access to connected laptops." So, no claim that simply giving children laptops lets schools off the hook.


        Sounds a lot like "to somehow make them learn more" to me. Just a lot of hand waving.

        Look, I've seen some pretty poor schools in the US.. schools that can barely afford basic building maintenance and books for students. I can only assume that your average Thai school is worse off. If this is the case, giving kids computers is a waste. It is an absurd misappropriation of resources. But please, by all means, show me I am wrong. Show me that Thai schools can, on average, afford basic materials, a secure environment, decent teachers, books, etc. If the basics are covered, then start playing with laptops and such. Think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs here. It applies very well to education.

        -matthew
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @05:29AM (#17014028) Homepage Journal
      ``The very idea that giving computers to children will somehow make them learn more is just stupid.''

      Is it, really? I learned English from playing computer games, and got into programming at an early age, because I had access to a PC. There are various educational computer games that help develop reading, writing, logical thinking, motor, etc. skills. Also, computers are what countries and economies run on, and how people access the WWW (which contains a wealth of information), and communicate (email, chat, voice and video). Perhaps, the sooner people know how to use these things, the better.
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:27AM (#17012632)
    In the world of politics, in ANY nation, this is a very understandable result. Computers can and do change the world every day, including enriching the imagination and lives of many, many children - but for all the wonders of the world of computers, they are quite simply NOTHING in the face of basic education needed to allow them to both exist and be useful to a society. Not that such education isn't present in Thailand, or that computers couldn't elevate or create new possibilities if made more common - but against the political landscape of the same resources being used for more basic education, even the cheapest electronic computing tools would appear as naive pie-in-the-sky fixes to a important set of problems. The importance of making technology available to everyone is a huge step towards advancing a nation towards excellence - but politically most people everywhere will vote first for the basic health and happiness of the everyday people around them, before striving for technological excellence.

    Also, this isn't a permanent dynamic in a variety of ways. With a GDP of around $8,600 per person, both the affordability of more and more capable computers and the income per person can reach further towards eachother in a rather quick order. Also, despite the slight blow to open source in government, the growing private and educational sectors can pursue the technological excellence that the government at large cannot politically take up.

    $100 computers will offer hope, and widespread open source adoption will bring deep innovation and economic improvement anywhere - but weigh that against $100 spent in many other ways, or the concentrated organized effort and political costs needed to push open source over commercial software wherever possible, and you don't end up with something politically possible now. That shouldn't be a shock.

    I do think it sucks if anyone sees this as a blow against open source - but I don't see it that way. I do think it hopeful in a sense that governments can see the ideal behind open source development and emerging cheap technologies that can improve people's lives - but I don't think we should expect such things to be used as more than leverage in debates until there are no other cultural issues seen in competition against action other than just commercial value V. open source values. And at that point, no legislation will really be needed.

    Ryan Fenton
    • by zephc (225327) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:58AM (#17013836)
      This is the 21st century - whether or not this guy wants to believe it, technology is now an integral part of education. These guys either don't know, don't care, or fear how technology will empower their next generation.
    • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:53AM (#17016236)
      $100 computers will offer hope, and widespread open source adoption will bring deep innovation and economic improvement

      A lot has been said here about the $100-$150 OLPC. Less about the cost of the infrastructure needed to support it. Instructional materials. Internet access. Teacher training and so on--and perhaps not enough about whether the machine is best described as a general-purpose laptop, a PDA or an e-book reader.

  • by melted (227442) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:16AM (#17012906) Homepage
    The guy sounds quite rational there. I mean, there's bad education and then there's complete and utter lack of education. If you're in a country where 10% of people can't read and write (1% in USA, Canada and European countries, 0.5% in Russia) - you'll be better off if you spend the money on teaching them how to read and write. No fancy hardware is necessary - just a pen, a book and some paper. If you're in a country where 95+ percent of people are literate but computing is not easily accessible to high schoolers - that one can benefit from OLPC type program a lot more. Things are incomparably worse in India (which is why I guess it declined to participate early on). 30% of male and 52% of female population can't read or write. In Nigeria, percentages are 25 and 40% correspondingly. In Brazil - 14 and 13% correspondingly. In Argentina - 3 and 3%. Based on this, out of four countries in OLPC project (Brazil, Argentina, Thailand and Nigeria), only one country - Argentina - can potentially benefit from spending on OLPC more than from spending on basic education. In order to run, you first need to learn how to walk.

    High levels of government corruption in participating countries is not a coincidence either. Someone will make a lot of money on this, and you can bet it won't be teachers.
    • by patiwat (126496) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:19AM (#17013244)
      Thailand already has basic education covered. Thailand's adult literacy rate is male 95%, female 91%. For children, it is 98%. See here [ilo.org]. By your own definition, that would potentially allow Thai children to greatly benefit from the OLPC.
      • by melted (227442) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:03AM (#17013468) Homepage
        Average literacy rate in Thailand is 92.6. Which means 7.3% of people can't read. That's one out of every thirteen people, completely shut off from education. If you're telling me that giving underpowered, incompatible laptops to 5% of the kids is better than teaching 7.3% of the population to read/write - I guess we'll have to disagree.

        Gotta agree with Mr. Gates here. The primary vehicle for computerization in these countries will be the cell phone. It has sufficient processing power and connectivity is built in. The infrastructure is already available in a lot of places. Two things are missing from most cell phones right now - QWERTY keyboard and TV out. They can be added easily and cheaply.
  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:26AM (#17012956) Journal
    Thailand ministry slams open source. OLPC is all open source. Figure it out.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:33AM (#17012996)
    the one where Thailand announces a major plan to outfit all schools and public services with a massive rollout of Vista and Office 2007... all sponsored by a major price deal with Microsoft...
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:37AM (#17013012)
    Yes, we are a fairly intelligent creature, the human. BUT WE ARE WAAAAAAY MORE FRIGGIN' INTELLIGENT SINCE we started using tools available to us. First the "pen" and paper. Those are the bare essentials, but we've come a long way since then. Give them the friggin' computers and be amazed at what they can do. Tools do matter.
  • by patiwat (126496) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:06AM (#17013182)
    Some links in the story submission were deleted by the editors.

    The "junta" being referred to is the Council for National Security [wikipedia.org], a clique of the Thai army that seized power in the 19 September coup [wikipedia.org].

    The Education Minister is Wijit Srisa-arn [wikipedia.org], a former Opposition member of parliament.

    http://en.wikipedia/wiki/ [en.wikipedia]
  • by grumpyman (849537) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:14AM (#17013532)
    Free cars but no gasoline nor road, or with all the roads built but no cars nor gasoline (like North Korea).
  • by Jack Action (761544) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:29AM (#17013640)
    Cannibal Mercenary [imdb.com].
  • A military junta is the ideal form of governmet to support Microsoft, or the MPAA, or the RIAA.

    Maybe we should try that here.

    Wait.........

    Cheers

  • Thailand, US, EU, China ..., personally I am glad to see we are not alone in producing an exploitable semiliterate unquestioning workforce that when youthful, idealistic, and patriotic can be utilized for global/local dogmatic adventures of people-popping and village-pillage. I can better understand how things are being adjusted to work in Darfur, and were working so well in Afghanistan, before the US Soldiers kicked the BinLie-Taliban out, but what happened in Iraq {%~]?

    NOTE: Warriors have a code, (1) Do your duty honorably, (2) Death before cowardice, (3) We are the FAMILY - ALWAYS FAITHFUL, never do we abandoned family, give up hope, or die alone. (4) Warriors are responsible for individual personal actions. (5) Politicians, and Generals are in command and responsible for the war and failures.

    I will alway support our Warriors, fuck the damn politics!
  • by rs232 (849320) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:10AM (#17016492)
    "In Thailand, Microsoft was the first corporation to be nominated for a royal decoration award [worldbank.org] from the king"

    What possibly could a software vendor teach educators about education .
  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:22AM (#17016724) Journal
    many local governments have recieved grants to purchase Blue-Ray players for their clasrooms in order to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" in all its hi-def glory... for the betterment of the childrens education of course.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

Working...