Uruguay takes on One Laptop Per Child

A little lunchtime blogging catchup.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has intrigued me ever since a senior member of the team came to speak to us at one of the early DESTIN Friday afternoon lectures at the LSE. I distinctly remember asking questions about internet access and social networking, based on my experiences with young people and TakingItGlobal – providing facilities for children and their families to connect with the wider world and in particular communities of other OLPC people to share ideas and encourage innovative use of the laptops.

For those who haven’t come across the OLPC project before, it aimed initially to provide laptops to kids all over the world who would not normally have access, for $100 (US) per child.  While this cost proved impossible, the cost has still been kept really low as mentioned below.

To me, it’s an incredibly sensible and exciting project as part of wider education projects and reform. Computer skills are increasingly necessary in today’s world, wherever you are. While basic needs must be met first, it is important that the skills needed to get ahead, to get jobs wherever, to help propel developing countries forward, including IT skills, are developed at a young age. The networking and education possibilities from internet access spark my excitement – years of talking and working with young people in many developing countries on youth development initiatives via TakingItGlobal has shown me the eagerness to learn, network and develop via the internet, largely from internet cafes for those I’ve worked with.

I was really pleased to see, therefore, news of Uruguay joining the small group of nations involved – with provision of an OLPC laptop for every pupil in state primary schools – in the BBC Tech news a couple of weeks ago. According to the article:

The Uruguay programme has cost the state $260 (£159) per child, including maintenance costs, equipment repairs, training for the teachers and internet connection. The total figure represents less than 5% of the country’s education budget.”

As Miguel Brechner, head of the project in Uruguay, puts it “This is not simply the handing out of laptops or an education programme. It is a programme which seeks to reduce the gap between the digital world and the world of knowledge”.

Now that’s exciting!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim Little says:

    I must admit that I’m dubious of the OLPC project. It may be useful for middle income countries but it seems like a bit of an expensive (and tasteless) distraction for the poorest.

    In a country like Ghana one laptop costs around a primary school teacher’s monthly wage. If you gave a class of 60 (reasonably typical) one laptop each you could have employed 5 teachers for a year. And I’ve visited primary schools in Northern Ghana, many don’t have running water or proper latrines. One toilet per school would be a start.

    My blogs on the topic:


  2. Alastair says:

    A bit sorry that Cupertino (ie Apple) didn’t join the OLPC party…

  3. Fi McKenzie says:

    Thanks for the comments! I definitely agree with you both – in my “hurry” to get this posted yesterday I didn’t put enough emphasis on my belief that this really is a project that works best in MICs and the higher income LDCs where basic needs are provided for.

    Where basic needs, including sanitation, aren’t provided for – OLPC seems more of an insult than anything helpful.

    I was sent this article from UN Dispatch (http://www.undispatch.com/node/8859) about the “dream” of OLPC being over by a friend. I have found I largely disagree with the article’s dismissive tone. Simply because it hasn’t been the silver bullet the founder hoped for, it should not be put to the side. There is no quick fixes in development. The comments on the article are well worth reading through for some local stories.

    There also a nice little post and links on OLPC in Niue (a small country in the Pacific near NZ) here: http://pipka.org/blog/2008/08/16/olpc-in-niue/

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