OLPC Rwanda: building a platform for expression for the whole community

In an Op-Ed in Uganda’s Independent, Andrew Mwenda notes that Rwanda has set itself apart from its neighboring countries in almost every field; including with its tremendous fiberoptic network and olpc laptop program. “building one of the most promising platforms of democratic expression”. He notes:

Kagame has predicated his presidency on performance by his government. Hence, the delivery of public goods and services to all its citizens regardless of their station in life… It is Kagame’s political genius and greatest achievement and is unrivalled in post-independence Africa. But equally it is the greatest source of frustration among elites.

The article is worth a read.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo is in Rwanda this week to thank President Kagame for his amazing work in supporting OLPC for all children in the country, and to learn from the program there.

4 years of Plan Ceibal: Much more than a computer

Last year, Uruguay published Plan Ceibal, the Book (with Prentice-Hall), describing the world’s first national-scale implementation of one laptop for every child.   This month they released an amazing video looking back on the first four years of the project:  ”Much more than a computer“.

The 15-minute video ranges from what students work on in school, outside, and at home, and how the teaching community thinks about the classroom now.  It is shot mainly outside, emphasizing working with nature and laptops as a part of everyday life.   There is a lot of student work with multimedia in the background.  And they share the view of this work from Ceibal as institution – what the program means for supporting schools across the country, and what it means for the influence of schools in their communities.

“transformamos un privilegio en un derecho” —Plan Ceibal

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Little green legs

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 “Could the idea fly? Should it?” 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 “intellectual vision” recently developed by neuroscientists.

In the 21st century, we cannot separate computer literacy from the traditional “3Rs”. The luxury of computer literacy is the competitive edge of the developed world’s affluent children…

One Laptop Per Child’s mission statement has no neuroscientific technobabble: to supply cheap, green, durable, connected laptops for “collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning … [and] a brighter future”. Currently, 2.1m XO computers have been deployed to children and teachers worldwide in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

For Ms Tett to ask “if” or “should” this happen is like asking if the horse Goldikova should race. The little green laptop has legs – and it’s a winner.

Go Grovo!

Grovo.com, a new online training site, is running a campaign to help generation XO around the world.  They are donating $1 for every person who signs up (the service is free) between now until December 31st.  They are also thinking about how to help new XO users learn to use the Internet in different ways.  On January 2, Grovo will announce the results on their blog.

Visit www.grovo.com/olpc to get started, and if you like what they’re doing, help spread the word!  There are a number of cool mentor/tutor projects in the works, and I expect to see a flowering of results and active mentor networks in the coming year.

Here’s some background on Grovo from one of their early case studies.  I can’t wait to see is a series of tutorials like this on how to use, say, the most popular sites in a very different online stting, like Nigeria or Korea (where I have a hard time figuring out the social and procedural norms).