Does Afghanistan Need One Laptop Per Child?


Some friends of mine from college asked the following question about OLPC Afghanistan:

Greg Mortensen built 200 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan for less than the cost of one cruise missile. In doing so, he has done vastly more to end Islamic fundamentalism than the entire US effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is it enough, C.?

No, it isn't enough. Afghanistan needs its own army and police built up, plus a civil service and infrastructure: roads, schools, clinics, electricity, phones, Internet, microfinance. But if you do all of that, and don't build and supply schools, it all falls apart. The Taliban demonstrate this fact themselves by destroying every school they can get to, other than their own boys-only madrassas, and
shooting teachers.

olpc afghanistan
Empowering girls' education

As Earth Treasury, I'm working with OLPC Afghanistan on how we can approach these needs, specifically on education (which includes localization to Dari and Pashto to begin with), electricity, Internet, and microfinance.

The predicted price for the OLPC XO-2 next year is $75. That's muchless than printed textbooks. It is critical for us to write new, Free
textbooks and make them available for translation everywhere.

California's Gubernator has launched such a plan for the state, and I am talking with legislators about how we can extend that plan with a computer for every student out of the savings on printing, storage, distribution, etc.

Should we all be building schools there? C.

I don't mind which part you build, as long as you build something. Or you can go on eBay or and buy an Afghan carpet direct from the weaver, if you like. Some of the 65% or so that the weaver gets will go to food, shelter, clothing for the weaver's family, and some might go for education, or health, or more looms and wool. They know better than we do what they need most urgently.

Contrary to the American experience, you don't need a computer to get into e-commerce in Afghanistan. You may need to know someone who knows someone who has a computer, and you certainly have to be able to get your goods to Kabul. But the Taliban destroyed the Afghan economy so thoroughly during their reign than in the summer after the war, in 2002, the government certified as its largest employer. It is of course much bigger since then, but at the same time there has been extremely rapid growth in mobile phones and other areas of the economy. No. 2 back then was a brick factory with 400 wage workers.

Or you can just give me your political contacts and any likely sources of funding, and I'll do it.

Keep up with OLPC Afghanistan - subscribe to OLPC News via RSS Feed, Email or Twitter .

Related Entries

1 TrackBack

It is not a secret that education is one of the most viable ways to improve the quality of life. That is true at several levels and for the widest variety of communities. In developed countries, and in the US in particular, access to good education sta... [more]


Good post, Edward. I'm glad you included the economic angle. You can't really understand olpc unless you realize it's basically an economic development program.

"The predicted price for the OLPC XO-2 next year is $75. That's muchless than printed textbooks." What the heck? Less than a full set of printed textbooks in a first world country, sure, but that's not relevant in Afghanistan. Anyway, wasn't XO-2 cancelled?