One of the technological buzz at the 2012 International Consumer Electronic Show (2012 CES) held this week in Las Vegas, USA, has been the OLPC XO-3.0, a tablet version of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) computer device now firmly established in Rwanda.
Rwanda is one of 42 countries worldwide that have adopted the OLPC as a cheap, low power laptop technology that can help bring quality education to children in developing countries.
The Tablet version being showcased at the 2012 CES holds the same promise of low power with a battery that can last between 8 to 10 hours.
As an additional innovation, the battery can now be charged through a detachable solar cover, in addition to wind-up dynamo that can be bolted to a table.
The idea of a solar self-charging devise is especially attractive for Rwanda as access to electricity and solar utilization remains limited in the rural areas where laptops under the OLPC program are largely been distributed.
So far about 65,000 computers have been distributed to children in P4 to P6 in some 128 primary schools countrywide. The government targets to deploy 160,000 laptops this year.
Worldwide, the current OLPC laptops have been distributed to more than 2.4 million children in 42 countries. Some countries in Latin America such as Peru are reported to have near universal distribution of the laptops to all their school going children.
The OLPC program was launched in 2008 in Rwanda which leads in Africa with the number of laptops so far distributed. Under the program the Government targets to have up to half a million OLPC devices in primary schools countrywide.
The government aims to encourage rapid economic development by educating children to be computer-literate. The OLPC devices therefore represent one of the most potent symbols of Rwanda’s ambition to turn itself into a knowledge-based economy.
It may be expected that the XO Tablet will be among the devices to be distributed in the near future. The tablet is said to be simpler than the laptop, with one of its main innovations a touch-screen display like those on the iPhone and iPad. It is designed as a better learning tool that can more smoothly access the internet, and therefore global knowledge.
The US-based OLPC Foundation says the XO Tablet is expected to ship some time this year as soon as the orders begin coming in from governments running the program.
However, with this expectation it should not be lost that the OLPC program has had its detractors, some who think the OLPC devices are technologically not up to per, or that money spent on devices would be better spent in other development projects.
Despite the criticisms, the fact is that the OLPC provide the only avenue for underserved children to computer literacy, while development concerns can be a non-issue in many of the cases.
Rwanda, for instance, has made great strides in many areas of development, including attaining food self-sufficiency and, among others, near universal health insurance for its population. Food self-sufficiency have often been cited as the areas the OLPC money could be better utilized.
For Rwanda the OLPC device is education oriented and is one additional tool to consolidate, as well as further, what has been achieved by ensuring that the school children have necessary foundation in global knowledge as may be offered through the devices.
Through this, Rwanda envisages the transformation of the society into one of the most technologically advanced in Africa.