Children are by nature eager for knowledge. However many countries have insufficient resources to devote to education. The individual and societal consequences of this chronic global crisis are profound.
Children are consigned to poverty and isolation—just like their parents—never knowing what the light of learning could mean in their lives. Rwanda was caught up in this situation.
Policy makers as part of moves to redress such structural weaknesses which afflicted its socio-economic fabric crafted a road map whose one of its key pillars was the use of ICT to undertake the transformation of the economy into a middle income status nation by the year 2020.
Meanwhile certain academicians within the ivory Towers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set out to come up with a practical approach to solve this global crisis.
These solution providers professed that by giving children their very own connected laptop, this was going to provide them with a window to the outside world, access to vast amounts of information, a way to connect with each other, and a springboard into their future.
And by so doing this move will also help these countries develop an essential resource—educated, empowered children. This has been one man’s-Nicholas Negroponte of MIT.
Rethinking the inequality
In 2002, MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte experienced first-hand how connected laptops transformed the lives of children and their families in a remote Cambodian village.
A seed was planted: If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked? What problems could be solved?
These questions eventually led to the foundation of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Association a global non-profit entity, and the creation of its specialty product the XO laptop.
The OLPC’s mission is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education.
Many years and an infinite amount of sweat equity went into the creation of the XO laptop. Designed collaboratively by experts from academia and industry, the XO is the product of the very best thinking about technology and learning.
It was designed with the real world in mind, considering everything from extreme environmental conditions such as high heat and humidity, to technological issues such as local language support. As a result, the XO laptop is extremely durable, brilliantly functional, energy-efficient, responsive, and fun.
‘The OLPC is a tool to unlock this enormous potential. Put this low-cost, powerful, rugged, low-power, ecological laptop in their hands and help change the world.
In the first year of OLPC the project helped five hundred thousand previously marginalized children learn, achieve, and transform their communities.
Millions more will be given an opportunity to transform their lives in the coming years,’ said Nicholas Negroponte during a world economic forum meeting.
For the first time ever, OLPC is offering individuals, companies and other organizations the chance to send laptops to the country or classroom of their choice.
With a donation of 100 or more of the XO laptops, any group can give children in a specific place the chance to learn, share, dream and connect to each other and to the world.
OLPC current partners include Haiti, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Peru, Uruguay, Afghanistan, and Palestine.
For Rwanda even before OLPC started their project in the country, bringing computer literacy to primary school students was a goal of its ICT transformation.
Thus the OLPC just added to this effort the technology needed to help boost this drive. 5,000 XO laptops have been donated through 2007’s ‘Give One, Get One program’.
The machines have recently been deployed and are being used by students and teachers. Another 5,000 will be arriving before the close of 2008.
The biggest strength of this project in the country is the incommensurable commitment of the people involved in the local laptop initiative.
Support came from His Excellency President Paul Kagame, who stated the Government’s commitment to saturate the school system in the country with the XO laptops in the coming years.
Rwanda is enthusiastic and supportive, of making the initiative a success.
Professor Negroponte has been described as something of a ‘technological evangelist’. The MIT Media Lab, which he co-founded over twenty years ago, is an interdisciplinary, multi million-dollar research center of unparalleled intellectual and technological resources, focused on the study, invention, and creative use of digital technologies. It is currently supported by nearly 140 corporations worldwide.
Nicholas Negroponte is the founder of MIT’s Media Lab, and is the founder and current chairman of the One Laptop Per Child association.
He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966, and immediately joined the faculty of the prestigious university.
His impact at the school was immediate: a year into his new job, Negroponte established MIT’s Architecture Machine Group, which proved to be a precursor to the now-famous MIT Media Lab (also founded by Negroponte, in 1985).
Negroponte’s projects have not been limited to the ivory tower, however. In 1992, he presented himself as Wired’’s first investor; he continued his relationship with the magazine as a columnist for the next six years.
These columns provided the basis for his 1995 book, Being Digital. Embarked on his current venture in 2005, when he unveiled a US$100 laptop computer, then referred to as ‘The Children’s Machine’.
This gadget was conceived as a means of providing children in remote areas - namely, developing countries - with access to information and educational tools.