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lilikoi's avatar

Do you think One Laptop Per Child is a good idea?

Asked by lilikoi (10079points) February 14th, 2010

On one hand, it is easy to see how access to the internet is a positive thing. On the other, it makes little sense to give people computers where electricity is unstable and/or limited or where access to potable water, lack of sewer infrastructure, inadequate waste infrastructure (to properly dispose of old laptops), or otherwise sub-standard living and/or economic conditions are prevalent. Then again, one might argue that it is no different than having a group provide educational opportunities or building water wells – everyone focuses on a single mission and together we all make a difference. Then there is the argument that foreign aid is largely mishandled and is actually preventing countries from stepping up and standing on their own – i.e. there is little incentive to make big changes when you’re getting heaps of free money for being dysfunctional.

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19 Answers

Coting's avatar

I’ve heard many people say donating phones with new free open source software on to make it into a mini PC is more workable.
If I remember from when I researched this it didn’t work that well, but check that. One of the main ways their trying to get a laptop per child is getting these countries to buy millions of laptops at a discount what these countries are just unwilling to do.

lilikoi's avatar

@Coting Yes, I vaguely remember it was originally planned to be ~$100/PC, then that turned into ~$300/PC, and then I was thinking that that’s what I pay in the U.S. retail so it’s not even that great of a deal. I could be wrong here… They would have a stronger argument if they would simply give them away. But really, I am not sure how I feel about the fundamental premise of providing laptops at all to developing countries (due to infrastructure and foreign aid issues), regardless of cost.

Coting's avatar

This is a copy and pasted from a little project of mine.

Technology brings for certain citizens the promise of opportunity and wealth. With access to technology students and teachers can have access to up to date high quality information and can make learning easier and fun for the students. With technology comes new skills that can be used aboard, as all developed countries use a high level of technology, by having these skills increases your chances of getting a better job in developed countries. Technology also bring efficiency and speed to how we live.

Measures are being made to bridge these gaps in Continents such as Africa to rural areas in the UK, such as the one laptop per child scheme to the UK government scheme to give internet to rural areas in the UK

These are just a few reasons.

AlienBomber's avatar

Its better than one chip in every head.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Not as good as three meals per child per day.

the100thmonkey's avatar

The OLPC laptop is designed to be chargeable using a hand-crank similar to the Clockwork radio. It’s also designed with mesh-networking in mind in that OLPCs can share an internet connection with minimal configuration.

I think it’s a good idea, personally. I think to argue that it’s better to give the children three meals a day, while valid, misses the point – OLPC is not intended as a replacement for basic services, but instantiates the “teach a man to fish” philosophy.

Access to the internet allows people in developing countries to access information that will make a substantial difference to their lives. Better access to weather forecastiing, for example, will allow subsistence farmers to better plan their crop rotation for the year.

The educational possibilities are incredible – the OLPC project makes the materials and resources available to kids in classrooms in the school in your neighbourhood to kids who otherwise might never have seen a blog or wikipedia.

12_func_multi_tool's avatar

yes, essential. You wouldn’t deny any tool or even art to a child even in the face of adversity such as you described. It’s to rise above it all, in my opinion.

Trillian's avatar

@lilikoi I’ve wondered about this type of thing before. Can one give something to someone and will it be appreciated? My thought process goes something like this; If you give a child everything it wants, will it ever learn appreciation? Or patience? Dilligence? The value of a dollar, or a work ethic? Will it learn how to save against the lean times? Will it come to believe that it is entitled to whatever it wants, right when it wants something? Will it not learn impatience, dissatisfaction, discontent instead?
I read a book by Piers Anthony once. Ok, many times. This particular book brought something that I’ve never forgotten. As the incarnation of war, he defended his position to someone who wanted him to stop the fighting and bloodshed. I paraphrase him now; “These people are fighting for their freedom. They are paying the price for it and consequently they will value it. If someone were to just give it to them they would have no value for it. It is the same with democracy. They must take the steps themselves.”
Now, I don’t know about the technology, but I frequently think about this other thing when I hear about us “liberating” other countries. I know that there are things going on behind the scenes that I will never know about. I know that our government makes deals with other governments for exchanged….whatever. I just wonder if the people of these countries have true democracy, how they feel about our country, if they can truly appreciate what democracy is if they have not gone through the steps like our country has? Are we making a mistake? Are we being arrogant thinking we can just step in, wave a wand and “poof” create true democracy? Is it not being coerced? I wonder. I’d love to hear someone who can answer these questions for me.

Cruiser's avatar

I remember they tried this a year or so ago in Africa and the laptops for the most part were stolen from the kids or sold for more urgent needs. It seemed like a bust of an idea.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@cruiser-It certainly was.

wundayatta's avatar

Is there any training that comes along with a PC? Does it use a purely image-based interface (so people who are illiterate could use it?) Is any of this field tested?

I think the theory is a good one, but the application? Not so much.

davidbetterman's avatar

NO…We should try to keep our children off the computer for as long as humanly possible.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Let’s get children clean water and adequate health care first.

ArtiqueFox's avatar

The laptop becomes pointless if the kid does of bad health or starvation first. This is an escapist solution…avoiding the real problems.

Coting's avatar

The comments reminded me of a comment I made on Facebook a few weeks ago.

Just watched “The Virtual Revolution” on bridging the digital divide by giving people all around the world access to the internet. So now people from all corners of the globe can access line rider and other such Flash game when ever they please.

YARNLADY's avatar

It will end up exactly as the local “Coats For Kids” program does. They have a big drive for new and used coats, then coat day, with unlimited coats given to each person. You see grown men carrying as many as 20 coats out the door.

Then the next week-end the local flea market is filled with people sitting beside piles of coats of all different sizes for sale. Of the 20,000 coats collected, I bet nearly three quarters of them are sold, rather than used by cold children.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. But the kids need good instructions and supervision.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

I’ve always been of the school of thought that it is more important to provide for the most basic, life-sustaining needs such as hunger, thirst and the need for health and shelter. Have a look a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs if you want to understand what I mean – a person cannot fulfill their higher needs and aspirations for fulfillment, technological know-how, career progression, etc, without meeting the most basic physical needs at the foot of the pyramid.

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