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OLPC Project To Air-Drop Laptops 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the gods-must-be-crazy dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "Nicholas Negroponte and the OLPC project are still going and have a new plan in the works: a laptop air-drop to help facilitate 'self-education' in areas with large poor populations. 'In the first year we'll go in and meet with tribal elders and aid organizations, people not involved with education, but then we let the kids learn,' Negroponte said. All of this work by Negroponte and others was essential, he explained, because market forces were leaving the poor of the world behind. Meanwhile, the largest countries had adopted strategies that offer little for the developing world."
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OLPC Project To Air-Drop Laptops

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  • Not doing enough? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scutter (18425) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:02AM (#37933052) Journal

    Meanwhile, the largest countries had adopted strategies that offer little for the developing world.

    On the contrary. Many of the world's largest countries send massive amounts of aid to the developing world, which is then promptly stolen by corrupt governments of those countries. Zimbabwe used to be a net exporter of food and now they've got almost impossibly-high inflation rates. Maybe we should work on that before air-dropping laptops into these places?

  • by Kanel (1105463) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:24AM (#37933356) Journal

    Negroponte tried a "PC in the wall" experiment in a poor district some years ago. This is being used as an argument for the airdrop strategy, but the experiment was in fact not successfull. The kids in the neighbourhood did learn to use the PC, but to little or no use. They played games but did not learn marketable skills or otherwise improve their quality of life.

    In aid and development, To airdrop aid is the very image of a failed strategy. You bring in a celebrity and a tv-team, you throw money at the village, build a well or a lavatory, then write a report and pull out. Your funders want to see results quickly, but development doesn't work that way.
    For someone in aid and development it is then obvious that Negroponte does not focus on actually improving things for the kids. Like many caricatured IT developers, he is focused on the product, not the user. He wants to prove that the user interface is so intuitive that you don't have to teach the kids to use it. He wants to show that the laptop is very robust and water proof so he drops it from a helicopter. He is using one of the vilest tricks in the IT-salesman's repertoire: That if you just buy my hardware, everything will be up and running with no extra cost. No running costs on training people to use it, no need to organize the use or for teachers to follow this up. No need to have anything centralized and government-like working for these villages to reap the benefits of IT.

    It is a vile mix of PR stunts, naive IT optimism sold to supposedly uninformed savages and an appeal to prevailing ideologies among the western funders. All combined just to sell hardware.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @01:17PM (#37937174)

    Total distribution of XO laptops: 2 million.

    Peru 870,000
    Uruguay 470,000
    India 250,000
    Rwanda 120,000
    Columbia 65,000 (?)
    Argentina 60,000
    Mexico 50,000

    Total Latin America: 1.51 million
    Total Asian: 24,000

    It strains coincidence when your global "one size fits all" program for the education of young children succeeds only among those who share a common (essentially Western) language and culture.

    Teacher training and ongoing support

    The organisation's strategy of simply giving underprivileged children laptops and "walking away" has been criticised because "laptops are getting opened and turned on, but then kids and teachers are getting frustrated by hardware and software bugs, don't understand what to do, and promptly box them up to put back in the corner." This "drive-by" implementation model is the official strategy of the OLPC project, and the mantra "You Can Give Kids XO Laptops and Just Walk Away" are Negroponte's own words.

    Nigeria

    Other discussions question whether OLPC laptops should be designed to promote anonymity or to facilitate government tracking of stolen laptops. A recent New Scientist article critiqued Bitfrost's P_THEFT security option, which allows each laptop to be configured to transmit an individualized, non-repudiable digital signature to a central server at most once each day to remain functioning.

    In 2007, XO laptops in Nigeria were reported to contain pornographic material belonging to children participating in the OLPC Program. In response, OLPC made plans for adding content filters. The OLPC foundation maintained the position that such issues were societal, not laptop related. Similar responses have led some to suggest the OLPC takes an indifferent stance concerning this issue. According to Wayan Vota Senior Director at Inveneo and founder of the independent OLPC News, "The use of computers to look at porn is [a] social problem, not a hardware one... Children have to be taught what's good and what's bad, based on the cultural context."

    One Laptop per Child [wikipedia.org]

    The problem with the airdrop is that OLPC's root premise is that kids don't need a teacher or guardian.

    It has never been quite so simple as that:

    When we first started distributing wind-up radios to orphaned children in Rwanda in 1999, a common response was that our radios helped to combat ignorance and ease isolation. In May, when we launched our Prime radio, the response was the same.

    Children who head households, as well as at-risk widow headed-families are hungry for information they can trust that will help them learn and grow. They want to listen to the news and practical programmes that will support their personal development, impact behavior change (in relation to sexual and reproductive health), inform on health issues like family planning and HIV/AIDS and peace and reconciliation.

    Beneficiaries, who are identified by our local partner organisations, are trained in the use and care of the Prime as well as how to become listening group leaders. They are the responsible "guardians" of the radios on behalf of their family and of their neighbours. Over the years in Rwanda we've seen that roughly 20 listeners share our radios, although many more might gather to hear an important announcement or programme.

    The Prime's bright LED light will decrease the use of hazardous candles and kerosene, enabling people to see at night. To the very poorest, even a candle or a tablespoon of kerosene is beyond their daily reach. Children were particularly excited about being able to see well to study.

    Prime in Rwanda [lifelineenergy.org]

    AM radio and Shortwave broadcasting are 90 years old.

    But the geek --- in his own version of magical thinking --- will assume that using his generation's bleeding-edge tech effectively will be easy for even the youngest of children.

  • by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @03:23PM (#37939134)

    For someone in aid and development it is then obvious that...

    You don't have to be in aid and development to realize that somebody saying "Fuck it, let's just fling computers at 'em from the sky." is a pretty good indication that they're out of ideas, but not funding.

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