OLPC Debate

Ethan Zuckerman writes [in response to a post from Atanu Dey]:

The larger problem is the problem of educational priorities. For the laptop project to make sense, it needs to be in the context of widespread educational reform in developing nations. The project carries the hope that schools in developing nations can train students at the same level as schools in wealthier countries, giving students a chance to use computers at least as much as students in the north. This is a radical idea, and one that demands thinking beyond the paradigm of textbook replacement that OLPC has been using to open conversations in developing nations. Yes, the funding the laptop demands will be counterbalanced, in part, by reduced textbook costs. But embracing the potential of the project requires increasing educational spending so you can attack the problems Atanu talks about, as well as the problems of training teachers to utilize this new tool in the classroom.

Ive got high hopes that debate over the laptop will soon change from whether it is technically suited for use in developing nations (it is, certainly to a greater extent than any other machine Ive seen at a price point below consumer devices in the US) to conversations on the sorts of issues Atanu brings up. And I hope that my friends in Cambridge will bring in interested critics like Dr. Dey to ensure theyve got answers for the hard questions hes asking, as well as questions like how can we make this machine use only 2 watts of power?

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.