BBC News 24 had a report over the weekend about the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. They interviewed people at a pilot school in Nigeria about what they thought about the laptops. Generally speaking, everyone was very impressed.
It was an interesting contrast seeing the two projects together like that. OLPC, the charity, with the $200 special machine running Linux and other open-source software vs the commercially backed, $350 Windows machine. Its a shame the initiatives couldn’t be combined a bit more but the drivers for the two projects do seem very different. The OLPC project really seems to aim for empowerment – using hardware and software that people can learn about and ‘get inside’. The children were also able to take them home and share them with their families. The Classmate on the other hand was locked away at the end of the day, and seem to work on the principle that ‘if we are going to give them laptops, then give them ‘normal laptops’ like everyone else uses’.
The report ended with an interview with someone in the Nigerian government. He was basically telling us about his difficulty – does he spend $100m on laptops for children to invest in their futures or does he worry more about providing a roof and food to help people in the ‘here and now’.
Interesting projects raising interesting issues.