XO notebooks

Here’s a PC World article on the “one laptop per child” program (a program which is manufacturing extremely cheap laptops (c $100)  which they will provide free for kids in Third World countries. As you can imagine, the responses to this program break down along all the usual lines: the idealists, the pessimists, the people who argue that they’ll put the kids at risk because they don’t have the education to deal with all the possible threats on the internet, and so on. I was impressed with the sorts of things that the designers thought about – they seem to have considerably more awareness for the potential conditions these computers would be used in than the pessimists give them credit for. There seemed to be a worry in the article that the laptops wouldn’t just be used by the kids who they were given to. That’s right – in societies with community ownership of property it’s weird to expect that the youngest and least powerful members of society would get to “keep” a “gift” like this. However, that’s potentially a good thing! It’s a way of getting more community members involved and making sure a) that the kids are supervised and b) that the parents aren’t isolated and made to feel that their kids are being turned against them by outsiders.

It’s a program that could have fantastic potential for endangered languages. It would be possible to provide all members of a team with their own laptops on even small infrastructure grants.

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6 responses to “XO notebooks

  1. Petréa Mitchell

    “It would be possible to provide all members of a team with their own laptops on even small infrastructure grants.”

    It would be marvelous for that and many other uses, but OLPC is adamant that these computers not be used by adults, or indeed anyone in the developed world. See, for instance, this attempt at getting OLPC interested in letting the New Orleans school system participate:

    http://ashleymorris.typepad.com/ashley_morris_the_blog/2006/12/no_laptops_per_.html

  2. Presumably their adamant desire and intention that these laptops only be used by kids won’t be enough to stop adults participating too, though (hopefully…)

  3. David Marjanović

    Should the poorer parts of the USA really count as “developed world”?

  4. There’s the term “fourth world” for third-world areas within first-world countries. Sometimes they “count”, sometimes not. For example, there have been some traditionally third-world aid programs in remote Aboriginal communities in Australia.

  5. Petréa Mitchell

    And, in fact, there were reports a few months ago that the Australian government was taking a look at the laptops to consider buying them for Aboriginal children. With the precedent of other third-world-type programs there, I could see OLPC allowing that.

  6. David Marjanović

    Interesting, I’ve been taught to use “4th world” in a different sense — the traditional 3rd world is subdivided from 4 to 7, and 3 is used for former 2nd-world countries that are in the process of catching up to the 1st world.

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