Tag Archives: Laptops

Government-funded Laptop Project Faces Opposition… From Parents

This week in class we studied the One Laptop Per Child organization and had a lengthy discussion about its obvious flaws. As IDEV students, we often find ourselves criticizing the various projects and organizations we study; its rare, however, that we see the beneficiaries of these projects condemning them as well. This article from the Associated Press in July 2013 discussed why a group of Kenyan parens voiced their opposition to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s $615 million plan to give laptops to 1.2 million school children. Parents felt that the money for the computers should be put towards raising teachers’ salaries and feeding impoverished students.

As one member of the Kenya National Association of Parents explained, “the program is bound to fail in a country that lacks enough teachers and where others strike regularly for better pay”. In 2013, Kenya faced a shortfall of 40,000 teachers. Additionally, more than 200,000 teachers in public schools across the country went on strike to protest unpaid allowances that the government had promised 16 years earlier. These parents felt that current teachers did not have the capacity to implement laptops into the classroom due to lack of training and a government-developed curriculum for the project. Additionally, a previous incident where 70 million textbooks in a public primary-school went missing added to worries that many laptops would be lost, stolen, or sold for food money.

One government spokesman defended the laptop project, saying it was crucial to Kenya’s goal of training a digital-savvy workforce. The Consumer Federation of Kenya, on the other hand, said the project had noble intentions but was “not well thought out and was politicized beyond redemption.” Many parents also felt there were better alternatives to how the government’s money should be spent when it comes to public education. In order to meet the population’s education demands, Kenya needs 42,000 classrooms. The money used for the laptops could be put towards building more schools to expand the country’s education system. Alternatively, some of the money would be better used to fund more children in the nation-wide school food program, meant to help poor children to stay in school, improve their health, and encourage nutrition.


Argentina’s Version of OLPC

In 2010 the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that she was going to implement a program so that every high school student in Argentina would be given a small laptop. César Dergarabedian in this article further explains the plans for this program and also compares this program to the OLPC program that had previously been implemented in Uruguay.  After seeing the results of the OLPC program in Uruguay, the president of Argentina decide to implement a similar program, but with a few changes. One of the major changes was that rather than using the OLPC laptops to give to all of the students, a similar, small durable computer was manufactured in Argentina. On the computers would also come all of the necessary programs that a student may need while using the laptop in the classroom. Along with the program, Fernández de Kirchner said that the internet capabilities of high school buildings would be increased. The program was very ambitious, hoping to have 3 million students in over 4,800 public schools receive these computers within the following 3 years.

Although the program may have been ambitious, there are many distinctions between this program and the OLPC program that make a considerable difference, and make it more plausible for the success of the program in a country. Primarily, the fact that Argentina was manufacturing the computers itself made it so that the program was not only increasing the computer use in the country, but also the money that was being spent on the laptops (nearly 1,052 million dollars) was being put back into the Argentine economy. The other part of the program that put it on track to be more successful is that since the government decided to implement this program in public schools they were also able to help provide the schools with the infrastructure needed so that the students can utilize this technology.

By no means was this program flawless, but it does give a different approach to look at when discussing the OLPC program. It also can be a case study to be compared to the OLPC program, and used for other countries looking to implement a similar program as a model.

One Laptop Per Child in Sri Lanka

The article we read for class this week, The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto: Where Next for ICTs and International Development, mentions the One Laptop Per Child programs as an example of ICT4D (pg 6).  OLPC is an example of ICT4D 2.0, because it focuses on the needs of of poor communities and takes the realities of their situations into consideration.  By distributing low-cost, low-spec, robust devices to poor communities, access to internet is more feasible.  Putting low cost laptops in schools is much more pragmatic than the telecommunication centers in rural areas (as was done during the ICT4D 1.0 phase), because it takes into consideration what people actually will use, want to use, and how they will use it.

OLPC has a blog with a lot of success stories and examples of how OLPC is improving the lives of children in developing countries, improving education, and helping us move closer to the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal education.

I think it’s important to look at critical evaluations of these programs, so that we can have a holistic understanding of the OLPC program and to learn from the successes and failures.  OLPC is an excellent idea and has seen a lot of success, but obviously there are flaws.  Check out this World Bank evaluation of  a OLPC program in Sri Lanka, here.

To learn more about OLPC check out their website blog here.

Macbooks in Main: A Better Alternative to OLPC?

This article analyzes the progress and past successes or failures of the One Laptop Per Child initiative by highlighting specific cases, a method similar to that used in our readings this week. However, the second half of this article focuses on one program in particular that sharply contrasts OLCP, in both negative and positive ways. I thought it deserved a closer look.

Every middle school student, in addition to about half of the total high school students in Maine has received a laptop from the state of Maine. In total, more than 70,000 have been distributed through this effort known as the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. After ending the year 2000 with a 71 million dollar surplus, this initiative was proposed by Governor King in an effort to provide portable computer devices for Maine’s students. While this initiative identifies the leaders of OLPC, Papert and Negroponte, as MLTI’s “visionkeeper” and the motivation for its founding, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative differs from its inspiring organization in several key aspects (ARS Technica).

Negroponte shamelessly ridicules and undermines teachers in disadvantaged parts of the world claiming that a significant portion of them fail to even show up to class, while others teach while intoxicated. These assertions support his belief that the student himself has more importance in his own education than any teacher could. Therefore, teachers are completely ignored and removed from the OLPC program. MLTI, however, values teachers’ role in the educating process and incorporates them at every step, with promising results. According to David Silvernail, director of the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation, “Teachers indicated the laptops helped them teach more, in less time, and with greater depth” (ARS Technica).

In addition, this program has better measures to ensure the durability of the laptops, working with Apple to cover maintenance costs, “including a 4-year warranty, repairs, technical support, professional development for teachers, cloud storage, and Apple even kicks in 13 full-time employees to work with MLTI”.

Recently acquired data indicates the immense success of this project. According to Maine’s learning technology policy director, Jeff Mao, ” in 2001, 50 percent of students didn’t pass the Maine high school math placement exam; in 2011, only five percent failed” (ARS Technica). However, though the success of this project is evident, it did not come without certain financial strains. Each MLTI laptop costs $242 in comparison to the $188 for each OLPC computer. In addition, significant funds were required by the state government of Maine to provide Internet access and other methods of ongoing support to ensure the success of this project each year. While the benefits and success of this project undeniably surpass those of any individual project executed by OLPC, it is questionable whether such a project would be sustainable in any other country.


OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program is a global initiative based on the ideas of Nicholas Negroponte.  The program seeks to provide children with low-cost and low-power laptops in order to provide better educational opportunities and encourage learning of new technology.  The original laptop designed through the program was called the XO and its software interface was called Sugar.  Since the launch of the program in 2005, OLPC has shipped 2.4 million laptops in 42 different countries.  Yet, after implementation, many problems were visible with the original laptop.  First off, the XO has its own screen which makes it difficult to replace once broken.  Also, the XO-1 model contained an inefficient keyboard which broke upon normal usage.  Furthermore, the touchpad mouse quickly loses sensitivity and battery life is only a couple of hours.

In response to these problems and many more, OLPC launched their new and improved XO 3.0 tablet in January.  This new version is a big initiative to fix some of the major problems with the older versions.  For example, this new tablet is capable of touchscreen usage.  Furthermore, since the Sugar interface is slow, this new system can run the Android operating system or Linux.  Additionally, the tablet’s cover contains a 4-watt solar panel, which is twice the power needed for its function.  There are even screws that you can crank to supply power – one minute of cranking gives 10 minutes of battery power.  Moreover, the Marvell processor is much more improved and the Sugar interface comes with many new applications.

While this is a great advancement for the program, one thing to consider is whether the new applications and complexity of the devices will be difficult for the children to understand.  This will be interesting to see as the new tablets are distributed!

Sources:  OLPC, Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor?

6.8 Million Free Laptops in India

After reading a post from September 15, 2011o by Christina Murphy on reddit I immediately thought of how it related to what we discussed yesterday in class.  On the surface, the idea of free laptops for every child in this region seems like a positive technological trend.  But, as we all know, there’s a serious discrepancy between the imagined benefits and the actual results of such an initiative.  There are arguments that this could potentially bankrupt the government with its high pricetag, and I can’t help but think that the money could be better spent trying to rectify other issues in the region, like frequent power outages, or expanding social or development programs.