OLPC : Are they doing the right thing?

OLPC B1 laptop

The One Laptop per Child project (OLPC ) is one of the major attractions of the Open Source blog in 2006 averaging of one article per month. During all this time, I never questioned the very existence of this project which has a noble aim at its heart - spreading technology to those at the very bottom of the wealth pyramid.

However, recent readings have convinced me that while OLPC is technically a success, it might not succeed its philosophical ambition of "giving a decent shot at good education". The main criticism against the project is that the people targeted by the OLPC project would be better served by money and food rather than laptops. After all, even if the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nicholas Negroponte are not in there for the profit, the same cannot be said for AMD, Red Hat or Quanta.

John Wood, founder of Room to Read, pointed out that a $2000 library can serve 400 children, costing just $5 a child to bring access to a wide range of books in the local languages and English - and you would probably be able to drive down costs through charity. A $10,000 school can serve about 500 children ($20 a child).

Basic education is still a huge problem in third world countries and bringing in a device as sophisticated as a laptop will divert resources from more pressing needs

I envision the OLPC to be a smashing success but not with its original clients. First and second world countries will be interested by the OLPC because it can help spread technology to poorer sections of a population.

Improving education improves life chances, reduces crime and related problems and provides countries with the countries with a pool of educated labour. It might be less glamorous than saving the third world but it is certainly more viable.