The One Laptop Per Child program is a non-profit organization founded by Nicholas Negroponte, the cofounder of the MIT Media laboratory. Its goals are to create a low cost, rugged, low power, internet connected computer for children in the poorest part of the world. This is meant to allow them access to one of the greatest teaching and learning tools in human history and help those in the developing world to actually develop rather remain mired in poverty for another generation.
The plan isn’t without controversy though. In many of the places that most need this program the money spent on these laptops is a considerable cost and the argument is that it would be better to spend this money on things such as better classrooms and teachers salaries. In addition to this there was fear of a grey market selling the laptops. This is a real fear in parts of the world where the 100 – 200 dollar laptop could sell for enough to feed a poor family for a month or more. This problem has been solved by building in the ability to turn any stolen laptop off from a central computer.
Although the costs are easier to see the benefits of the one laptop per child program far outweigh them. Nearly anyone will agree that the most valuable natural resource of any country is its children and the fastest and best way to improve the situation in developing nations is to educate children. This still leaves the question open though as to whether the one laptop per child program is the best way to educate the children.
In the areas that it has been tried it has been a remarkable success. The dropout rates have plummeted and student involvement has skyrocketed. In some places the servers have even had to be turned off because teachers were getting so many emails from students who wanted help that they couldn’t keep up.
In addition to the improvement in education the laptops dramatically improve infrastructure as well. The modern internet can work as a telephone, a television and even give advice on medical conditions. In addition to this it opens up news of the entire world through internet newspapers and magazines. It may even allow students to earn money through online programs.
There is no doubt that there is a cost to the one laptop per child program. For people in the developing world the hundred to two hundred dollars that the laptop costs is a considerable expense but it is also easy to see that this program has the potential to be one of the best teaching tools ever brought into the developing world and it has the potential to change the perspective of entire countries.