PCs for the poor

December 1, 2006 at 12:36 pm 3 comments

Jeff Jarvis, an outspoken journalist who wishes to see TV and newspapers get with the times, floats an idea in his post:  One laptop for the price of five.  

My only complaint about the laptop crusade is that they won’t sell them to us rich people. I think they should — at wildly inflated prices. Sell me a $100 laptop for $500 and thus I’ll buy laptops for four children somewhere in the world. That beats a PBS pledge gift.

I’ve seen a lot of posts about the One Laptop per child program.  With globalization, I think it is a great idea.  If it doesn’t happen, how do Third World countries (who came up with that phrase anyway?) stop from sliding further into poverty?  Things are changing fast now.  Shouldn’t they get some training and resources to help keep up?  Isn’t this the same as the “teach a man to fish” philosophy? 

I’ll admit I like this idea too.  I’m sure this will make a lot of people mad.  If it does – float a better idea, please.  Can we get the richer school districts to assist the lower income schools with sponsorships, co-ops, or something?  Will this idea work?  Here’s how Jeff floats the idea:

And let my school district, which is rich, buy them for $300 each, giving each child here a machine to use in school — which they don’t have now — and thus subsidizing laptops for schools that could not afford them. The Robin Hood gambit. I’ll bet the investment my school makes now in classroom machines and laptop carts is equivalent. And there are fringe benefits: The school could save on textbooks by putting curriculum on the network. The students could all now work in collaborative tools — class wikis. The town gets the start of a mesh network. And the students get tools they should have. My son is lugging an 8-pound Dell around to class (we don’t want to bang up the more precious, working Mac) so he can take notes and the teachers love that he does; they’d like to see every student taking good notes and being connected. At CUNY, we got every student a Mac laptop and I can tell you it’s great working without technology barriers to learning.

Will these ideas work?  What do you think?  Are these the RIGHT ideas?  Is the problem more fundamental?  Read the comments on Jeff’s blog, give it some thought, and weigh in.  I honestly don’t know the right answer either, but I think we are all smart people – can we figure this one out?

Mike G commented on Jeff’s blog that he thinks teaching kids to use their imagination is more valuable than what a box that spoon feeds information can teach them.  Is the truth somewhere in the middle?  How does the kid in the depressed school/country get his imagined product out to the rest of the world?  Wouldn’t that add some value?  I think Jeff was on target when he said these kids could be linked together with the technology (wikis, etc.)

Update:  I can appreciate rebuttals like this – makes sense.  They need electricity and sanitary water first. 

Here’s a post about what the laptop is about, complete with a YouTube demo.


Entry filed under: Education, technology.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. witzgeek  |  December 1, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    The school district that I’m in here in Pennsylvania gives a laptop to every Junior that makes it into their Senior year for free. They then get to keep the laptop if they graduate with a 3.0 or higher, no strings attached. I know this is true because my neighbor works for the school district AND my school taxes keep going up every year there are more children in the Junior/Senior classes.

    I’m in agreement that you can’t give laptops to third world countries before they have food, clean drinking water, and most importantly electricity. After all, laptop batteries unfortunately have a lot to live up to if you think they will last more than a few hours at most.

    My honest opinion though, laptops for everyone is way down the list when you consider health, sanitation, disease, famine, poverty, etc., etc. That’s my two cents.

  • 2. wayan  |  December 2, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Don’t be fooled by the fanciful $100 price tag. Its more like a thousand dollar laptop once you factor in all the implementation costs.

    Or if you stick with the $100 and multiply out to the size OLPC is dreaming of, its $30 Billion dollars a year.

  • 3. serega  |  February 2, 2008 at 2:52 am

    pos yourgirls


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