Laptops and the Developing World
Case #1: One Laptop Per Child
OLPC aspires to give all less privileged children a chance at adequate education by developing an economical laptop known was the 'XO Laptop'. The 'XO' is about the size of a small textbook, which though low-cost and low-power keeps the children connected. The laptop giving programme allows anyone to donate an XO laptop to a child's education in a developing country.
Case #2: Afghanistan
As the Taliban continue to wreck havoc amongst school girls and female teachers in Afghanistan, the government is employing further means to improve education for them in the privacy and safety of their own homes. To do so, they have taken up the OLPC initative to bring laptops to their people. Similar activity is going on in other historic conflict regions such as Iraq, Rwanda and the Gaza Strip.
Case #3: India releases plan to produce $10 (500 rupees) laptops around June 2009
With the promise of 2GB RAM, wireless connectivity and a likely Windows Microsoft OS, India is going to produce the ultimate budget laptop intended for use of children in schools in order to bridge the digital divide. Though officials claim confidence on the RS500 price tag, costs are speculated to reach $100. India has a good track record of mega cheap technology, having created the world's cheapest car, the Tato Nano, in 2008 priced at RS100,000 (US$1962).
With the laptop we can say that our school is really elevated because the children are really learning more... They see themselves discovering things that they have never been doing before.
- Mrs M. Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria
Indeed, global digital divide has put many poverty children at a disadvantage as compared to the developed world. Should such a trend be allowed to persist, these children are likely to never enjoy access to the wealth of knowledge and opportunities available to them online. The reason for such growing concern and attention across nations is that laptops are vital tools in education as they engage students in an active learning process and allow them to bring the knowledge of the world into classrooms, for teachers and students alike. At Portable Partners, we recognise this best as due to power failures and unreliable Internet connection, our Pakistan team members have often been troubled in the process of creating this website. However, we are still considered fortunate for at least we own a working station as such. For most developing countries, they are unable to increase funds allocated towards education (only about $20 per student a year) as most of it is channeled into the economy and into building of infrastructure. In contrast, United States spends an estimated $7500 per pupil annually.
Looking specifically towards the Afghanistan case study, such laptops have given many students, especially females, an opportunity to learn. This is definitely a step towards a more integrated and inclusive system of education amongst the world's poorest children - no child should be robbed of the opportunity to learn. With their new laptops, these students are now more inclined to learn, often taking with them their laptop whenever they go, and engaging in a range of educational activities from the exploration of mathematics to designing animations and data collection, and even to learn new languages and cultures of other countries. This prospect to learn and grow spiritually and mentally, is definitely something new and refreshing in their contexts and environments, differing much from what their parents underwent as children. This inclination to laptop reliance and increased education focus is not unique to Afghanistan as many other historically conflict nations are also starting to pick up the system. To make a daring statement, in the long term, globalisation and deeper understandings for different religions and nationalities stemming from the distribution of laptops to aid education may even put forward the notion of world peace.
Finally, even with the credit crunch, India is making costly research and developments regarding the $10 laptops, showing us once again the importance of laptops in our modern day society and how they believe using laptops to nurture the future generations will lead the country to further economic development and growth as they develop higher levels of technological competence.
1. One Laptop per Child for reference on the OLPC agendas. (1st April 2009)
2. Jessica Ravitz's article on OLPC in Afghanistan. (1st April 2009)
3. BBC News on low-cost India laptops. (1st April 2009)
4. Randeep Ramesh on bridging the digital divide. (1st April 2009)
5. ABC News that India unveils plans to increase higher education. (1st April 2009)
6. One Laptop Per Child for the image. (1st April 2009)