Two weeks back, the Financial Times posted an essay by Gillian Tett about OLPC, titled “Billions of children could be transformed by cheap computers” (and later, “Why logging on should be child’s play”). The article eventually concludes that children’s lives could be transformed, and that being able to ‘log on’ to the Internet should probably be child’s play for all children — but was much more ambivalent than the titles suggest.
They ran a long reader response to the article the following week, which is worth sharing:
As a fellow anthropologist in the financial sector, I am surprised by Gillian Tett asking â€œCould the idea fly? Should it?â€ regarding the distribution of $200 connected green laptops to children in the developing world. I similarly question her implication that this is a local Latin American initiative by One Laptop Per Child, as part of a grand â€œintellectual visionâ€ recently developed by neuroscientists.
In the 21st century, we cannot separate computer literacy from the traditional â€œ3Rsâ€. The luxury of computer literacy is the competitive edge of the developed worldâ€™s affluent children…
One Laptop Per Childâ€™s mission statement has no neuroscientific technobabble: to supply cheap, green, durable, connected laptops for â€œcollaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning … [and] a brighter futureâ€. Currently, 2.1m XO computers have been deployed to children and teachers worldwide in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
For Ms Tett to ask â€œifâ€ or â€œshouldâ€ this happen is like asking if the horse Goldikova should race. The little green laptop has legs â€“ and itâ€™s a winner.
I am the person who wrote this reply in the Financial Times regarding the rock-solid impact that the Little Green Laptop makes to developing world children. Shortly after this piece was published, I was sitting in Jacmel, Haiti, and a 5-year old girl shyly came up to me holding – you guessed it – her green laptop out to me. She wanted the “WeeFee” code. She promptly settled down for a quiet afternoon, in the company of 10 other kids of varying ages, all with their own. The difference the XO laptop makes to these children is a life-changer.