Monday, April 23, 2007

When you could snap

A few posts ago I wrote about some of my thoughts on helping society on a global level. However, I was vague in my proposed action. Well, there is a project to create a $100 laptop computer for children in developing countries. The project is called OLPC (One Laptop Per Child). I am a deep believer in this project because of the opportunities it could present to people less fortunate than I.

Sadly, I read an article today attacking this project today on the basis of it's socialist undertones and misguided direction. What you should know about this project is that it is an "open source" project. This means the project is "open" to anyone to contribute to the "source" of the project. The OLPC project is also based on software of that same nature; open source. Essentially, these are projects guided by the common voice of anyone who possesses the drive to be involved.

With that being said, the following is in response to Alex S1ngleton's Leave computers to the market economy.

Let's examine what Alex says VERY carefully for a few moments.
"[OLPC is] doomed to disappoint because it envisages Negroponte's laptop design as the single, monopoly type of computer for two billion children across the developing world."
So you don't think a start is better than nothing?
"Although Apple apparently offered its Mac OS X software to the scheme for free, the offer was rejected because they were determined only to open source software."
Where does this come from? OK. Then later as a retort you say... "Mac OS X ...uses open source software under the bonnet (Darwin) so I don't see the point"

Yeah, neither do I, but we'll keep going.
"People have tried doing these sort of special educational user interfaces in rich countries and they've flopped."
Well, let's give these children Windows Vista and see how they fare with that special interface. I'm sure the learning curve is much flatter.
"The one-size-fits-all approach is flawed because Western academics can't know the specific needs of two billion users."
Let's rewrite this one..."The one-size-fits-all approach is flawed because Western academics (computer users and developers) can't know the specific needs of two billion (novice computer) users." No, it CAN'T possibly make sense that way either.
"A child musician might want a computer that can run Sibelius"
You're right, let's scratch this whole idea we'll give 10% of the kids good computers and the other 90% better farm implements. Does that help your "cause?"
"the incentives to be reliable are going to be a lot weaker with this laptop project.'
Yeah, because no one will want to buy from anyone else if they aren't reliable. Everyone will just give up on the whole idea.... There's no use. Let's quit now...
"Moreover, the laptop proposal is simply a very wasteful use of money when there are more important priorities."
Did you have any thoughts of your own on this point, or did you just want to quote the "Indian Ministry of Education?" Well you know what? Their quote is right, some of these schools don't even have blackboards and chalk. There is no point in buying books because the laptops can be the books, can be the blackboard, can be the chalk, can be the homework, can be the media player, can be the...

Unlimited possibilities! That's why. Isn't that what technology opened up for you, for us? Or was it only that your technology was derived from a free market economy and you then paid the price they asked for it?

You should be ashamed of yourself for spreading distorted double talk that could take this opportunity away from "two billion children across the developing world."

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2 Comments:

Blogger Help said...

I wish the OLPC project good luck! Thanks for the interesting article.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Alex Singleton said...

"There is no point in buying books because the laptops can be the books, can be the blackboard, can be the chalk, can be the homework, can be the media player, can be the..."

The cost of blackboards, chalk and a good school library, however, is much cheaper.

3:39 AM  

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