One Laptop per Child (OLPC) recently discovered that there was another market for ICTs and education – tablets! This new tablet aims to help children learn information and skills that will help them reach their aspirators and dreams. In addition to being able to find these tablets in pilot programs such as in Uruguay and Cambodia, you can find them at your local Target, Walmart, and online at Amazon for $150! My first concern with these tablets is why are they being sold at places in the US? I originally thought that it was similar to the give a tablet get a tablet idea (or in this case buy a tablet give a tablet), but this isn’t the case. As OLPC says on their FAQ page, “Proceeds from the XO Tablet purchases will be used to further develop the XO learning software and enhance it to address the needs of a larger population of children.” This shows it is definitely not directly impacting children in the developing world. Also, Walmart and Target must be making some sort of profit off of selling these tablets in their stores, which makes me wonder how much of this money is actually being used to work towards OLPC’s goal. Another concern that I have is the “dreams and aspirations” component. While in the United States (where this concept started) it may be easy to come up with universal dreams and aspirations, I can’t imagine this being so easy for other countries. The tablet opens up with “I want to be…” and examples such as astronaut, musician, artist, and mathematician. These just aren’t the same dreams that children in the developing world have. For example, in an article about children in Ethiopia getting tablets, a girl says that when she grows up she wants to be a truck driver. While OLPC says they are going to change the goals and aspirations based on country, I wonder how they are going to incorporate a dream like truck driver into their platform.
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Although our class has thought Nicholas Negroponte, the project innovator for One Laptop Per Child, to have dubious business methods, the designer behind the project is working towards the completion of multiple innovative projects. Swiss designer Yves Behar is the visionary behind the Jawbone Jambox sound system, SAYL chairs, Swarovski chandeliers, and New York City’s free condoms.
Yves Behar was approached by Negroponte six years ago with hopes of producing an “inexpensive and impeccably designed laptop for children across the world.” In class, we discussed countless problems of the laptop and the pros and cons of a government purchasing these laptops and implementing them into school curriculums. As many of the laptops are delivered to countries who lack the proper infrastructure to have dependable power systems, Behar’s newest design is a huge improvement.
The newest model of OLPC, the XO-3 tablet, is a $100 solar-powered tablet. It is lighter, has a bendable screen, and solar panels allow the laptop to charge in sunlight. Negroponte claims that technology is “in some sense more integral than food and water” because “with education, you can actually solve the water problem and energy problems, and, you know, the health problems.” Although I doubt that this is entirely true, the new models of the laptop make the purchase of laptops a more fiscally responsible purchase for governments, as they do not break as easily, cost less, and do not need a steady power supply in order to function. There are still a plethora of problems with the OLCP project, but the lower priced, more efficient tablets are a step in the right direction for the expansion of technology availability and knowledge.
In addition to this project, Behar is also currently involved in designing an array of low cost, visually appealing eye glasses for children in Mexico and South America.
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!
The introduction of India’s domestically-manufactured Aakash tablet has been big news in the ICT community, and in the tech world at large. The 7-inch tablet, which runs Google’s Android OS and which will be provided to students for $35, has been hailed as a massive step forward in bridging the digital divide, an issue which plagues India to a much greater extent than many of its neighbors.
There are, however, some crucial flaws in the infrastructure necessary to support it. The Aakash is a WiFi only device. Publicly accessible WiFi connections are nearly nonexistent outside of the major urban centers. The ability to bridge that gap with access to 3G networks is limited; in a country where the per capita income is still only about $1100, a $200 per year smartphone connection is a privilege few can afford.
The Aakash helps provide the people of India with access to a reasonably sophisticated computing device at an accessible price. But without the necessary infrastructure, it’s likely to fall by the wayside.