Guest blogged by Anuj on May 1, 2008.
OLPC is an initiative by MIT, which promises to deliver a laptop for every child in every hamlet for a not so measly cost of $100. Why? In order to help their education, for this they are following 5 principles:
- Child ownership
- Low ages. The hardware and software are designed for elementary school children aged 6-12.
- Free and open source
Why It Won’t Work
photo credit: MllerustadOkay, lets see if I understand this. You’re handing out laptops worth $100 to children in rural areas who usually belong to below poverty line families and you’re calling it a cheap solution to education, how? They earn less than a dollar a day, so it would take them more than a 100 days of work to earn enough to buy that laptop, do you think that they’re going to spend 4 months or more than 4 months of pay on a thing like this? Isn’t staying alive more important? So what should they do? Well, there’s always that magical word called the government, ask them to pay it. Now this would mean that valuable public money is being spent on a wild goose chase, which will amount to nothing. So forget the clause about child ownership, it practically cannot exist as at the end of the day someone else will pay for the machine.
Now these laptops come with the ‘Sugar’ user interface which even children can get sick of, the machine specs are so pathetic that they aren’t pretty much good for anything at all, they won’t be able to run any post 1995 software, they have a clock speed of just 433 MHz on an AMD Geode LX-700 which runs at an impressively low 0.8 watts. Now, compare that to the iPhone which runs at about 412 MHz, that’s a phone and it is comparable to that laptop. Are you getting it? These kids have about 1 GB of flash storage. Any good present day software requires more than that. Hell, office will take up more space, it’s good for nothing. The hardware is so minimal, I am surprised that they’re calling it a laptop, I mean it’s a laptop by the standards of 1984, not 2008.
They give a GUI around with this called ‘Sugar’ which is basically more comparable to a conc. solution of H2SO4. It can handle only one task at a time, running two applications simultaneously kills it. It doesn’t a ‘bloated’ interface, so forget the easy to use Leopard, think crap.
photo credit: ideonexusSo you have hardware that does nothing and software that isn’t any good. Well maybe this stuff is good for the children it has been built for, well, ask yourself, what the hell is the child supposed to do with the laptop? It sure as hell can’t replace a human teacher at this point, it won’t even be a supplement at the end of the day. It will simply gather dust in peoples homes. What do you expect a child to learn, if he doesn’t have any mentor at all to guide her/him? Well, they sure have educational programs on the machine, but who’ll teach the children to use them? Who will give that little concrete base which will help them to start? You know what the OLPC wiki says about this?
The XO laptop will bring a world of new ideas, images, and materials to children around the world. It will also provide students and teachers with new ways to collaborate, create, and transform works over time. Our belief in collaboration as a fundamental part of learning underscores our commitment to editable document formats, revision tracking, and careful attribution of authors and sources.
“How do you expect the child to learn and comprehend “new ideas, images, and materials” when she/he hasn’t understood the old ideas, images, and materials. The regions for which they’re aiming for have an adult population which is, usually, illiterate or with a very low level of education, where will the children learn from? The teachers? Well most of the schools which are therein such areas are virtually non-existent, they have meagre or no staff, whatever staff they do have is usually very incompetent. Are you getting my point? Where will the basic input come from, when will the return come? And how exactly will it come? I can’t see any method except for changing the system to bring back results. In short giving laptops as handouts is not going to solve anything at all.
photo credit: adriaan bloemYou know what’s the icing on the cake? Incompatibility, they can’t run the widely used formats like .doc (although .rtf is supported), without running into compatibility hassles which I doubt an average 12 year old will be able to solve. Anyway if you find a way to emulate windows on it, what resources will you use? So for all intents and purposes this is completely incompatible with the broader PC environment. So the poor folks went begging to the OLPC guys to ship it with Windows. Nicholas Negropnte, the only guy with some brains in the outfit, agreed. Now the other friktards are going to walk out, that is people are threatening to quite, because the guy is giving them what they want. So that they can actually do something with their craptop, why are they against it? Somehow the free software brigade has morphed it into an issue of freedom, it’s a matter of freedom now that people get what they want? Has Stallman actually looked at what the hell he is selling to the world? I mean who’s freedom is at stake, and how exactly is it at stake?
In short, this was an idea that could only work in the primary schools of a highly industrialized country, not a developing country as the infrastructure to exploit it isn’t there. Oh wait a minute hasn’t Apple already captured that market? So these guys figured that they will have to hoodwink someone else, so the warped this up into a project for the education of the world’s children and started peddling their wares to people who don’t require it. They are better off spending that money getting books, teachers and infrastructure, but heck that was the old fashioned way. They wanted to show the world that they can do something. So they came up with this fancy scheme which can never work, and will never work until a certain basic level of development isn’t there. By that point, I am guessing, they’ll probably be able to afford an iMac.
My advice to the freetards is that ditch this thing and go home and do some Zen meditation or something, maybe go to a good $500 doctor to cure your dementia. My advice to the various governments is, put in money where you need to put in, for heavens sake start acting like a government.
I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be.
Albert Hoffman, I hope that you may trip in peace…..