Can One Laptop Per Child Save The World’s Poor?: A Summary

      In Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames article “Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor?”, they critique the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) educational reform initiative. The program, launched in 2005 by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, aims at the proliferation of hundreds of millions of low-cost laptop to children worldwide. In 2005, the goal was to deliver 100-150 million laptops worldwide by 2008. In 2010, only 1.5 million has been dispersed, 80% of which were to middle and high income countries. The authors delve into an exploration for why the program panned out the way it did.

       A principal flaw, they argue, is the deterministic assumption that only the technology is needed and that students will teach themselves and spread what they have learned to their family members, with or without a teacher. Because of the urgency in getting the laptops to the kids, the initiative shuns pilot programs, stage implementation, monitoring, and formative evaluation.  In middle and and high income nations, the authors believe that children would certainly benefit from laptop computers, but that infrastructure development, teacher training, and curriculum development are also required to maximize reward. Meanwhile, the poorer nations are often to poor to purchase these laptops, at 188$ per laptop in bulk and an estimated 75$ per year per student for use. Because of the price, it also hard to receive funding from donors without any cost benefit analysis or guaranteed results.

     Another flaw is the design itself, a newly designed laptop called XO and corresponding software called Sugar. However, the customized design makes maintenance and repair extremely difficult and expensive, with studies suggesting that majority of the laptops are rendered unusable after only 2 years. It also has a small memory and short battery life.

    The project implementation has other flaws. Many schools lack electricity and internet access and if they do have, it is quite limited. In addition, evaluations have found that parents are reluctant to let kids take home the laptops, fearing any repercussions if something goes wrong. They did find success in the program in Uruguay, where they have the infrastructural capabilities for technical support and free repair, however. This suggests that the project could be successful in developing nations with additional infrastructural support and subsidized costs.


One response to “Can One Laptop Per Child Save The World’s Poor?: A Summary

  • dthunell

    I wonder if the success in Uruguay could be related to the fact that is such a small country, geographically and population wise. Hopefully they could translate this success maybe to poor island nations in the Caribbean or Oceania and even small Western African countries, like The Gambia, Sierra Leone or Togo. But as you say there are already some technical and structural programs in place in Uruguay and this is probably not the case in these other countries.

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