Following last week’s announcement that the education department is “phasing out” support for OLPC in the South Pacific island nation of Niue, OLPCA is reaching out to the community there, looking at options of how to manage the ongoing communal ownership of the laptops for the benefit of everyone on “The Rock“. OLPC is working with its Pacific partners to conduct a needs assessment to ascertain the status of the program there, and how they could move forward. We will work with all partners in Niue to ensure the XO contributes to its ongoing educational progress.
We understand the XOs, and all essential associated network infrastructure on Niue, remain in robust working order — and firmly in the hands of the island’s children. It was there that we learned that the OLPC principle of child ownership needed tweaking in the Pacific, where traditional cultures often value the group over the individual. In Oceania children are usually “custodians” of their laptop, with a responsibility to safeguard it on behalf of the community, and further to share it with that community. These lessons come directly from our first experiences in Niue.
The Niue Department of Education and its partners had put in place a comprehensive and technically competent deployment. Eucators have said the OLPC program “went well” for two years and the XOs produced real educational benefits among students. We are keen to ensure that we document and build on this success, both in Niue and elsewhere in the Pacific. And no matter what direction the program takes we want to ensure it aligns with OLPC Oceania’s Community Participation Guidelines, especially the need for environmentally responsible solutions.
Both OLPCA and the Pacific countries that today are introducing the XO are incorporating lessons from our first Pacific pilots. We are comparing it to the progress we see elsewhere in remote Australia and in Micronesia in the North Pacific, where the largest donor (the United States) is now working with countries on OLPC. The fact that a funding shortfall was key to the Niue decision has spurred a broader debate in the region on aid to Small Island States like Niue, and has allowed us to raise the issue with other stakeholders in the region.