OLPC: Low-Cost Laptops Combat Afghan Indoctrination


One Laptop Per Child has delivered more than 3500 of its so-called $100 laptops to Afghanistan so far

The founder and chairman of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation Nicholas Negroponte believes low-cost notebooks will improve the educational prospects of Afghan children and combat “indoctrination and intolerance” in the troubled country.

In a joint project with the Afghan Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and local IT providers, OLPC has delivered 774 of its XO machines to students and teachers at the Zarghona Ana middle school in Kandahar. The latest consignment of laptops adds to the 3,700 machines which OLPC has distributed in Afghanistan so far.

Empowerment through education

According to Negroponte, technology could improve the outlook and prospects of children in the country and combat the forces which have allowed groups such as the Taliban to flourish. “The XO laptops will empower a new generation of Afghan citizens to connect with the world, think critically and challenge indoctrinations of intolerance,” he said. “This is an important development for both the people of Afghanistan and for the world.”

Farooq Wardak, Minister of Education of Afghanistan also commented on the importance of educational technology to the future of the country: “Children having access to this type of tool can further their education and allow them to be actively engaged in their own study. They learn, share, create and have the opportunity to collaborate with their fellow students. They become connected to each other, to the world, and to a brighter future.”

Context-relevant software

The operating system used by the OLPC devices has been localised to the Dari and Pashto languages, as have thousands of pages of digital content including 150 educational mini games and other interactive tools, according to OLPC. The organisation also said that the portability of the small laptops – a forerunner of the netbook – mean they can be used at home by female pupils. “Because the children will be able to bring the laptops home, girls, in particular, will be able to learn in the safety of their own homes and without fear of reprisal for going to school,” the organisation said.

OLPC also believes it’s device is well-suited to the harsh conditions in Afghanistan. “The XO uses three times less electricity than other laptops and is built in a sealed dust-free system,” the organisation said in a statement.

OLPC initiatives

Last week US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised the work done by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation in Central and South America. “I have followed the progress that Uruguay and Panama have made towards spreading the benefits of the digital age through initiatives that distribute laptops to children,” she said.

The OLPC organisation, founded by tech expert Nicholas Negroponte, was set up to develop a low-cost notebook computer to help children in developing countries improve computer and learning skills. According to reports, the organisation is working on a follow-up to its XO laptop which has been adopted by more than 1.4m children in 35 countries. The latest device, known as the X0-3, will be available in 2012 and will cost less than $100.

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