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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

OLPC FUD

Thursday, July 27, 2006

India thinks spending on secondary education is better than giving laptops to children. Lots of reasons have been quoted, the most quotable among them being that it is "paedagogically suspect". That means that there is no proof that it can help children learn by themselves. It actually goes a step further and states that
"It may actually be detrimental to the growth of creative and analytical abilities of the child."
But the real gem lies at the end of the story.
“We do not think that the idea of Prof. Negroponte is mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage, and no major country is presently following this,”
Now it gets a bit personal. They are hinting that Prof. Negroponte is a nutcrack and nobody has really bought into his idea. Steve Jobs (science project), Bill Gates (hand crank!) and Craig Barret (gadget) certainly dont.

And finally
“Even inside America, there is not much enthusiasm about this.”
So that really seems to be the reason. America is not buying the laptops, and hence we should not as well!

A classic example of FUD!

Our babus are scared of something. Maybe they sense that they will not get a cut out of the whold deal. After all the money spent in setting up more secondary schools would warm up their coffers. The OLPC just bypasses the whole establishment and makes it pointless. That is scary.

That infact is a proof of why OLPC is going to work in third world countries. It will enable a generation of kids to pull themseleves and their soceity out of poverty. The establishment has failed them. And the OLPC gives them an opportunity to work around it. Who needs ministers, babus, teachers and peons.

Linux is enough.

read more | digg story

Update: A feature from Wired on the design process of OLPC.

Update 2: Slashdot disucssion on the topic.

Previous Posts: Open Source Generation. OLPC Update. One Laptop Per Child.

Technorati Tags: India, OLPC, MIT Lab, Negroponte, FUD
posted by Rajiv, 4:43 AM

5 Comments:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

There really is no scientific proof that introducing young children to computers has a positive effect on them. Even if it did have some positive effect, I think (I read this in some discussion about this topic) that in a poor country like India, the OLPC laptops will soon emerge into the blackmarket because of the money that it will fetch. Unless there is a good basic education infrastructure, computers are just going to be a waste of money. I have my personal doubts about the effects of 'learning computers' even in a system with sound basic infrastructure. One of the biggest points in case is the US system of primary education. Every school has lots of computers but their primary education standard is pathetic. Besides, there is only so much that a student can learn (in general) about computers before matriculation.

I dont think one can come out with any sicentific proof about OLPC or learning computer's effectiveness. At least right now. Its just plain basic common sense. Give a child a tool to learn and he will figure out a way to use it. Humans are made that way. When we discovered the wheel, it was by plan trial and error. There was no scientific proof that a Wheel will revolutionise the world. It still did!

And talking about the infrastructure of primary education, in a third world countrly like India, which has been trying to get it right for past 50 years, it still going to take decades before every village has a decent school. Most of India's population lives in villages. There are lots of young bright children who never get to see the light of the day because survival is more important for them.

At least OLPC gives them a chance. A chance to learn and move out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Its a bright original concept. A concept to tackle poverty. The state and the infrastructure has failed for a lot of children. Even if the OLPC enables one child to move up the value chain and contribute something original to the society, it would have made its mark.

OLPC does not garuntee anything, but at least give us hope that if the next Einstien is born in Africa's desert, he can grow up and change the way we think about our world.
Said Blogger Rajiv, 1:06 PM  

Rajiv, have to disagree with you here. It has been pretty clear from a long time that this project was more about pomp and grandstanding and bringing money and attention to Media Lab than about actually improving the lives of kids in developing countries. I'm glad MHRD has shown OLPC the door.

If you have the time for a chat sometime, there's a lot to be told about Mr Negroponte and his antics.
Said Blogger Jace, 12:04 AM  

Irrespective of whether the project was well motivated or not, I still think that without basic eduation, computers can only give you a few spikes in a largely low lying graph of 'effective education' vs population. There is a reason why carpentars don't start with a chain-saw, they start with hammer and chisel.
Said Blogger Amit Saha, 8:32 AM  

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