One Laptop Per Child

Dec 9th, 2007, 04:26 AM
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Nearly all the Wifi networks are built where there are businesses and residences that have a customer base that will be providing an income stream. Those antennas won't be providing internet connections in the near future.
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 05:01 AM
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and it doesn't help if the other computers that are connected are not XOs.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 05:09 AM
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A few points to add:

A sizable proportion (if not the majority) of children attending schools are in or near urban or peri-urban areas where population densities make XO WiFi networks most viable and telco infrastructure has the best chance of being functional and even superior to what's found in North America and parts of Europe (e.g., the cell phone network in Ghana). The most difficult circumstances will be in remote and rural areas, but this is not the majority of the population in most cases (there are, of course exceptions among the 53 African countries).

Governments are investing heavily in network infrastructure and many of the cell phone companies are state-owned, parastatals, have sizable state shareholding or have licensing obligations to provide public services in line with government policy, so in a sense governments already have access to good ICT infrastructure. Already 3G and GPRS technology is making data over cell networks practical in some remote areas, and the costs are coming down.

As with cell phone networks, many countries in Africa will leapfrog their internet infrastructure, especially as the wireless technologies get more and more powerful and cheaper. There are also new undersea cables that will bring sizable new bandwidth to the east coast of Africa within a couple of years and satellite connections are growing in number while VSAT connections are getting cheaper.

The XO laptop (and the other similar projects) seem to understand the trajectory of this change on the ground in developing countries better than most "ICT for development" projects and will do a fair bit of good in helping kids today acquire the skills to participate as they grow up and become workers in the local and global economy.

I respectfully submit that one of the challenges for members of this forum is to recognize that an experience of African communities in "safari areas" (or even "tourist areas") is not readily extrapolated to other parts of the same country, much less to other countries or all of Africa. Nor should that experience be assumed to be a "normal" one. The slice of Africa accessible to most tourists is a narrow one.


PS - The Wifi networks RBCal was referring to are created by and among the XO laptops themselves. They are their own network whether or not any member is connected to the internet. And non-XO laptops with WiFi can opt-in to those networks.
kurt_a is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 10:35 AM
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I am enjoying this thread and the food for thought it is giving me.

Yes I believe that food, water and other basic needs may be more important that a laptop, but I absolutely see benefits to this program.

By the way, I am 3/4ths of the way through Shake Hands With the Devil and I want to scream at all UN organizations so much. (not Romeo Dellaire and the soldiers on the ground) I don't know if it is being run any better 13 years later.
waynehazle is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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Even if these laptops are within the range of a WiFi transmitter, who is going to pay for their access? The companies that build these systems are in it to make a profit, not give it away.
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 11:52 AM
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Actually the company that makes the laptops is giving the computers away and is not in it to make money.

RBCal is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 12:05 PM
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Internet Access
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 05:32 PM
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Many thanks Kurt and RBCal for explaining the internet ins and outs. For someone who is neither a Luddite nor a technogeek, I sort of get it. Very interesting. Leapfrog is the word I was looking for for countries that jump from the middle ages to modern times overnight. This is the kind of insight from Africans on the ground that we all need to understand the continent better.
LAleslie is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 05:54 PM
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I have been reading this post since it began and have now decided to step in. I have been at the management level of many companies in the computer electronics and computer industry for way more years than I care to remember. Never in my memory has technology created such a stir not only on this board but throughout the industry.

Negroponte, the creator of this project only had benefit to less fortunate children in mind when this started. As happens so often this has now started to turn into "big business," and many other large companies are beginning to make similar products. Please remember that all of these products have to be built, packaged, shipped etc. and that every step along the way is a money generating opportunity for someone. Not necessarily the person that started it all, but the factories who make the parts etc.

I am attending the Consumer Electronics show in January in Las Vegas, and I already heard that there are more manufacturers out there previewing products to "give" to needy children. This always pulls at heartstrings, and I believe the project is wonderful, but that it should be implemented by an organization that will work with all of the suppliers for the best long run benefits. This may mean some of the money being channeled into teachers, and lay people trained to get the most out of this.

I do not think anyone can argue the fact that educating the youth of the world is the only way which makes sense, we just need to figure out how to go about it.

All of us who have visited a Township in Africa know that without education generation after generation will continue in the same path, and that abuse, AIDS etc. will not change.
spiegelcjs is offline  
Dec 9th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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Not to go off topic but since you brought it up, Wayne, isn't the book an eye-opener?!

One night, a couple of years ago, while sitting out on the deck of the Muhabura Hotel in Musanze (Ruhengeri) with a few people from different NGOs, a convoy of trucks from the U.N. passed by and the folks at the table didn't speak too fondly of them, so I don't know if a whole lot has changed.

And if you haven't seen the movie, "Lord of War" with Nicholas Cage, I would suggest watching it. Another eye-opener!
divewop is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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On the UN/Rwanda thing:

Yeah I can't imagine people think very highly of the UN in Rwanda. Yet there were some heroic soldiers on the ground.

it was the UN people back in nice offices in other countries that failed Rwanda.
waynehazle is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 02:48 PM
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Review of OLPC's laptop
RBCal is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 06:36 AM
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I have a very dear friend in the township of Kayamandi whom I have known for many years. He stays in an apartment in the township which is ultra small and “very tight” to say the least. I in turn live in a plush apartment in Cape Town. For many years I never ever invited my friend to my apartment only because I thought that once he saw my place of stay it would make him jealous and it would effect our friendship. In simple words “I had a chip on my shoulder”

After about two years of internal pain I decided that I was going to break the ice and I approached my friend about the issue telling him that I always wanted to have him over but that I thought his reaction to where I lived would hurt our friendship. To this he answered “there you go thinking like a white man again trying to make my mind up for me”. He then proceeded to tell me that seeing that I had now opened up the subject he simply would have to come visit my place of stay. This event transpired a couple of weeks later when he and a friend visited us for dinner. We had a wonderful time together. When leaving he approached me and told me that he recalled that I was worried about what he might think of my apartment and proceeded to tell me that his main conclusion was that he was so proud to have a friend who owned an apartment like the one that he had just had dinner in. Little did he know it but he made me feel so embarrassed only because I actually belittled him even though it was not purposely done. Since that day, whatever I try and do for the community of Kayamandi I do in a manner where I let the community make up its own mind. I do enter my opinion into the basket of ideas BUT I don’t force anything. If the community likes an idea I will try and give guidance as best I can to implement it however I let them decide for themselves what they need and then help out with whatever I can be it financing a project or rolling up my sleeves and helping out with my own self

Richard Branson had an actuality programme called the Rebel Billionaire in which he pitted two teams against each other al la the terrible “Apprentice” type series that was run by Donald Trump In one of the programmes (which I watched because someone referred me to see this installment) the teams made up of young American yuppies were placed in a rural African village where they had to come up with an idea to help the community. The teams were subdivided into males and females. The females came up with a brilliant idea of turning a merry go round into a water pump. Thus the more the kids ran on the merry go round the more water they pumped out of a borehole. The males decided to build a tennis court and even went as far as employing a well known South African tennis professional to come coach the kids. Needless to say the merry go round idea won but what was interesting was that the females consulted the community first before coming up with their great idea while the males just did things in their own way without talking to anybody other than themselves and also having one thing in mind viz “lets win the competition”.

I think the moral of the above stories are that instead of trying to rule other peoples lives, no matter what situation they are in, why not ask them about themselves first and let them take their own decisions regarding your valuable support be it in the form of dishing out lollipops or for that matter laptops. Has anybody stopped to ask whether anybody even asked any of the communities who have “one laptop per child” whether they actually wanted these devices? Here we are debating this issue on an open internet Western culture type forum and there are questions such as maybe the kids are better off without laptops or maybe they are better off with blackboards. I am sure that these type of issues could well have gone through the many minds of those supporting this “one laptop per person” cause but I ask again has anybody ever thought of going to ask those whose lives are really going to be affected and please note I am not talking about the lives of those who feel good because they are trying with good hearts to help others.

In the next couple of weeks I will be asking the community of Kayamandi whether they would prefer laptops or blackboards or possibly a “safe” kerosene lamp that will brighten their shacks each night. More important is I will ALSO ask them whether there is anything more important to them other than the three items mentioned that they felt they needed. My GUT FEEL is that they will choose none of the three ideas that I have mooted and will choose

1. Running water and sanitation as a top priority followed by

2. Electricity

3. “safe” kerosene lamps followed by

4. blackboards followed by

5. laptops.

I want to stress that the above is gut feel of what the result will be and represents nothing else. With that said I do not want to pre-judge their feelings like this board is possibly trying to do and will let them speak for themselves. Once they have done so I will do whatever I can to help them accordingly.

Makes one think does it not!

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 07:01 AM
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So you always ASK but you haven't actually ASKED and instead go with your gut feeling.

There are already many charities providing the 5 things you list. So I assume you give your money to them. Good for you and its commendable.

What is not commendable is to criticize others for contributing how they see fit (particularly if you don't contribute).

Giving someone food will keep them comfortable for a day. Helping someone to develop skills to support themselves will make them self sufficient and comfortable for life.

RBCal is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 07:50 AM
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RBCal - It is completely commendable to question whether an action entails the best use of resources for the people who are intended to be helped. Or as Selwyn suggested, it might even be best to ask the intended what they most want.

Characterizing people who question your path as "Luddites" who probably don't give a whit to charity is the part of this thread that lost its commendable status.

No means are above criticism and no end justifys all means.
Favor is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 08:10 AM
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Telling others to ASK when you personally don't ASK is not commendable but hypocritical.
RBCal is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:23 AM
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Hi Selwyn

as ever i found your contribution illuminating. it will be interesting to discover what your friends in Kayamandi would like and whether you can get funding for it.

My betting is on clean water before laptops but you never know.

Best wishes,

annhig is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Firstly may I just repeat something that I said in my mail.

"I want to stress that the above is gut feel of what the result will be and represents nothing else. With that said I do not want to pre-judge their feelings like this board is possibly trying to do and will let them speak for themselves. Once they have done so I will do whatever I can to help them accordingly."

What I have said is the exact opposite to what you have quoted in your response to my mail. Even though I have a gut feel as to what the needs of the community will be I am foregoing that feeling and am rather going to ask to hear what the people want and not what I think they want. I see nothing wrong with this attitude.

In terms of your statement of "Giving someone food will keep them comfortable for a day. Helping someone to develop skills to support themselves will make them self sufficient and comfortable for life." I agree with the above concept in theory however my practical experience shows that if you dont give them food they are not around long enough to develop the skills you speak of. An example of this is that the average mortality age in Kayamandi is 43 years and I have a feeling that this is high relative to other parts of Africa. There is no question in my mind that you have to give food and teach the community how to obtain their own food; the question of course is what comes first. To me the answer to this question is let the community decide for itself.

Please dont misunderstand me I believe that laptops could do good however I somehow or other think that right now the people in need receiving all of this high technology are missing some very basic needs and all I am suggesting is that one should ask them what they need most before one jumps in with what you, from your perspective, believe will make life better for them . If laptops come out high on the needs list then all I can say is three cheers to the "A laptop for all" scheme and lets get out there and support them as best we can.

In summary all I am saying is ask before you give because what you are giving could be a waste of time. Furthermore this would be such a pity as the monies could have been spent on something that the community wanted and not what the donors thought they needed

Hope this clears up my thoughts to you.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 11:53 AM
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Much of the initial criticism of OLPC originated from Intel and Microsoft. This is because the OLPC laptop uses AMD chips and the LINUX operating system. The creation of OLPC has led to the development of Intel's Classmate PC and Microsoft developing software for both Intel and OLPC since they were concerned the OLPC could lead to a large loss of their market share. The result has been that prices for technology in the 3rd world have plummeted. This will save millions (billions?) for 3rd world countries.

To criticize any heartfelt effort at alleviating poverty is in very poor taste. If the laptops are not wanted (which is highly unlikely), no one is forcing them to accept them. I'm also sure the people can sell them for books, blackboards, etc.

Again there are hundreds of charities that people can give to. If you believe they are more deserving please do so. I have yet to see anyone criticizes those efforts in such poor taste.
RBCal is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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My personal experience:
You can feed them till they are dependent, and can't feed themselves. Then the money runs out or the program is discontinued. Give them mozzie nets and they use them for fishing nets or resell them. Treat them for diseases and they get sick another day. Build a bore hole, then the machinery breaks and no water. But educate them and it lasts a lifetime. The rest follows.
luangwablondes is offline  

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