FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, July 27, 2006

India Says No, Nigeria Says Yes to Negroponte's $100 Laptop

Good news and bad news for the One Laptop Per Child initiative spearheaded by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, which seeks to build and distribute laptops costing a mere $100.

First the good news: The government of Nigeria has placed an order for $1 million worth of the OLPC laptops. Said Ernest Ndukwe, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), "This is in consonance with our vision which aims to create an information rich environment in the country. The Commission believes that preparing the future of Nigeria is to educate the young generation... [T]herein lies the richness of our country."

Now the bad news: The Indian government gave OLPC a major smackdown, revealing an entirely different set of educational concerns. The Indian Ministry of Education called the laptop immature and "pedagogically suspect." Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee summed up the government's concerns by saying, "We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."

In the scheme of things, OLPC probably lost more by losing India than it gained through Nigeria, considering India's technological sophistication and its growing role in producing computer engineers. For India, it may also be the growing realization that laptops are proving themselves to be less than productive in classrooms, and that computer-literate Indians might be more likely to buy regular laptops anyhow. Plus, as Banerjee said, the correct priority among educators in the developing world is securing the basics -- functioning classrooms, supplies like pencils and paper, and skilled teachers -- even though initiatives like OLPC offer students an edge in an ever more technology-driven world.

Sources: All Africa, The Register