Why are Microsoft, Intel, and other leading for profit companies interested in low-cost computers for the developing world? In 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT's Media Labs, announced the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program at the World Economic Forum. The concept was simple and appealing. Innovate a $100 laptop and distribute it to children in the developing world. No one can argue the power of getting kids access to computers/internet, and hence, access to a virtually limitless store of information, connectivity to the world and educational software. And for a technology optimist like Negroponte, the payoffs were obvious. But as the OLPC program has found out over the years, there is more to the success of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in Education, than just handing out computers to kids, and expect it to works its magic on its own. To begin with, the premises and approach of OLPC program as articulated by Negroponte are fundamentally flawed. OLPC stipulates that laptops be owned by children over the age of six rather than by schools. Efforts to reform curricula and assessment are viewed by the program as too slow or expensive, and teacher training as of limited value due to teacher absenteeism and incompetence, so laptop implementation must proceed without them. The program also believes that in the end, "the students will teach themselves on how to use the laptop. They'll teach one another, and we have confidence in the kids' ability to learn". The other flaw in this program is that the poorest countries targeted by OLPC cannot afford laptop computers for all their children and would be better off building schools, training teachers, developing curricula, providing books and subsidizing attendance. No one ever understood Nicholas Negroponte's position when it comes to the $100 Laptop/OLPC/XO. While the idea behind creating a super cheap, super durable useful computer for children in developing nations is good, Negroponte...
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