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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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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm waiting for the stories of what happens when you drop a ton of laptops on a remote tribal village somewhere. Hope the cameras are rolling.

    • by nharmon (97591)

      When the laptops sit unused, the people patting themselves on the back for sending them will wash their hands of ever helping poor Africans again. You just watch.

      • The laptops will be used... as light sources.
    • All those perfectly good laptops are going to be pitched into the ocean. [imdb.com]

    • by X10 (186866)

      You're right. Let's hope they'll drop the project, rather than the laptops.

    • by lpaul55 (137990)

      I prefer the old idea of dropping millions of hardbound copies of Naked Lunch. More enlightening. Better fuel.

    • by mikael (484)

      Week one will begin the with the air drop of laptops.

      Week two will continue the project with the air drop of power bars and batteries.

      Week three will continue the project with the installation disks and AOL online.

      Week four will see the project close to completion with the air drop of service manuals and wi-fi routers.

      Week five will see the project get close to the completion of its first phase with the air drop of electric generators.

      Week six will see the second phase of the project begin with the air drop

  • by nharmon (97591) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:53AM (#37932934) Homepage

    is about to get an influx of supply.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Yay, I want one with a child's tears and bloody handprint still on it!

      Honestly, Negroponte has lost the plot. He's got a big heart, but he's trying to give diamonds to spades who need shovels.

  • you can bet a good percentage of them will be traded for food and they will end up in the hands of criminals
    • they will end up in the hands of criminals

      Oh. My. God.

      Computers in the hands of unethical people? We're doomed. Doomed, I tell you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:02AM (#37933050)

    It's flying something behind it and I can't quite make it out. It's a large banner and it says T H A N K S... from O... L... P...C! What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The 'copter seems to circling the village now. I guess it's looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of the helicopter. It's a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air... There's a third... No parachutes yet... Those can't be skydivers. I can't tell just yet what they are but... Oh my God! They're laptops! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they're crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the thatched roof of a hut. This is terrible! Everyone's running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The laptops are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don't know how much longer... The crowd is running for their lives. I think I'm going to step inside. I can't stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can't go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenberg tragedy has there been anything like this. I don't know how much longer I can hold my position here, Johnny. The crowd...

  • 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 plsenjy (2104800)

      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?

      Though I don't disagree that this isn't what these countries need, Zimbabwe is a horrible example to use in this case. In 2006 Robert Mugabe's government implemented a policy of "fast track land reform" that gave most of the country's hereditary, white-owned farmland over to new, inexperienced black owners. Though land ownership in Zimbabwe was indeed a relic of racial-class structure from British Colonial rule, when you make such a sweeping, heavy-handed move as Mugabe did it is no surprise that they have

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Oh, cool, thanks for explaining that. That simultaneously solves the problem and negates the grandparent's point, right? Right?
      • by makomk (752139)

        It's worse than that. When a new black land owner turned out to be competent enough to actually grow crops effectively, Mugabe tended to seize the land again and hand it over to someone more in his favour just before they were ready to harvest. His closest cronies reaped all the benefit whilst someone else did the hard work, and then the land just got left unfarmed.

    • >Zimbabwe used to be a net exporter of food

      Was that because they had a surplus, or because we chaps here in England just nicked all their veg, tossed the chalky landowners a few pennies and left the natives to starve?

      *Ireland* was a net exporter of potatoes, during the potato fammine, but only because we pointed guns at them and told them to load up the boats.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        Is the middle class white Grauniad guilt really so strong in you that you can't acknowledge that Jo-click-n Zimbabwean was better off when the white man was shouldering the burden of authority than when we upped sticks and left the natives to run their own affairs?

        Oh, I'm sure it'll get better eventually, but only after their flag has been changed to two crossed starved beaten Zimbabweans emblazoned on a mound of starved beaten Zimbabweans.

        Look, Africa was a huge cesspit of murderous tribal slaver thugs

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Hey, they were just following the standard government procedures and Keynesian charlatanism of printing money to fight recession because they weren't productive to offset high debt. Don't worry about Zimbabwe, worry about USD. Zimbabwe dollar used to be 1 to 1 to USD.

  • As God as my witness, I thought laptops could fly!
  • I swear I thought laptops could fly!
    • by laffer1 (701823)

      You saved me the trouble..

      "The humanity"

      Seriously, how are these people going to know what it is or how to use it? First, you've got to teach them to use the laptop. They might use it to hold something up or throw it away.

      • by b0bby (201198)

        Did you read the article? Sorry... But in it they talk about how non-literate populations can learn to use these devices & even teach themselves how to read. The plan is to try distributing some & then come back in a year to see the effect. I think it's an interesting experiment, and combined with the fact that kids with the OLPC 1 are using it to teach their parents to read, it's worth trying. Spreading education is a good thing.

  • Man I hope these OLPS's have impact smart hard drives ... otherwise I smell the start of the Zombie Apocalypse on us!

  • by symes (835608)

    I have heard that some areas have become so reliant on food airdrops that kids, when they are hungry, look up at the sky for their next meal. They are foretting how to find food for themselves. Point being, if these laptops are dropped from the sky they might be inadvertantly eaten.

    • by Scutter (18425)

      I have heard that some areas have become so reliant on food airdrops that kids, when they are hungry, look up at the sky for their next meal. They are foretting how to find food for themselves. Point being, if these laptops are dropped from the sky they might be inadvertantly eaten.

      Maybe they could put like a Papa John's pizza coupon inside each one or something?

    • Look up Cargo Cults. They go so far as to make mock air strips and jets to get the "ritual" right. The ones I have heard of are all in the pacific right after world war two not Africa but the theory is the same and it wouldn't surprise me to see it on the rise.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult [wikipedia.org]

      • Hey, the Professor from Gilligan's Island could make a laptop out of coconuts. DO NOT MOCK SCIENCE!

        It would be cute, actually. Little iPhones made from soda cans "sold" in Apple Store mockups built from old Coke bottles. Children converting their little wagons into miniature Geek Squad cars. LOLSpeak replacing traditional dialects. UN aid folks being directed to someone who breaks into a Rick Astley song, or they're routed to the Goatse hut of which no one speaks. Locals wanting to make controversial commen

      • by jazman_777 (44742)
        This isn't just a Cargo Cult. This is the people dropping the cargo believing in it.
    • by higuita (129722)

      What many people still dont understand is that the OLPC isnt for those dying from hunger, its for those that can already survive, but have no economic ways to really improve their long term lives.. education can help a lot in that field, but... in poor countries the education level is low and have a serious lack of government support. A small computer can help in teaching and transfer knowledge and in ten years some areas might have a real education system based in OLPC. Yes, it will take years and in the s

      • by symes (835608)

        What many people still dont understand is that the OLPC isnt for those dying from hunger, its for those that can already survive, but have no economic ways to really improve their long term lives.. education can help a lot in that field, but...

        I agree, up to a point. The thing is, improving education in economically deprived areas leads to well educated people with no means of developing further. They end up knowing that their future is bleak and, my guess is, this may lead to other problems including migration, disenfranchisement and so on. If we really want to improve their economy then I would think communication and infrastructure would be best attended to. Mobile commuications mean that people can play a more productive role in markets. For

        • by higuita (129722)

          you are right of course, without basic infrastructures you are limiting the learning, but the OLPC is also for those with already basic infrastructure... the keyword is lack of economic power and reduce or no access to education systems. those without ANY infrastruture are for sure in the same group as the starving ones... they have bigger problems and the OLPC isnt for then

          one OLPC will not make one kid in a Phd, but might open the eyes enough to improve all things around him. and again yes, migration is a

      • US schools are buying iPads to help teaching, countries with no or poor education systems are being given OLPC to help teaching... see, not much a difference!

        I see! So it will fail just as hard as introducing endless piles of computers to US schools has! Good show!

        I tease (somewhat), but, hey, have at it. At the very least it might result in an influx of new and interesting talent to Deviant Art.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Yes, you tease, but with a reasonable point. In seriousness I would respond that one of the reasons these things fail in the US is that they are often redundant for the purposes they are attempted to be used for. Learning to read is a good example. I have met dozens of kids here in the US who have never spent a day in school, and no one ever tried to teach them to read. 100% of them could read. The only kids that I have ever met over the age of 10 who could not read (physical brain impairment aside) we
  • Please read http://perniciousolpc.wordpress.com./ [pernicious...dpress.com]
  • by wren337 (182018) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:21AM (#37933312) Homepage

    We just sprinkle them over the poor, and POOF! All better.

  • an electric power supply in those villages?

  • 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 Deus.1.01 (946808)

      They should have dropped C64's!

    • "Negroponte tried a "PC in the wall" experiment in a poor district some years ago..... the experiment was in fact not successfull."
      "Your funders want to see results quickly, but development doesn't work that way."

      Wait, what?

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:01AM (#37934872) Homepage

      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.

      Oh, it's worse than that. From the very start, the OLPC laptop has been designed primarily to comply with Negroponte's political IT views. The poor of the world are just a means to that end.

    • 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.

  • Electricity is still largely unavailable, so how would the laptops be even usable?
  • So they can't read, they can't write, what can they do with a laptop?
  • Here's an interesting ultra-cheap netbook [e-ville.com] I found one day. It obviously does not come without flaws and the specs are weak, but for 65€ it offers great value and is a nice entry-level system to get you connected if you're poor.
  • by mwfischer (1919758) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:41AM (#37933640) Journal

    "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"

    I'm sure the people of Detroit will be most appreciative.

  • Are they going to airdrop people who can teach them how to use this technology from the heavens? Some tools are intuitive. To people who have never seen a computers or even really much technology at all, computers are not.

  • by brainzach (2032950) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:00AM (#37933940)

    The most likely scenarios is that no one will figure out a use for the device and they will realize that there is more value selling it on the market. You need to teach the villagers the value of the device first and have a way to help them learn how to use it. Self learning is good, but you need to learn the basics before you can explore on their own.

    There are also the problem of adults just using the device for themselves. Do they really know that it is a kids device?

    Distributing it through the schools to be a much more effective way of making progress. You can teach others how to use the device, provide support and it will be associated with education so adults will be less likely to use it.

  • When the laptops are dropped, people with guns will be waiting to received them. If something that can be converted into weapons falls from the sky, do you think happy children will be scooping up the goods while their poor parents watch in delight? Not happening.
  • Has anyone asked the poor if they want to be developed?

    Seriously, I'd rather live any number of "poor" native lifestyles, with their lack of medical care, occasional famine, etc. instead of being in a welfare slum, with no health insurance or affordable medical care, crappy job market, pollution, stress, etc.

    • Do not be so sure, do not forget that is it not just being "poor", but there are many other lacks...

      In a welfare slum you can still go to a library (most do not but it's their choice).
      In a welfare slum if you are gay, or different you life is probably harder, and for example in many european "slums" there is a big problem with various kind of discriminations, but at least they are illegal, and you can take some bus/subway to a nearby place where people will let you at least spend some time unmolested.
      In mos

  • In the words of Arthur Carlson "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!!!"

    http://radio.about.com/od/thanksgivingradio/a/WKRP-In-Cincinnati-Turkey-Drop-Episode.htm [about.com]

  • It seems that using real bombs would be more efficient that OLPCs to get rid of the poors ?

    Oh... it's poverty, not poors... then it would probably not work..

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:56AM (#37935770) Homepage

    "Nicholas Negroponte, the brains behind the One Laptop Per Child..."

    Not the brains. The mouth.

  • The OLPC hardware is too expensive. Even middle-income countries like El Salvador and Honduras have struggled to get them introduced into schools. The Raspberry Pi project ("An ARM GNU/Linux box for $25" - http://www.raspberrypi.org/ [raspberrypi.org]) might just obsolete OLPC.
    • The Raspberry Pi project ("An ARM GNU/Linux box for $25" - http://www.raspberrypi.org/ [raspberrypi.org]) might just obsolete OLPC.

      I doubt it. As much as I like the Raspberry Pi, it doesn't come with a keyboard or display or power supply, and certainly isn't designed for use by the illiterate. As much as I think the OLPC idea is far from being proven to be effective, it's designed for rugged use away from the power grid.

      • Display: any old TV or monitor. Power: micro-USB standardized GSMA Universal Charging Solution. Keyboard and mouse: via USB port. (You'd be surprised at how prevalent TVs and cellphones are in less deveoped parts of the world.) Granted, you can't use the Raspberry Pi away from the power grid, but I would surmise that in areas were there is no electrification, there aren't many teachers or schools, so you can't really make use of the OLPC, either.
  • ... I thought laptops could fly!

  • 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.

    • I'm lucky enough to know a guy now working on the OLPC project in Uruguay. In his opinion and mine it is an ideal country to try this out.
      He works at roll out and technical support end with schools, essentially at the coal face of this idea.

      What is his biggest day-to-day problem?
      Convincing the kids not to use the laptop as a Frisbee.

      Projects like this need a *lot* of work. This current idea is positively idiotic and shows just how little feedback there is in the organisation.
      • by westlake (615356)

        Projects like this need a *lot* of work. This current idea is positively idiotic and shows just how little feedback there is in the organisation.

        The Prime [lifelineenergy.org] is an interesting take on the familiar Baylis-type windup radio, sacrificing some portability in favor of beefed up sound, output for external speakers, DC input and a rather muscular detachable solar powered battery pack that can recharge most cell phones.

        This all helps make radio listening a more social experience --- the value of which is something we may have forgotten in the developed world.

        The laptop or e-book reader is not so easily shared.

        OLPC always seemed to me more ideology than pro

  • For their next air drop, I suggest they send oyster spoons, weight loss medication and dog cologne.

  • This laptop looks delicious.
  • Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw; I wish I had scanned it

    The scene is an impoverished African village in the jungle with starving natives lying around.

    A transport plane has just passed overhead and descending from it with a cluster of parachutes is a large platform. On the platform is a long table with a dozen white guys in suits sat around it, paperwork and glasses of water in front of them.

    One of the dying Africans is pointing up to it and saying, in the caption :

    "Thank God, an Aid Committee

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