All Education and Educational Decisions are Local, Not Federal

   
   
   
   
   

Yesterday's Boston Globe had an telling juxtaposition of Iqbal Quadir of the wildly successful GrameenPhone and Nicholas Negroponte of the wildly publicized One Laptop Per Child. Like last week's WSJ article, Negroponte again came off looking the fool.

Why? Because he ignored local user groups in favor of dealing with governments - federal governments. Now let's have Iqbal Quadir give the money quote on why GrameenPhone is a success and OLPC isn't:

"I have learned from history that actually, the countries that are developed, where governments behave and serve the public, are those where the citizens have empowered themselves through technologies and business,"
So let us take a tour of XO laptop users where citizens have empowered themselves through OLPC technologies, through Constructionist education, to form more holistic communities.

First up, a news report on OLPC Peru's Una computadora por niño program in Institución Educativa Santiago Apostol de Arahuay

Next, we have a news report on OLPC India's pilot in Khairat-Dhangarwada village school, Raigadh district, Maharashtra state, India:
And last but not least, a cameraphone video of a BBC filming OLPC Nigeria in Galadima School, Abuja Model City, Nigeria:
All three videos are proof that OLPC buzz does not come from the top down, but from the bottom up. From children, parents, teachers, school administrators, and local politicians and entrepreneurs seeing the value in empowering primary education with clock-stopping hot technology.

Now if only One Laptop Per Child could take this opportunity to learn and adapt like these children did.

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17 Comments

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Why? Because he ignored local user groups in favor of dealing with governments - federal governments. Now let's have Iqbal Quadir give the money quote on why GrameenPhone is a success and OLPC isn't:

"I have learned from history that actually, the countries that are developed, where governments behave and serve the public, are those where the citizens have empowered themselves through technologies and business,"
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Are you suggesting that local user groups will bid for cell phone frequencies, set up a cell phone wireless networks with exchanges and compete with network providers?

That is what you imply when you say Negroponte should work with local user groups. Working with local user groups, bypassing the government means that local user groups try to change the local educational system, including teacher training and curriculum change.

I don't know how this works in the developping world, but I know for sure this would fail in my own, very developped, country. You simply have to play by the rules to get a school certified. Trying to bypass the education ministry gets your school closed.

I will readily acknowledg that the OLPC in general and Negroponte specifically have made many errors, and even that they have behaved foolishly. But trying to change schools by bypassing existing political structures was not one of their errors.

Winter

Lagos Analysis Corp. (LANCOR) Files Lawsuit Against Nicholas Negroponte and OLPC Association for Patent Infringement.

http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release.do?id=796745

Winter,

I am suggesting that for OLPC to really get any traction, it needs to get local, to get down into the community-level weeds instead of flying at 10,000ft with Presidents. Local user groups usually work very closely with politicians and educators to promote changes at the local and then national level - ensuring there is buy-in and public support at every level.

Best case in point: The Chilean way to One Laptop Per Child http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/chile/chilean_one_laptop_per_child.html

Grameen Phone was more of a success earlier than it is now. Why? Because of the dyamic change in mobile phone availablity. The village phone women were making about $450 to $1400 a year from reselling services, but as the phones got cheaper and began showing up in villages, that figure has dropped to an average of $70 a year! That's still a good sum in such a poor country, but it make the business a minor sideline for these entrepreneurs. I'll bet that will happen in Uganda where they are trying this same model.

Steve, GrameenPhone would seem to be following Rich Fuch's trajectory for community-informatics technologies to a T. (Can you point to documentation?)

The outstanding questions surround the ability of the organization and the women themselves to spot the trend, acknowledge it, and develop new service lines and tools (telemeds or e-government using GPRS or other data-enabled bands, perhaps).

"Change has to be dramatic. You’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be bold. And what has happened is that there has been an effort to say ‘don’t take any risks - just do something small, something incremental’. It feels safe but by definition what you are ensuring is that nothing happens." Walter Bender.

We've got 3 billion kids that need better education. You aren't going to achieve much though NGOs and other small local user groups. Government and large multinationals are the only ones to have the means to lift their little finger and have massive change really happen.

NGOs efforts only affect a very small population, while governments have the means to eliminate desease and poverty, improve education in a swipe, in one round of funding all problems can be solved. Doing incremental help will take 10-20 years to solve the problem, we cannot afford to delay it that much for so many children. We have to apply everything we can today to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible. As a society we have ample enough ressource to get the problem fixed right now, so it makes no sence to think deploying incrementally at this point.

From the linked article,

"And he adds that in countries where the laptop has been tested, its users have come up with all sorts of entrepreneurial ideas, such as a village-wide version of the Craigslist online bulletin board."

That is just the point. Oplc is sold mainly as a aid to elementary education, but it's really a networked general computer, so it has a thousand other uses, and most of those uses will be invented by people down at the community level. I think promotion and distribution should be changed to take all that into account, and then oplc would catch on a lot faster.

"Quadir says that he isn't thinking much about working through governmental agencies. "I see them as a potential problem," he says."

Truly, this is the man that should be selling those laptops. Negroponte should be able to step back to the overseeing the laptop design and let iqbar do the distribution.

In a short what he does is he develops a system that the laptop pays for itself. Anything, really could work - lend money to people so they can buy a laptop and come up with a business idea. If it suceeds they will able to pay back the laptop and refinance the next entrepeneur.

The video that should also be there, iqbar on TED
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1787357823937652078&q=Iqbal+Quadir&total=7&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=1

Winter, why does all education have to come through an official public school? You have an implicit assumption in your argument.

Charbax: Linux and Apache are striking counter-examples to your claim that only a massive government effort can get widespread adoption. On the flip side, Ada is an extreme example of a massive government push that has gone nowhere. Closer to home, just think of all the one-computer-per-child movements that have happened in the developed world. How well have those gone?

A question for all top-downers: can you give some examples of top-down educational reforms that have gone well? I do not know the history of education policy well enough to even come up with any good examples.

Personally I think that in order for OLPC to be successful (however you may want to define that) it needs to integrate both a top-down and bottom-up approach. If I were forced to choose between one of them I'd go for bottom-up but I'm certainly convinced that a combination of both approaches is the best way to make this happen.

Here's a model that I believe might work in many places:

(1) get a bunch of motivated developers and educators to form a local grassroots organization
(2) come up with a plan of what your group thinks needs to be done to implement OLPC whereever you are
(3) start talking to politicians, educators, media and the general public about your ideas, gather as much feedback from them as possible and integrate their ideas, comments and doubts into your mental plan
(4) convince your MoE to start with a small pilot
(5) support that pilot in whatever way deemed useful, if you have a good combination of educators and developers you can for example provide the pilot with needed activities and content tailored to the XO
(6) gather all that experience, better yet have an independent entity (university or other institute) evaluate what happens during the pilot
(7) hopefully these results convince your MoE to start a large-scale implementation that's based on your local requirements
(8) let us know about all of that here on OLPCnews! ;-)

I'm not sure if the news articles are just painting Negroponte in a bad light, but it just seems that he's got a "Huge or Nothing" view of the program.

It seems that he's getting upset that the Countries aren't biting on his Million Unit sales pitch, yet when smaller organizations inquire about 10,000 units he balks.

Change starts small and snowballs from there. If you have the opportunity to help just one community, shouldn't you do it? Perhaps I'm being a bit idealistic, but that's what I believe.

JasonS,

Its not a painting of bad light, OLPC is all about all or nothing (currently headed towards nothing). Check out Walter Bender in the BBC today:

"We think that change has to be dramatic. You've got to be big, you've got to be bold. And what has happened is that there has been an effort to say 'don't take any risks - just do something small, something incremental'. It feels safe but by definition what you are ensuring is that nothing happens."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7094695.stm

When the OLPC started, there was no cheap laptop market, no distribution, nor any internet access in the developed world. Intel nor MS were interested in this market. The OLPC had to invent the technology itself.

I suspect that the laptop and component manufactorers were only interested if the OLPC could bolster a market in the hundred million items. No way that they would have invested in this based on a NGO based implementation plan.

So I still think there might have been very, very good reasons for the founders of the OLPC to start with a government only million pieces minimum order size.

But we are now years further. There is now a recognized market, technology has developed, and an NGO implementation plan can indeed be drawn up.

This leaves us with only one problem to solve: How to prevent local MoE's to feel bypassed and kill off school deployments. Because MoE's will indeed kill off any reform that tries to run around them.

Winter

"Winter, why does all education have to come through an official public school? You have an implicit assumption in your argument."

And you know the alternatives in Nigeria or Bolivia children from very poor, illiterate parents can attend?

Winter

> And you know the alternatives in Nigeria or Bolivia children from very poor, illiterate parents can attend?

"Private schools for the poor", James Tooley.
http://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/3217591.html

""Private schools for the poor", James Tooley."

So we don't need the OLPC anymore or anything else for that matter. Problem solved and we can all go home.

Winter

I think the point is - what if the government refuses to buy them laptops? Then what, who can get laptops into the hands of some of the children? Those private schools in the article can't buy XOs either. If some NGO starts an afterschool program using XOs that's a start.

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