In support of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Many people have had their views on the One Laptop Per Child initiative by Dr Negroponte. I wish to have my take on this.

Firstly, let me say that I am an African and a Malawian in particular. And Malawi is one of the countries in the so-called developing world. I would not say that Malawi is a Third World country because I have problems with the classification of countries as First world etc. I think it is not the intention of this post to air out my reservations on this demeaning classification.

In my opinion, I find no problems in the promotion of the one laptop per child project in developing countries. I know some people object to this initiative because they feel that it is a wrong priority for developing countries. However, I feel that this kind of thinking stems from the fact there is usually a misguided stereotypical blanket classification that all people in developing countries are very poor. I think these opponents forget that there are social classes like high-income, middle-income as well as poor people in developing countries as it is the case with developed countries. However, we cannot deny the fact that a LARGE number of people in developing countries struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis and there is need for social and economic justice to uplift them from abject poverty.

In my opinion, I feel that once a person overlooks the fact that there are also social classes in developing countries, it is very easy to conclude that a laptop per child is not necessary in that case. It is easy to falsely conclude that every child in the developing world is malnourished etc and therefore needs food, clean water, clothing etc. What we forget is that there are some kids (not necessarily from rich families) who definitely deserve immediate access to technological advances like a laptop computer. I for one did all my primary school, secondary school as well as undergraduate degree training in public schools in Malawi and I could have wished that I could have been exposed to technology like computers at a much earlier age. Therefore, we have to realize that denying these deserving kids a chance is perpetuating the already existing digital divide with their counterparts in the West and the rest of the developed world.

So, lets give the deserving kids the laptops and for those who are very underpriviledged, lets give them what they need most ie food, shelter, clothing and most importantly education which I believe is a key to human development. To this end, I therefore strongly support Dr Negroponte's vision.


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