Nicholas Negroponte's Hard Sell for OLPC Afghanistan: Half of 1 Percent for an XO Laptop for Every Afghan Child

   
   
   
   
   

Its no secret that Nicholas Negroponte has the hots for Afghanistan. He sees a great opportunity for OLPC there, what with the vast sums that the US government is investing in the country. At Techonomy Conference 2010, he made his pitch for OLPC Afghanistan, and its a good one:


And most people who think about technology and education, leap to the word "school", leap to teachers in the classroom. The country we're focusing on now, is Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, first of all 50% of kids don't go to school, 75% of girls don't go to school.

Much more importantly 25% of teachers are illiterate, the next 25% of the teachers only have one grade of education beyond the child... So in those cases, you have to look at what is transformational. Its not making the classroom better, not trying to do traditional educational technology, its actually using the kids, and I really mean using the kids, as agents of change.

In Afghanistan we have an extraordinary situation today. In Afghanistan, we, as the United States, are spending $2 Billion dollars per week on war, we are spending $2 million a week on education - that is our total USIAD budget on education. Now think about that - 2 Billion vs. 2 million. Mr President, all you have to do is move 1/2 of 1 percent from column A to column B and every child in Afghanistan would have a connected laptop in less than 18 months. Half of 1 percent.

And that's what the United States would be remembered for. Karzai wants to do it, Petraeus wants to do it. The kids are ready to do it. The entire infrastructure is ready to do it. And that would make the change, the transformational change using the kinds of technology we've been talking about.

Wow! I am surprised that Negroponte went to so far as to address his pitch to President Obama in a public meeting - you can see he's putting on the hard sell for One Laptop Per Child as part of the US rebuilding strategy for Afghanistan. And I give him credit for this sales pitch, its very compelling.

But I have to think beyond the big warm and fuzzy ideals to the actual practicalities. Four years on, we're still debating the OLPC impact on educational systems, which gives me great pause in expanding the idea to a war-torn country in the cultural stone age.

I can't even image the unintended consequences of a foreign invader trying to hand out bright green, Internet-connected laptops to children for them to "learn learning" in a tribal-centric society that shuns intellectual exploration and self-directed learning, and has a history of violently enforcing its cultural norms. At the very least, there needs to be a concerted and long-term cultural integration process as part of the implementation plan.

One that ensures local leaders, not Negroponte, desire and accept the XO laptops as empowering for their society.

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15 Comments

Hola!

With the XO-1.5 costing about as much as the origial XO-1.0, will Afghanistan get the obsolete older one?

Hey, who will do the implementation? Will OLPC just drop them there and leave with just 4 hours of training for the teachers?

The XO has no educational value in itself. That's a reality everyone accepts. Now: how could it be of value without a proper infrastructure, without teachers, without widespread internet access an without a population that allows information to flow freely?

Negroponte is just fishing for some money to delay the inevitable - and necessary - death of his terrible idea. I pity the poor banana republics who blindly waste their meager educational resources on this techno-chimera. Have they ever asked the obvious question: how come no civilized country has found merit in Negroponte's idea? How come USA, France, England, Germany, Israel, Canada, Sweden, China, Russia, denmark, Singapour, India and the rest of the civilized world has rejected Negroponte's idea?

But then again, I'm not a fool: the SouthAmerica adoption of this useleess gadget is driven by corruption, not academic aspirations. The victim, as always, is the poor person who needs the most help and protection from its government.

I take strong exception with the last commenter statement that "South American adoption" is driven by corruption.

I'm a strong opponent of the XO-1 as a tool in the context of Peru's educational situation. And I do think that the idea of shoving computers into the hands of kids in Afghanistan is a risk of getting those hands chopped off or worse, and that forcing change there is a stupid idea as the recent conflict has shown.

But to generalise that "corruption" is the only reason for such a thing (non-existent, btw) as a "south American adoption", is frankly insulting.

I cannot vouch for Uruguay. But in Peru, over-enthusiasm, geek naivete, a search for quick results: you name it and I can pinpoint a number of criticisms to the decision to buy the computers, but unless the commenter has any proof of corruption, or at least the hint that I'm pretty aware does not exist, I can only say this: please keep your prejudices to yourself.

And I'm pretty sure that some Uruguayans would say the same about their country's policy process.

In the case of Peru, a completely corrupt banana republic, we have amplpe evidence of the shenanigans that went into the adoption of the XO as an intrument of edcation. In fact, Mr. Villanueva himself wrote about the shady selection process, but has since changed his position.

Here is an excerpt of mr. Villanueva's previous postion:


***************

"Some further developments:

Yesterday, May 10th, the ministry called for a press conference. The speakers weren't any officials from the ministry itself, but the chairperson of the Private Council for the Digital Agenda (http://www.agendadigital.org/) (CPAD), a private collection of interested parties in the development of the "digital society" in Peru.

I won't transcribe the whole thing, which is available in a formal press release here: http://www.minedu.gob.pe/noticias/index.php?id=4799, but basically they said:

1. The Minister asked this organization for their technical opinion on the laptop.
2. The computer, being studied / considered for acquisition by the ministry (please note the change here), is designed to work at places without electricity and to withstand blows, and it is water resistant.
3. Estamos frente a una herramienta que permite que el estudiante entre, salga y desarrolle las competencias necesarias para el futuro”, (we are in front of a tool allowing the student to get in, get out and develop the skills necessary for the future).
4. Some extra technical details, including a mistake by the ministry hacks saying that it has a 19 inches screen.

And that's it. Not a single word from the ministry itself, nor any consideration about the educational purpose, intentions and values to be taken into account for this project.

Swell...

****************

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_mystery.html

For a general outlook of Mr Villanueva's pre-conversion ideas, read here:

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&q=peru+xo+site%3Aolpcnews.com+eduardo+villanueva&cts=1281539637378

More corruption evidence: the Peru "adoption decision" took place almost simultaneously with the visit of Negroponte's brother (John Negroponte), who met with Peru's education Minister.

Can anyone make the connection? John Negroponte talks to minister, minister 'see the light'.

http://peruanista.blogspot.com/2007/05/quien-es-john-negroponte.html

The corruption is widely documented - it's not like the little exploiters of their fellow native indians are doing much to hide it...

In the case of Peru, a completely corrupt banana republic, we have amplpe evidence of the shenanigans that went into the adoption of the XO as an intrument of edcation. In fact, Mr. Villanueva himself wrote about the shady selection process, but has since changed his position.

Here is an excerpt of mr. Villanueva's previous postion:


***************

"Some further developments:

Yesterday, May 10th, the ministry called for a press conference. The speakers weren't any officials from the ministry itself, but the chairperson of the Private Council for the Digital Agenda (http://www.agendadigital.org/) (CPAD), a private collection of interested parties in the development of the "digital society" in Peru.

I won't transcribe the whole thing, which is available in a formal press release here: http://www.minedu.gob.pe/noticias/index.php?id=4799, but basically they said:

1. The Minister asked this organization for their technical opinion on the laptop.
2. The computer, being studied / considered for acquisition by the ministry (please note the change here), is designed to work at places without electricity and to withstand blows, and it is water resistant.
3. Estamos frente a una herramienta que permite que el estudiante entre, salga y desarrolle las competencias necesarias para el futuro”, (we are in front of a tool allowing the student to get in, get out and develop the skills necessary for the future).
4. Some extra technical details, including a mistake by the ministry hacks saying that it has a 19 inches screen.

And that's it. Not a single word from the ministry itself, nor any consideration about the educational purpose, intentions and values to be taken into account for this project.

Swell...

****************

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_mystery.html

For a general outlook of Mr Villanueva's pre-conversion ideas, read here:

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&q=peru+xo+site%3Aolpcnews.com+eduardo+villanueva&cts=1281539637378

More corruption evidence: the Peru "adoption decision" took place almost simultaneously with the visit of Negroponte's brother (John Negroponte), who met with Peru's education Minister.

Can anyone make the connection? John Negroponte talks to minister, minister 'see the light'.

http://peruanista.blogspot.com/2007/05/quien-es-john-negroponte.html

The corruption is widely documented - it's not like the little exploiters of their fellow native indians are doing much to hide it...

More of Mr mansilla's PREVIOUS (as in "before he started getting his slice") position:

**************
A recent development in Peru: Walter Bender was at demo of sorts (a tech demo, not a political one) in Lima, where the XO was presented to students at a low income primary school.

Here's the press release for those that read Spanish: http://www.minedu.gob.pe/noticias/index.php?id=4830
The shocker: Peru is "studying the acquisition" of the computers, so there's no commitment, yet. Or so they say now.

Apart from that, nothing particularly new, including the old mistakes. besides a very dark cloud: a new "expert" has been called to support the ministerial decision, and he's an employee of the university ran by Mr. Chang before he became education minister (he's a leave of absence).

***************

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_mystery.html

(next-to-last comment)

In Mr. Mansilla's own words:

******************
The actual acquisition procedure has been less than transparent. The Request for Proposals (RfP) was sent to potential suppliers on October 3rd, with responses expected by October 5th (this is a bit of privileged information I've been able to learn but cannot support with actual documentation just yet). The terms were precisely matched to the well-known marketing points by OLPC, including power consumption (10 watts maximum, a watt more less than the only competition, Intel's Classmate), resistance to dirt and water, the aforementioned reparability by kids, and the provision for a video camera and tablet-like behavior.

The acquisition does not consider any distribution channels, installation, set-up services, post-sale maintenance or spares. One of the specific conditions laid out in the RfP was that the computers "were easily fixed by the students themselves". Nothing has been said about operation costs, beyond the fact that current Huascaran schools already have budgets for network operating expenses.

Together with this acquisition, it has been announced that:

More than 100 thousand teachers will qualify for a grant of $150 and a loan of $ 300 in the National Bank to finance the purchase of computers. The head of state referred to this loan will be repaid within four years, and allowing better access to educational content.
No precise information about this yet, but apparently a lot of computer suppliers are looking for this particular business opportunity, and the software developers' community is seeing this as an opportunity to port Sugar apps into standard Linux distros.


José Antonio Chang EscobedoThe only suitor has been OLPC, in close alliance with a private University here in Lima, Universidad San Martín de Porres (USMP). José Antonio Chang Escobedo, the president (rector) of this university is currently on leave and serving as Minister of Education, and some of his staff has been drafted into the project;
*********************

If that's not corruption, then we have to find a new meaning for the word. But that was then and this is now: Mr. Mansilla has revised history.

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_laptop_purchase.html

So? Did I say in any of those instance that corruption was the reason?

Incompetence, naivete, excessive belief in the potential of this particular computer. But besides the general banana-republicness of Peru, which is something I'm not going to get into (no desire to branch this into a conceptualization of a banana republic, to start with), there has been NO result in the many attempts to find emblezzment (sp?) or something similar in the OLPC decision. And the bit about Negroponte brother is general conspiracy theory stuff that I would like to see consigned to Roswell-type sites, not this one.

There's a lot of corruption in my country? Yes. Is OLPC wrong for Peru? I do believe it is. Is being handled badly? Yes indeed. The rest is pure prejudice and mr. Mephisto, however he or she is under the silly nickname, should bring facts and not just innuendo and generalizations into this discussion. If I don't see anything like that, I'll refrain from answer and I'll ask the moderator to freeze this thread.

BTW: it's Villanueva. Apparently, your extensive knowledge of my country does not apply to naming conventions, but please stop thinking that English naming usage is the norm around the world.

@Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla:
"The rest is pure prejudice and mr. Mephisto, however he or she is under the silly nickname, should bring facts and not just innuendo and generalizations into this discussion."

If you have not yet guessed it yourself, Mephisto is the new nickname of OLPC news' resident troll, also known as Troy, Irvin, or Irv. He has been around OLPC news from the early beginning (5 years now?).

He gets kicked off every once in a while for disorderly behavior, after which he (or she) returns under a different nym. S/He tends to post by way of an anonymizer service to circumvent blocks and protect his "anonymity".

He is good at copy/pasting quotes out of context. In general, s/he shows a complete lack of understanding on matters related to (ICT) technology, economic development, and education. But s/he seems to hate Negroponte with every vein of her/his body.

He spends almost as much time on OLPC news as Wayan himself. If he does not get paid to hang around, it is most likely this hate that seems to be his motivation for hanging around. For the rest, he has shown no interests, other than Negroponte/ICT bashing, in anything relevant to the OLPC.

Winter

Even Peru's own current president admits the country is completely corrupt - this is less than 2 weeks old!

http://globalgeopolitics.net/wordpress/2010/07/30/peru-president-admits-corruption-has-tarnished-government/

Mr. Mansilla writes:

"The rest is pure prejudice and mr. Mephisto, however he or she is under the silly nickname, should bring facts and not just innuendo and generalizations into this discussion."


Funny request, given that this is the ame person who worte this:

"Apart from that, nothing particularly new, including the old mistakes. besides a very dark cloud: a new "expert" has been called to support the ministerial decision, and he's an employee of the university ran by Mr. Chang before he became education minister (he's a leave of absence)."

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_mystery.html

Isn't that the very definintion of "innuendo"?

Finally, you can freeze this thread, you can freeze hell, you can do whatever you want to do, but you can't change the fact your position is very different nowadays. A full stomach will often do that...

Of course, this being a banana republic, I have to be as corrupt as your imagination demands. Again, prejudice rampant.

As for my stomach being full now, the french pastries I had for breakfast are wearing off, but since my butler is around, I'll demand that he grovels to the shire and bring me pheasant for lunch. I used to live in a shack, but now that I have a castle made of XO-1s, I can have that kind of lifestyle now. I'm sure you can finish describing my day with the huge amount of factual information you have about Peru and me. Meanwhile, I'll keep on filling my stomach, thanking you very much.

Not sure I agree with the idea "war-torn country in the cultural stone age" - Afghanistan has been had a rich culture going back centuries...

It does indeed all come back to implementation / objectives - what's the objective? Learning learning? Creativity? Test results? What content are we going to use? We also have a fair few content tools for creating localised educational tools.

We have already created some teacher training models / assessed them as well as training champion teachers to become go to people.


Hola!

That Mephisto guy is REALLY ignorant!

His definition of a Banana Republic is any country South of Texas! It does not even matter if the country does not grow them!

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