Friday, November 18, 2005

$100 laptops should inspire wealthy nations to address their own divides

Regarding the laptops... I'm not concerned with the developing world's use of them. I'm sure there are people over there ready to pull them apart, improve them, use them and start the ball rolling that started for us and ICTs over 15 years ago. I don't want to pretend I know what's good for them. I understand that their divides are far more than digital.

What I'm interested in is how the concept influences us here in Australia, and other wealthy countries. "Gee, if they can do it for $100, we must be able to do it for 200!!" If we in Australia can start a project for ourselves (seeing as MIT laptops will not be available to us) we might conceivably be able to distribute laptops (or something similar) to school kids here. Similar to the distribution of calculators 30 years ago.

I use the $200 figure a lot in talks. I might bring up the scandalous waste of money NSW spent on the WebServices project. 100 million for that! How many cheap laptops or portable networked devices would that have bought the teachers and students in NSW schools? Or the millions on LMS? or the millions on Microsoft Office and Windows?

I'm not saying that we should go out and buy 100's of thousands of devices in one swoop. I'm saying we should fund research and development like MIT's laptop project, and improve the conditions in our own schools. Smaller class numbers, better network connections, more teachers (that are real people), more networked devices, etc. Hopefully MITs high profile laptop project will inspire this thinking here again.

I actually don't think a kid under the age of 12 will benefit that much in having their own PC. And I don't think real advantage starts to become evident until 16 or so. But in tertiary ed it should be obvious.

But in all, I want people in education to start thinking way outside their square a lot more. I have already witnessed a head teacher suggest that their section buy and give away PDAs. They were able to justify it with savings in photocopying and bolted to the floor PCs, but the management blocked the idea. No reason as far as I know, just didn't like the words, give away and computer in the same sentence.

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wilderdom said...

Negroponte, the OLPD (One Laptop Per Child) founding chairman has been saying that they are in talks with a view to developing a commercially available version of the $100 laptop which would presumably be available in Australia. This should drive other commercial manufactures to produce bottom-end open source software laptops.

Leigh Blackall said...

ABC says so too.

This would be great!!