The main thing I want to share with you today is some news about a whole rash of new computers priced to be accessible to poor countries. I have blogged here about the One Laptop Per Child iments(OLPC) program of Negroponte that aims to provide $100 computers to schools in poor countries. Despite developing a suitable computer, OLPC is not finding buyers amongst governments of poor countries. This doesn't surprise me one bit. The poorest countries are struggling to build classrooms and train teachers to provide the rudiments of elementary education to their kids.
Sudeep Banerjee, India's education secretary, said,
We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools.One commentator says,
The OLPC project is based on the idea that just providing computers can make a huge difference, as children will spontaneously use them to make up for what they lack in books and other equipment and experiences. But many education researchers dispute this theory. And the more that classroom structure and teacher training is needed to maximize the computers' benefit, the more the programme will end up costing governments.
I was interested to read this report about competitors to OLPC. Intel has developed Classmate, and Novatium has developed NetPC, both aimed at schools in poor countries.
It is great to see these developments because it means that when poor countries are ready to implement computers in schools, there will be a number of affordable options to meet their needs.
These new computers are a reflection of growing recognition that the slice of world population at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP), i.e. the poorest people, can be regarded as a viable market for goods and services. As these people/countries lift themselves out of dire poverty, they will enter world markets, both buying and selling. It is clear that a number of computer providers are positioning themselves to sell cheap computers to BOP markets – and education is the market they are tackling first.
Jhunjhunwala, the brains behind NetPC, aims to start where they can have a real effect — among the market of emerging middle classes and schools that can afford the computers and have the resources to use them effectively. He says that the OLPC will be irrelevant to developing countries because in the poorest strata of society "this toy will just be sold or stolen".
It's good to see that the governments of the poorest countries have the wisdom to see that the $100 computer is useless without the supports needed to use it effectively.
And it's great to see the School of St Jude has its own strategy for including computers in the classroom.