Monday, October 29, 2007

Computers for our children

I’ve been inundated by queries from people all over the country wanting to know more about the revolutionary US$100 laptop for children that is becoming a big hit in developing countries all over the world.

To these many people, and especially the wonderful (and forgotten) children of Papua New Guinea, contact details of the producer of this technological marvel are provided below as our government and relevant authorities seem to be working at a snail’s pace for our children to reap the benefits.

It comes at a time when Papua New Guinea is struggling to bridge the digital divide and make computers affordable and accessible to our children.

The "US$100 laptop," a product five years in the making, is right now taking off in a big way in developing countries of the world including neighbouring Solomon Islands.

The XO laptop, as it's officially called, is produced by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation, a nonprofit organisation founded by Nicholas Negroponte, who also founded the MIT Media Lab.

The OLPC says that the XO laptop offers children a sense of ownership and ensures that they're no longer dependent on a corrupt or inept government to provide educational opportunities.

The OLPC Foundation aims to provide these laptops to millions of children throughout the developing world in order to improve their education and their quality of life.

The XO laptop was designed to be lightweight, cheap and adaptable to the conditions of the developing world.

While a US$100 laptop is the goal, as of September 2007, the laptop costs about US$188.

Originally the OLPC Foundation said that governments must buy the laptop in batches of 25,000 to distribute to their citizens, but a new program will soon allow private citizens to purchase an XO.

Starting November 12, 2007, the Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1) program will allow U.S. residents to pay US$399 to buy two XO laptops - one for the purchaser and one for a child in need in a foreign country.

“Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all,” the OLPC Foundation says on its website

“One in three does not complete the fifth grade.

“The individual and societal consequences of this chronic global crisis are profound.

“Children are consigned to poverty and isolation—just like their parents—never knowing what the light of learning could mean in their lives.

“At the same time, their governments struggle to compete in a rapidly evolving, global information economy, hobbled by a vast and increasingly urban underclass that cannot support itself, much less contribute to the commonweal, because it lacks the tools to do so.

“It is time to rethink this equation.

“Given the resources that poor countries can reasonably allocate to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per pupil, compared to the approximately $7500 per pupil spent annually in the U.S.—even a doubled or redoubled national commitment to traditional education, augmented by external and private funding, would not get the job done.

“Moreover, experience strongly suggests that an incremental increase of ‘more of the same’—building schools, hiring teachers, buying books and equipment—is a laudable but insufficient response to the problem of bringing true learning possibilities to the vast numbers of children in the developing world.

“Standing still is a reliable recipe for going backward.

“Any nation's most precious natural resource is its children.

“We believe the emerging world must leverage this resource by tapping into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own.

“Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children's machine designed for ‘learning learning’.

“XO embodies the theories of constructionism first developed by MIT Media Lab Professor Seymour Papert in the 1960s, and later elaborated upon by Alan Kay, complemented by the principles articulated by Nicholas Negroponte in his book, Being Digital.

“Extensively field-tested and validated among some of the poorest and most remote populations on earth, constructionism emphasises what Papert calls ‘learning learning’ as the fundamental educational experience.

“A computer uniquely fosters learning learning by allowing children to ‘think about thinking’, in ways that are otherwise impossible.

“Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential.

“OLPC is not, at heart, a technology program, nor is the XO a product in any conventional sense of the word.

“OLPC is a non-profit organisation providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.”

If you want to get in touch with OLPC, you can write to:
One Laptop per Child
P.O. Box 425087
Cambridge, MA 02142

General information:; Press inquiries:; Hardware, software, and technology issues:; Information on specific countries:; Content inquiries:; Volunteer opportunities:; Donating to OLPC:; More ways to give:

For comments and feedback, email or SMS 6849763.

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