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World: Laptop Project Aims To Get Poor Children Online


http://gdb.rferl.org/9F91608A-BFD0-476F-B1E9-18C357ED57F5_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/9F91608A-BFD0-476F-B1E9-18C357ED57F5_mw800_mh600.jpg Samuel Klein (right) and one of Green Machines on January 4 (RFE/RL) January 8, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- It has been about a year since U.S. scientists unveiled a laptop computer priced at around $100 and tailored for children in the world's poorest countries. Radio Farda correspondent Arash Alborzi recently spoke with a self-styled "laptop fiend" who is also the director of content for the laptop initiative, Samuel Klein.


Radio Farda: Could you please explain the goals of the 'One Laptop Per Child' project and tell us how long you've been involved in it?

"I think bringing online another billion children and giving them the tools to define what it means to be networked and what it means to work together probably means that whatever the next thing is in a few years, it will be different from what I'm thinking about now."

Samuel Klein: The goal of the project is to distribute laptops to children throughout the developing world. To help both improve education in all these places and to give them tools to connect with one another and to build their own educational resources and to make their own networks with fellow students; [and] to help teachers make networks with other teachers and to give them channels for creativity. My role in the project is as director of content. I have been involved since the end of this summer (2006). I've certainly been very interested in the progress of the project and how it will impact all these schools and cultures.


Radio Farda: What organizations or companies are financing this project?


Klein: The project is being supported by a number of corporate sponsors. All of the initial onetime costs are provided by a list of major international organizations who care about the project -- they want to donate to it -- and they care about of developing the international audience of technologically savvy people: Google!, EBay, Marvell, SCS; we have partnerships with groups like the [United Nations Development Program (UNDP)]. And then when the laptops are made and distributed, the governments sign on -- become country partners and provide support and infrastructure and help with distribution in that country. And the governments end up buying the laptops for all the schools and teachers.


Radio Farda: Which group of children is the primary target for your project?


Klein: Well the targets are children [from kindergarten] through 12[th grade], but primary school more than anything. Those are really the kids for whom this is a joy, it's not a chore; they love it instantly. I think these are also the kids where we may see the greatest changes.


Radio Farda: What are the specific characteristics of the laptops that make them attractive for children?


Klein: Every part of laptop was designed with children in mind. They are designed to be colorful and engaging; they're designed to have soft edges so that they don't hurt kids; they're designed to be robust, so that they can be carried around, accidentally dropped. They're designed that they naturally connect with one another and create this environment where you're always connected to someone. So it doesn't seem unusual; it seems like the natural state for doing anything. Whatever you're working on -- if you're writing, if you're drawing, if you're making music -- it's the easiest thing in the world to imagine someone else is looking at what you're doing and can jump in and do the same thing with you.


Radio Farda: What are the first lucky countries that will get the laptops?


Klein: The countries that are going to be testing out the laptops in the next few months are Argentina and Brazil and Nigeria and Libya, and there are also laptops now in Thailand.


Radio Farda: You have been involved with other projects, such as [online] Wikipedia. What will be you next project?


Klein: I think bringing online another [1] billion children and giving them the tools to define what it means to be networked and what it means to work together probably means that whatever the next thing is in a few years, it will be different from what I'm thinking about now. So my guess is that there will be very strong communities of people for whom it's the most natural thing in the world to do things for themselves, to solve problems in large groups that were previously considered totally unsolvable by individuals. Education has often been a collaborative effort, so drawing that out and making this more obvious is also a huge change -- but it still was considered possible. But there are things that we've considered that people can't do on their own and they have to have large organizations do for them; and I'm not sure which of those will first be tackled by large groups of people who are able to work together, but I think that it will be exciting and very rewarding for society.

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