Nicholas Negroponte, perhaps best know as the founder of One Laptop Per Child, was born in 1943 in New York city. He received both an undergraduate and a masters degree in architecture at MIT, where his research as a student focused on computer aided design. After graduating form MIT in 1966, Negroponte immediately joined the faculty. He achieved notoriety early on in his career by founding two world renowned research institutions at MIT. The first was the Architecture Machine Group. He later founded the MIT Media Lab, which is famed for researching and creating technologies that impact every day life. Negroponte once said “Computing is not about computers anymore. It’s about living.” Negroponte published the book “Being Digital” about merging worlds of interaction, entertainment and information. He was also involved in the launch of “Wired Magazine.” In the world of business, he is a partner in a firm that specializes in digital technologies for information and entertainment. In addition, he has funded the start-up of companies such as Zagats, Ambient Devices, Skype and Velti.
While Negroponte is clearly accomplished in academics and business, it is his philanthropic venture OLPC that is perhaps the most interesting. In an interview with Big Think, he stated his primary inspirations for the project as the theories of constructionism. The principal behind these theories is that teaching a child how to think and learning about learning is far more valuable than rote learning and education. In the interview he stated “That was the beginning and it all started with constructionism. It started with learning learning and children being active agents in their own education.” It is clear to see through his esteem of the constructionist theories, coupled with his academic interest in the intersection of technology and daily life, how the idea for OLPC was conceived.
Although the program is controversial, Negroponte stands behind it whole-heartedly and claims steadfast proof of its effectiveness. He claims that truancy in schools where OLPC is implemented is near zero and that these children stay in school longer. He also cited examples in his interview of children teaching parents to read & of teachers praising the program as revolutionary and beneficial in their classrooms. Also, as one of his beliefs is the disappearance of books within the next decade or so, he believes that giving access to a digital library though OLPC is a far more effective and sustainable model than building a single physical library. Independent of whether the program OLPC is sustainable or even successful, it is revolutionary and widely discussed in the field of ICT4D. Also, it is incontestable that Negroponte, the man behind OLPC is devoted to his cause and clearly an extremely accomplished individual in his field.