Sunday, April 20, 2008

Afrikadag 2008: One Laptop per Child

During the Afrikadag 2008 in The Hague, IICD organized a workshop on “The 100$ Laptop: how can you make innovative solutions work in developing countries?” Professor Gerd Junne of the University of Amsterdam chaired the debate between Inneke Aquarius (Butterly Works), Prabhu Kandachar (Delft University), Stijn van der Krogt (IICD) and Petra Wentzel (Atos Origin). Discussion mainly focused on two questions: What are the preconditions to introduce a 'One Laptop per Child Programme' (OLPC)? What could be problems for the introduction of such a programme?

Concerning the preconditions, Inneke Aquarius argued that the 100$ laptops should just be distributed to see what happens, because changing the educational system is too complex and slow. Stijn van der Krogt and most other discussants disagreed and put more emphasis on the integration of the OLPC initiative in a comprehensive educational programme. Government, business, teachers and parents of participating schools have to accept, embrace and shape the idea. The national educational system has to be adapted, and teachers have to be trained by other locals (and not Europeans) how to incorporate laptops in their lessons and to develop their own content and software.

“We need to trust in their capabilities, and they will do it!”, Stijn van der Krogt argued. Only a bottom-up instead of a top-down approach will prepare the way for a 'OLPC success.

As for the challenges, Prabhu Kandachar identified affordability, acceptability and accessibility. A solution could be to gradually introduce the 100$ laptops in participating countries so that local lessons could be learned. Other challenges such as the plastic waste or maintenance of the laptops could also be opportunities as they will stimulate local entrepreneurship and create new business models and employment.

Other issues raised from the discussants and the audience: Will the laptops be used for an educational purpose, or just for personal communication? Won't the laptops be taken away from the children to be sold to much higher prices, and is that even more likely when the laptops are given away free? What is the hidden agenda of competing products, such as the Intel Classmate PC?

See also euforic newsfeeds from IICD and on education and ICTs.

Story by Birthe Paul