Can OLPC eliminate poverty?

3 Jul 2007 (Tue)

“… ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD (OLPC)… it’s about eliminating poverty,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman emeritus of MIT Media Laboratory and chairman of the OLPC project, while giving a keynote presentation at NetEvents Press Summit last December. He continued:

“And that’s the reason we do it, that’s why everybody who’s involved in the project is involved with it. And the belief is very simple. That is that you can eliminate poverty with education, and no matter what solutions you have in this world for big problems like peace or the environment, they all involve education. In some cases, it could be just with education and in no case is it ever without education. And we particularly focus on primary education.”

Dr Robert Kozma, emeritus director of the Center for Technology in Learning in SRI International and a consultant on technology in developing countries, begged to differ in a recent article in OLPC News. He wrote:

“…a key to the success of the center is having a manager who is not only technologically skilled but familiar with the informational needs of the villagers and is capable of searching the vast resources of the internet to meet these needs…. it is important to start with an understanding of what people need and their context rather than what the technology can be made to do. Taking this perspective, it is not clear that the widespread distribution of computers to children is the way to eliminate poverty in Africa.

“Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on XO machines, wouldn’t it be better and cheaper for national governments to support rural villages in their efforts to set up and staff internet-connected community telecenters where villagers have access to the information they need to improve their livelihoods and their lives.”

What do you think?

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Posted by J.K. in Possibilities, Problems, Technology | View Comments |

  • Comfy – Educational toys

    i like the MIT idea more, i think that only high education to poor people they can break the poverty cycle, and the example Dr. Kozma gave can not be applied on too many subjects, mainly low-tech industry that out of the box ideas can only help.

  • J.K.

    Hi, Comfy. I think both Negroponte and Kozma are for education. Just that Negroponte proposes to provide better education by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on “XO machines” (giving every child a specially designed low-cost PC) while Kozma proposes to provide better education through “internet-connected community telecenters where villagers have access to the information they need to improve their livelihoods and their lives.”

    Given this background info, which do you think is more effective?

  • Mark@CreditCards

    I think that this is an amazing idea. I have actually never heard of this before, but I think this is an amazing step. There are so many ways the Internet can truly help lives and I think this type of action is impressive.

  • Jay

    Last I heard in the news is that these laptops were being used by some children to surf porn. I’m not saying that such anecdotal abuse means that the program is a sham. I support just about anything that gets people focused on the needs of those that have less. I recommend an organization called Save the Children, which allows you to sponsor kids in developing nations.

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