One Laptop Per Child

Dec 17th, 2007, 02:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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As much as I think I understand where you are coming from Luangablondes the problem that I have is that when you have an empty stomach as well as feel sick and you have no money in your pocket so much so that you sell your mozzie net, it is damn hard to try and concentrate on the high tech education some good meaning foreigner is trying to push down your throat. With that said which problem do you as a sincere good doer try and tackle first - the empty stomach or the education? My personal feeling is that it is best to cover all in a 75/25 manner with the 25% being the high tech or education function however that is my feeling which I believe does not count. What counts is what the community want and in this regard all I am saying is listen to their needs and dont try and impose. You just might find that they put basics ahead of education much more than 75/25. Make no error I dont like this type of answer but to draw the community in you need to pass out something they want. To find out what the community wants you ask them what it is they need; you most certainly dont make up their minds for them and tell them what they need. Then you draw them in by giving them THEIR own choice of needs and once you have them in the "happy" net you educate them with laptops or whatever. Doing things the other way round i.e passing out the laptops and thereafter the basic needs just seems to be crazy to me.

RBcal you dont seem to understand that I am NOT criticising the "one laptop per child" concept; as a matter of fact I think it is a reasonably good idea. Furthermore I most certainly recognise that it is done with good intentions. With that said this is MY opinion and I am NOT the one who will be using the laptops. Thus all I am asking is how much research has gone into whether it is a good product especially if those who are supposed to use the laptops are not even asked if they need them or how important they are to the these users? I.e relative to the ladies who built a borehole type merry go round as opposed to the men with the swanky tennis court, as per my first mail, I think it is important to note that those who consulted the community developed what I believe was the best product.

May I add as a side comment that the so called drop in prices for technology in the third world has MOST CERTAINLY NOT hit the shores of these parts of the world. Come to Africa and find out how expensive technology still is immaterial of all the infighting between OLPC, Microsoft or Intel.
In summary the argument that the OLPC project has reduced prices in third world countries simply is not true at this stage of the whole idea.

Just my twopence worth.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 03:02 PM
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The price drop hasn't arrived since the OLPC and Classmate laptops have just begun shipping.

Microsoft is charging only $3 for Microsoft XP and Microsoft Office for schools in 3rd world countries.

I doubt Microsoft would have done this without the OLPC/Linus competition (though Gates has become quite philanthropic).

Personally I don't regard South Africa as 3rd world. It certainly has much more money and resources than most African countries.
RBCal is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 03:43 PM
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Your solution is no solution. Just maintain status quo. They've tried it your way and it doesn't work. Something drastic needs to be done. I think if the people are educated, let them make there own decisions they want afterwords. Lend them money to invest how they choose, possibly. But making people dependent on aid programs and then leaving is down right cruel.

A couple real examples:

Like building a borehole for villages and when the pump quits, they had to go back to the old ways because they didn't know how to fix it.

I've seem all types, but the one that I came across in western Tanzania was something else. An NGO program trained people in a slew of villages on sewing machines and handed one out in each village. The problem was, that everytime I got off the main track, it seemed like there was someone that needed a part, machine needles, among all the other things. They would offer to give me way too much money to send them the parts from Dar es Salam. Here were people in a trade with a huge demand, and the villages had to go without being able to make clothes or mend them. I did help everyone in the end. But even the parts had to be delivered to someone in a town or city where (eventually) they could collect. If the aid program handed out needles and thread, that would have been a far better solution.
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 04:42 PM
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I dont really understand what you are trying to say with regard to the sewing machine operation but I most ceratinly understand and agree with the borehole analogy so heres my take on a solution.

First the donor asks the community what they need. They then respond "give us water" The donor then says "ok I will give you water but seeing that I am the donor I want to set some rules first viz:

1. You will need a pump which I will give you BUT you first need to provide someone who can learn to fix the pump because it does break down sometimes.

2. You will also need to learn how to route the water from the pump in pipes etc etc.

If you do all of the above I will support you and you will obtain what you asked for namely water.

The most important clue to this all is that the people selected the concept of needing water as what they want to do. It was their choice and seeing that they made the choice they will do whatever it takes to attain their aim as they see it as THEIR project.

Now if the donor arrives in front of a village community and starts out by saying "I am going to give you water and this is how you WILL DO THINGS" .... In other words the donor wants all to go his way from the choice of project to its implementation etc. I could be wrong but this is in my opinion a sure fire way to short term success and long term disaster.

Whenever I visit townships in SA I see many people who started small businesses on their own by starting small, using common business sense and making a success of what they are doing. Wherever I have seen outsiders come to the table and try to educate and dictate to the community to do things their way the businesses all flop in the long run. I.e. the pump breaks down and there is no-one who knows how to fix it. I wonder if the pump will break down in the business started up solely on his/her own acumen by a local self taught plumber?

There is no quick fix solution to this definitive problem however there is no question in my mind that nothing will be sorted out if the community are not consulted from the beginning in terms of what their needs are.

I suppose we are going round in circles and an answer is not in sight however to get back to the OLPC project I see it making inroads but not reaching the success levels it expects to attain; as a matter of fact I see it falling very short of the originators expectations. This truly makes me me very sad as it could be such a great project with so much to give back to community if only the final users were consulted and brought into the programme from the word go.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 08:28 PM
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"If the aid program handed out needles and thread, that would have been a far better solution" - luangwablondes

Strikes me that this underlines the reservations I have about the laptop-for-every-child idea. So much well-intentioned aid is misdirected and therefore wasted.

Would not the sewing machine problem encountered by lb in Tanzania be repeated over and over and over with laptops, so that the great majority of them would end up as so much junk? Thank goodness lb was around to help out with the sewing machines.

Nobody has been able to tell me yet that the hand-cranked radios I first heard about two decades ago, and which are still being promoted on the internet, have been a "big thing" or not in Africa. They're simpler and easier to use than laptops, so did they take off? C'mon, somebody should know.

Yet, like selwyn, I think the laptop program has great potential. I also agree with him that we should stop imposing generous but stop imposing. So much is wasted.

afrigalah is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 08:44 PM
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The hand cranked radio operation under the name of Freeplay is still going very strong. They dont only produce radios these days, they produce many other items too. Go to to see more,

Hope this answers your question.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:27 PM
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That's great! Thanks for the information. I knew somebody had to know, but sometimes getting relevant information here is like getting blood from a stone. So many are paddling their own canoes.

The apparent success of the radios confirms there's potential in the laptop idea, provided there's enough back-up (service, spares etc etc). Heaven knows how slack customer service can be in a developed country, with all our advantages in communications and transport infrastructure.

afrigalah is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:38 PM
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Did I ever tell about my PC, sent in for repair, which was turned into a VCR by the computer system supervised by the educated people of a leading electronics retailer/service provider in my home city. Sorry, of course I did

You have to wonder.

afrigalah is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:40 PM
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The laptop thing is not so outrageous as it seems. The rate that Africa is being 'wired' for WiMax, this may turn to be one of the brighter things anyone has done.
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 17th, 2007, 09:54 PM
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"lb's mobile laptop service"

Imagine, a fleet of vans on call. You could make a fortune

Seriously, is back-up service going to be available and reliable?

afrigalah is offline  
Jan 6th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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Interesting development regarding Intel's role in this:

afrigalah is offline  
Jan 6th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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Interesting, thanks John.
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
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