I was a bit curious as to why the Philippines was not included in the list of countries for initial roll out of the $100 Laptop program. China, Argentina, India, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand were the initial countries targetted for intial deployment in 2007 then other countries joined in (Libya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tunisia to name a few). So I fired off a query to the people behind One Laptop Per Child and this was the reply that I got from Julia Reynolds of OLPC
All countries have the opportunity to receive laptops from our organization, but we have to receive a request directly from the government.
From the overview file:
OLPC has decided not to set up subsidiaries in each country. Rather it will work with country-appointed institutions for rollout, service, and pedagogy.
To which she also stated that they got no direct request from the Philippine government other than an inquiry from the office of one Provincial Governor. Guess that answers that question. Basing from the answer of the OLPC folks, this program calls for a countrywide roll out. Which could only mean that it has to be the National Government who has to take the lead in applying for the program, purchasing the laptops then deploying it to the host communities.
Off the top of my head, Dept of Science and Technology and Department of Eduction are the two branches of the Executive that look logical to spearhead the program if ever the government decides to apply. For the reason that the DOST has the technical know-how and nobody knows Education and the receiving communities better than the DepEd. OLPC is suggesting that deployment be in different locations of the country and not just one specific location or sector.
One Laptop Per Child is the Association behind the $100 laptop program. It was founded by Nicholas Negroponte along with some members of the Media Lab of MIT.
The core purpose of OLPC is to enable all children to have the best-possible education. Distributing one laptop per child makes students more active and creative learners; and helps them master the new skills and ideas they will need for living and working in a digital society. It will give them access to knowledge that they did not have access to in the past…Research has demonstrated that we learn best when we are engaged in designing and creating things, especially things that are meaningful to us or to others around us….
The One Laptop per Child Association (OLPC), a non-profit corporation, proposes a pilot program to equip one-million primary and secondary students and their teachers with ultra-low-cost, individual, connected laptop computers to dramatically enhance the childrens’ education.
OLPC proposes to launch in 2007 with an initial 7 million laptops and then reach 100 million laptops a year later. Since it is a non-profit organization, any cost savings incurred during the construction of the laptop will be to the benefit of the selling price of the laptop. Meaning that a $10 savings could lower the cost of the laptop to $90.
The main features of the current design of laptop that stand out for me are:
- Low electricity consumption. Compared to the existing 30-40 watt laptops that we have, the $100 laptop consumes only 2 watts. Meaning that it can run on a hand crank as well as have a longer batter life. For those who are handicapped by having no access to electricity this makes using a computer possible.
- The Mesh network. It is like a Peer-to-Peer wireless sharing network, wherein two laptops can share internet connection as long as they are within 300 meters of one another. Meaning that laptops can connect to the internet by piggybacking on other $100 laptops closer to the base station. A visual example can be found here, click on the PC’s to deploy the mesh network.
This means that the laptops automatically (and transparently to their users) form connections between them and cooperatively relay packets for each other. This allows their users to be able to communicate as if they were all connected to the same 802.11 access point.
- The Rugged Design. Since it was designed to be carried by children all the time it had smooth edges, incorporated a built in handle, was small in size and extremely light. Proof of it’s flexibility is in the fact that it can be reconfigured to function as a laptop and an e-book reader. It was also assumed that it would be carried in almost all weather conditions (dust and rain storms), hence the need for thick plastic casings, external connector covers and a sealed rubber-membrane keyboard. Since connectors and harddisks are the first parts of a laptop that usually fail, it was designed to have only 2 internal cables and have a flash disk for it’s hard drive (512 Mb).
What the people behind OLPC are doing is truly commendable. Their work is helping to break the barriers that developing countries are facing with regards to enabling their education sectors to have access to timely and relevant information. In the Information Age that we are in right now, it should be a crime that students aren’t able to access the internet and the mountains of information that it holds.
One of the hurdles of establishing Internet Labs in Public schools that I am seeing is in the price of a broadband connection. A $22/month wireless internet connection might be cheap to some people but to a public school in a remote area that is a big chunk out of their monthly budget. I’m not even sure if the local PTCA’s (Parent, Teacher and Community Assoc) will allow for that kind of program in their schools given the monthly cost. Not to mention that the bandwidth that comes with that package might not be enough to accomodate all the users in the school. And with the remoteness of some of these schools it looks like mobile broadband could be their only option. So here’s to hoping that broadband prices will go down some more in the Philippines.
Other Info on the $100 Laptop Program: