One Laptop Per Child: Charity, Prosperity, & Capitalism In The Developing Worldby Ryan Smith on August 8, 2007 12:00 PM EST
- Posted in
In the past three decades the personal computer has made an unprecedented impact in improving education in the classroom. What started as a large machine in a back-office to help a school organize things, followed by far smaller machines to do more personal tasks such as word processing and playing the classic MECC edutainment games, has now evolved into a device that is inseparable from education. In the most developed nations, if a child isn't using a computer regularly for schoolwork some time in primary school, they most certainly are in secondary school.
Although this evolution came at what amounts to much expense and many growing pains, few can argue the benefits of computers in education when used correctly. Word processors allow for a far more streamlined ability to write, correct, and revise writing; printing of said writing has created a common platform of legibility replacing (and perhaps harming) the myriad of different handwriting styles. Optical discs have compressed bookshelves of text down to a 12cm piece of plastic that contains the basic knowledge of the human race. And the Internet has altered the face of communication and research forever, connecting the most unlikely of people and giving them access to the rest of the world's knowledge that can't be fit on a disc.
All of these education benefits, as modern education theory goes, have in turn driven great improvements in these developed societies. The modern information society builds a population that has access to the answer for any question at their fingertips, citizens who have the ability to be better informed than at any time in the past, and educational enrichment has driven a new period of invention and understanding. If education is the cornerstone of stability, growth, and prosperity, then the computer is a mighty tool that can help a society better reach these goals.
In spite of the raw power of computers, they cannot overcome all obstacles. There are over 6 billion people on Earth, fewer than 1 out of every 5 have access to an internet connected computer, and the benefits of the information society have been concentrated into the hands of those nations with the resources to undertake the required investments. In such a situation computers are in essence a problem, not a solution; it's people that are the solution.
There have been many charitable efforts over the past 100 years to help with education in underdeveloped nations; few can claim to be on the scale of the modern push to get computers into the hands of more school children for their educational benefit. Governments, schools, and companies have come together to solve this problem. Each has their own reason, but the goal is the same: bring the benefits and knowledge of computers and the internet to those children who do not currently enjoy such access.
Today we'll be taking a look at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, a program designed to build and distribute low-cost laptops to schoolchildren. Sticking with the focus of AnandTech we'll be looking at things primarily from the technical side, though we'll deal with a bit of the politics too as such is inseparable from a program of this magnitude. As we will see, much is being done to improve access to computers, the Internet, and information; and the children receiving the laptops and eventually their home countries stand to gain a great deal out of the program.