Defining OLPC

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit association working on a major project: improve education in third-world countries with a low-cost laptop to educate impoverished children and prepare them for opportunities in the developed world. The current model is the OLPC XO-1, it is a $100 laptop produced by Quanta Computers. The laptop uses AMD LX-Geode CPU at 700 MHZ, 256MB of RAM and 1 GB of flash memory. The laptop also contain built-in wireless network and colour camera1.


OLPC Mission Statement

To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

OLPC highlights

2007 The laptop becomes mass produced. Over 150,000 laptops are sold in the Give One Get One program.
2005 The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland is presented with Negroponte's $100 laptop concept.
2002 20 children from a remote Cambodin village receive laptops frmo Negroponte. They could be used anywhere in the community. "Google" was their first English word.
1995 "Being Digital" establishes the seeds for One Laptop per Child's vision.
1982 Papert and Negroponte give Apple II microcomputers to school kids in Dakar, Senegal. This milestone proved Papert's central theory: kids in rural impoverished regions learn how to use computers as quickly as kids in first world countries. This pilot project was sponsored by the French government.
1967 Seymour Papert, et al. release Logo which is the first programming language designed for kids.
All timeline content from OLPC.2

The Bright Side of OLPC

Education should be a right not a privilege. Providing children in third world nations access to technology (which will likely play a crucial role in the lives of the next generation) gives children in developing countries the opportunity to be in tune with using computers just like their first world counterparts. This technology provides these children access to knowledge from various online pools of information, the opportunity to experience and hone their skills in self-expression and to connect with one another3. The fact that the laptops put "an emphasis on software tools for exploring and expressing, rather than instruction"4 empowers children to enrich their knowledge in a way that makes learning fun.5

Furthermore, OLPC lists five core principles:
1. Child ownership - OLPC has created the XO laptop to be low cost, robust and powerful, beautiful and friendly. It was designed for elementary school children, the first of its kind.
2. Low ages - The XO is designed for the use of children ages 6 to 12 that covers the years of elementary school but nothing precludes its use earlier or later in life. Children do not need to know how to write or read to enjoy and learn with an XO. Playing is the basis of human learning, and the digital activities on an XO help with acquisition of reading and writing.
3. Saturation - The key point is to choose the best scale in each circumstance. It can be a country, a region, a municipality or a village, in which every child and teacher will own a connected laptop.
4. Connection - The XO has been designed to provide an engaging wireless network. The laptops are connected to others nearby automatically. Children in the neighborhood are permanently connected to chat, sharing information on the local network or web, making music together, editing texts, or using collaborative games.
5. Free and open source - Each child with an XO can leverage the learning of other children. They can teach each other, share ideas, and support each other's growth.6

As mentioned above, every child should have the right to access to technology and equal opportunity to learn and to be connected with one another. “Life is too short, let’s live a little, experience a little, give a little and invest in relationships”. The bottom line is you don't need another pair of jeans, purse, or the newest video game console. People are worth living for gaining knowledge from technology. Each laptop only costs $100 and you actually buy one and get one for FREE. Therefore, don’t wait and act now.7

OLPC Critque

One Laptop Per Child is a great idea in terms of information technology which is currently intensifying worldwide. However, the target of this project are children in poor living conditions who have no access to the internet or the computer. The idea itself is very good, but these children are not fighting with technology. In fact they are fighting with hunger. Not having a laptop will not cause their death. The reality is that they will die if they don’t eat. Therefore, laptops would be very useful for poor children, as long as the primary need for food is completely covered. We should donate food for now rather than laptops.8

In addition, there is a scale difference between developed and developing countries. In developed countries, $100 per children may be considered a low-cost investment. However, developing countries may find OLPC as a high-cost investment as their citizens typically earn a few dollars US per day. Aside from laptop education, there are also many other ways to provide education to children in developing countries, such as building schools and libraries. In fact, building such infrastructures will result in a lower cost per child since the cost of building schools and libraries will be shared among the children.9


OLPC runs very proactive, and as depicted in some of these examples, very moving and emotional campaigns.10

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