Strategic Defense of Colombia with XO Laptops

   
   
   
   
   

Watching this video of Nicholas Negroponte in La Macarena, Colombia, I was struck by his companions in passing out 700 XO laptops to children. He was not accompanied by leaders in education or technology, but by the Minister of Defense, and the heads of the Army and Police.

Now I can understand a military escort when traveling in the FARC-influenced areas of Colombia, there have been high-profile kidnappings and killings that would make anyone wary. But to think of XO laptops as a strategic defense issue?

While Negroponte waxes poetic about liberating FARC zones via connected laptops for kids, I see a pretty crude yet possibly effective hearts and minds campaign by the military side of the Colombian government to convince the population to switch their allegiance away from FARC.

And a scary deviation from an education project.


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25 Comments

Xo's in Colombia? You have to be kidding me. They will e used by FARC, not children.

Hola!

Wake up and smell the Colombian Coffee!

The OLPC XO laptop is being implemented in areas outside of FARC areas of Colombia! They are being used in Bogota, Caldas, Barranaquilla and a few more nonFARC areas with larger implementation numbers!

Look, you want to subscribe to the Colombian OLPC XO message board to learn before opening your mouth?
http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/colombia

The problem there is not political, the real problem is the education behind the ''drop'' of the laptops..OLPC is not watching for this, and
the pedagogical part of the project is being managed by the ministry of education, that so far only has been interested in supporting informatics classrooms and not one-to-one computing.
so we have to pose the questions:
Are the laptops being distributed to the world, keeping olpc's principles?.
are we letting politics and markets overcome the learning objective of the project?.


Face it, guys:

the ONLY reason you see this "deployments" in the usual banana republics is Negroponte's political clout. His brother is a big guy in those places and Negroponte can secure a corrupt mini-contract with the local "authorities".

This project has nothing to do with education. There's no educational agenda, there are no proven benefits and there is no reason to invest in this techno-scam.

Only a banana republic like Colombia, Peru or Uruguay would be corrupt and ignorant enough to pretend that their kids can get an education using a system that NO DEVELOPED NATION in the world is using for their own kids.

If the XO idea is so good, how come the rich countries are not employing a one-laptop-per-child strategy in their own schools?

Hi Irvin, is the XO threatening to succeed again?

@Irv:
"If the XO idea is so good, how come the rich countries are not employing a one-laptop-per-child strategy in their own schools?"

Because:

1 Rich countries as many qualified teachers and books as they want. If they do not care about the education of poor children, like in the US, a laptop will not help.

2 Rich countries have enough computers and internet access, so it would be a waste of tax money to add another layer of computers over and above what the kids already have. Again, in countries like the US where they hardly care about the education of poor children, they also do not care enough to give them laptops.

The OLPC is only useful in countries that are unable to supply enough qualified teachers, but still do care about the education of their children.

Personally, I would not rank Columbia on top of that list, but maybe I am wrong.

@Wayan:
In a civil war, like that raging in Columbia, all good intentions are perverted.

Winter

Oh give it up Winter.

The curtain's coming down on Dr. Negroponte's attempt to make himself a household name and your usual, nasty, U.S.-bashing isn't going to change that.

In retrospect the OLPC project has been like just about every other computer-in-education project; long on promises, short, very short, on delivery and very attractive to people who think empty enthusiasm for the project is sufficiently virtuous to justifies empty vituperativeness.

When you can tear yourself away from admiring your concern for poor kids in poor countries you might notice that their parents haven't sat around waiting for rich Westerners, or their own, rich countrymen to see to an education for their kids. They've gone out and found educational alternatives outside the public education system that's failed them. If they're not waiting for their fellow countrymen to provide an education for their kids can you imagine the credence they put in the promises, if the rhetoric surrounding the OLPC can be dignified with that word, of rich Westerners who, when they do finally show up do so with a camera crew?

If you want to see the future of education in the third world then I suggest you read some of Dr. James Tooley's work - http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/tooley.html - which, necessarily, doesn't treat poor parents and their kids like empty vessels into which rich, smug westerners can pour their ill-considered generosity.

Have you been to Colombia?

Obviously the raging war you speak about is not happening in all of Colombia, so the rest of the country's children need education! The FARC is just in a limited part of Colombia anyway!

"2 Rich countries have enough computers and internet access, so it would be a waste of tax money to add another layer of computers over and above what the kids already have."

Then, the OBVIOUS solution is to follow the example of DEVELOPED nations: no 'one-laptop-per-child" programs.

If they are not useful to rich countries (with the added benefit of a great infrastructure in place as you rightfully say), they can't be useful to poor countries without internet access.

Why bring useless technology (yes, nobody has shown yet the benefits of one-to-one laptop programs) to places without the necessary infrastructure?

"The OLPC is only useful in countries that are unable to supply enough qualified teachers, but still do care about the education of their children."

It's completely insane to even consider schools without teachers. It has not happened anywhere in the world and it will not happen in poor nations. If there is any education money in a poor nation lacking enough teachers, it must be allocated to the procurement of education professionals. Only a madman would come to the conclusion that a kid can get an education with a laptop whithout a teacher or internet access.

In fact, it is almost a crime that these devices are pushed down the throats of those who can least afford or use them. What's the actual value of this underpowered laptops in places without electricity or internet access?

@Irvin:
"The curtain's coming down on Dr. Negroponte's attempt to make himself a household name and your usual, nasty, U.S.-bashing isn't going to change that."

So why are you fighting a battle already won? Or is your believe in victory not that unshakable?

Whenever I ask people from the USA they complain their "politicians" do not care for education. Especially not educating children of poor parents. Teaching is often described as a dead-end job. So my "bashing" is simply repeating what I read and hear from USAians.

But please Irvin, prove me wrong.

@Irvin:
"Then, the OBVIOUS solution is to follow the example of DEVELOPED nations: no 'one-laptop-per-child" programs."

Indeed, they should follow the lead of the Rich Countries and buy their kids own computers. Just like every parent in the USA or EU that can afford it does.

Until they can reach that elusive goal, we could help them like Ken Stark (Helios) does:
http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/

Or we could do the G1G1 ;-)

@Irvin:
"It's completely insane to even consider schools without teachers. It has not happened anywhere in the world and it will not happen in poor nations."

Exactly, I see we completely agree: Children should have access to qualified teachers.

So we should make sure these children can indeed communicate with their teachers, even if the teachers has too many pupils to fit them in a single room at the same time. And they should be able to get help from their peers, even if they can spend only half days
(or less) in school. And obviously, these children should have the course texts and library they so desperately need.

Therefore, we should supply these children and teachers with a communication infrastructure and electronic books until their government can supply the required number of teachers and paper books. That way the children can chat with their teacher and peers, even outside of scarce classroom hours.

Just like the children in the rich countries do.

@Irvin:
"In fact, it is almost a crime that these devices are pushed down the throats of those who can least afford or use them. What's the actual value of this underpowered laptops in places without electricity or internet access?"

So denying these children ANY education until they get your desired NN-free education is not a crime?

Winter

I forgot.

"If you want to see the future of education in the third world then I suggest you read some of Dr. James Tooley's work - http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/tooley.html - which, necessarily, doesn't treat poor parents and their kids like empty vessels into which rich, smug westerners can pour their ill-considered generosity."

Nice initiative. All hail to the free market (which, incidently, last summer wiped out the finacial markets to the detriment of private market initiatives in the developing world)

But this laudable initiative will not solve the teacher shortage in the short (next decade) term. And it is the teacher shortage that is curtailing all plans to improve education in the developing world.

So unless you are willing to write off education for school children in the next decade or so, something different has to be done.

And surely, you would not deny a complete generation of children an education while waiting for the miracle of private education? Would you?

@Irvin:
"What's the actual value of this underpowered laptops in places without electricity or internet access?"

These regions are booming mobile phone markets. But see also

http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.24.html

"Wireless Internet may be a very effective and inexpensive connectivity tool, but it does not carry any magic in itself. It can only be successfully deployed as demand for connectivity and bandwidth emerges in support of relevant applications for the populations served. These may be supporting e-government, e-education, e-health, e-business or e-agriculture applications. But those are not easily implemented in the developing world."

As you see, work is already ongoing in these regions.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060808-7451.html

"Funded by MIT's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, Green WiFi has begun development on the initial prototype nodes. The OLPC project pursues the ambitious goal of bringing $100 laptops to students in developing countries. High-profile critics have derided the OLPC project and argued that the value of the system is considerably diminished without access to broadband Internet. Green WiFi solar wireless technology could potentially resolve that issue by bringing free Internet connectivity to regions with poor infrastructure."

E.g., Gnuveau.net networks
http://www.linux.com/feature/151362

There are all kinds of initiatives to solve the infrastructural problems on a local level.

Winter

> Whenever I ask people from the USA they complain their "politicians" do not care for education. Especially not educating children of poor parents. Teaching is often described as a dead-end job. So my "bashing" is simply repeating what I read and hear from USAians.

> But please Irvin, prove me wrong.

Washington D.C. Public School District - 56% students qualify for reduced/free lunch, i.e. poor - 2008 per/student budget $15,760
Detroit City School District - 74% students qualify for reduced/free lunch, i.e. poor - 2008 per/student budget $10,576, state average $8,561

If anything, the U.S. spends too much on education and, like poorer nations, we have little to show for the expenditure. That's why alternatives to the conventional system can't be suppressed here in the U.S. and why private schools are popping up in poor nations where the locals won't settle for no education for their kids followed by a lousy education for their kids. Maybe.

> Nice initiative. All hail to the free market (which, incidentally, last summer wiped out the financial markets to the detriment of private market initiatives in the developing world).

Parents are like that.

Oh, and it's instructive to note that you can't criticize the initiative of poor people in seeing to an education for their kids via the free market without recourse to misrepresentation of the free market. Matter of fact, you daren't delve into the phenomenon private schools for poor kids due to the inherent discrediting of the public education system in its failure to educate poor kids so it's necessary to misrepresent political meddling in the free market as failure of the free market.

Nice try but poor parents in poor countries aren't interested although I'm sure you feel your rhetorical finesse is quite clever.

> But this laudable initiative will not solve the teacher shortage in the short (next decade) term.

Sure it will. Without the public education system standing in the way of education driven by parental demand the number of teachers will increase rapidly. Since parents are paying, on a month by month basis, for the education of their children you can be sure that lousy teachers will be shown the door quickly lest they destroy the whole school. A school that employs one lousy teacher might easily be a school that employs many lousy teachers. Better to look to the school across the street.

> And it is the teacher shortage that is curtailing all plans to improve education in the developing world.

Oddly enough, this teacher shortage isn't curtailing plans to improve education in areas where the wise, steady hand of government can't be bothered to reach.

Desperation talk, Winter.

(btw, some of your "responses" were to posts other than mine).

The fact is that there is no valid reason for any country to buy into this sad techno-adventure.

It would not be sad if rich countries were the ones risking their money. Unfortunately, the risk is incurred by those who can leat affor it: poor people.

The good news is that until now, only a couple of corrupt banana republics are "biting". The world is not as dumb as those who believe that mere posession of this low-spec device can result in a child's education.

Sorry Allen for the mix up of posts.

@Irvin:
"The world is not as dumb as those who believe that mere posession of this low-spec device can result in a child's education. "

Same for the mere possesion of a mobile phone has transformed the developing world.

Your responses do not really go into the arguments I am giving.

But that is usual: Insult over content anytime.

As always, you display no understanding nor any interest in the reasoning of the OLPC. Nor in the problems of education and development. Your reasoning centers around insulting Negroponte.

Winter

No rich (or poor!) country in the world ever thought that the solution to their education problems was to hand kids a laptop.

Even in the USA, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, elementary school kids DO NOT own a laptop. The same applies to Japan, China, England, Germany, Spain, Israel, Canada, Sweden, and EVERY OTHER developed nation.


Why should poor countries implement a VERY COSTLY (lest we forget that these laptops are not free) strategy not implemented or even endorsed by developed nations?

Utter nonsense.

i think i get off on NN talking in the same way that apple fan boys get off on when steve job gave speeches.

Hello everyone
I am Colombian, I live in Colombia and I teach in Colombia.

Since the advent of the new technologies we, educators, have been looking for ways to reach out and cover the most children and young adults in remote parts of our country. We have created courses, materials and learning objects but our main obstacle is the connectivity and the availability of computers by the children.

We know how these young minds can use all their potential and achieve colossal results if they have the tools.

So I welcome and endorse this One Laptop per Child project. It will help us overthrow the "one gun per child" or the "one mine per child" reality in many zones of our country.

And I invite all of those that keep calling us "banana republics" to come one day to our countries.

You will discover how rich we are.

At around the 3:50 mark, Professor Negroponte says:

"What are some of the results?" "... reading comprehension -- measured by third parties, not by us -- skyrockets."

Does anyone know who these third parties are, what they have measured, and where can we learn more?

Professor Negroponte is a shameless liar. There are no third-party evaluations and the only thing that has skyrocketed - nto this day - is his own failure to produce any meaningful sales. Thus the desperado G1-G1 pirhouettes.

Too many lies.

Too many broken promises: $100 price tag, battery life "measured in days, not hours", human-powered recharger, working mesh, implementation plan, user access to source code, etc., etc.

Irvin,

"Professor Negroponte is a shameless liar."

Keep calm. Think of your hearth.

Some of the references to "banana republic", the FARC and Colombia in general in these comments are truly offensive!

Colombia is a gorgeous country with many riches, cultural, economic, medical and scientific, ecological and perhaps most of all the wonderful people. I've been there many times and look forward to enjoying Colombian hospitality many more times in the future.

To belittle the suffering, struggles and triumphs of the Colombian people in order to make some incomprehensible jibe at OLPC is despicable. Anyone who does that obviously doesn't have the best interests of Colombians at heart.

XOs are just a small part of a movement across Latin America to improve education with technology. Its happening in almost all countries and they are leading the world in that regard.

The deployment mentioned in this article is just one of several happening in Colombia. Those include schools funded by Shakira's foundation (Pies Descalzo) and others. See: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Colombia

There are also XO deployments in the US and lots of demand for more. The tone here is too counterproductive to spend a lot of time looking up info but I'll leave you with a few links:
- Thesis by former MIT student covering a 1 to 1 deployment (pre-XO) in Costa Rica:
http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/41706?show=full

- Study of a pilot in NYC by people at Columbia University:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Academic_papers#Evaluation_of_the_Teaching_Matters_One_Laptop_Per_Child_.28XO.29_Pilot_at_Kappa_I_V

- Study by University of Minnesota of XO deployment in Nepal:
http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/321

Send an e-mail to our Grassroots list or one of the other lists for more discussion, hopefully with a basic sense of respect for the children who are using XOs: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/grassroots/

@Albert Rogers:
"To belittle the suffering, struggles and triumphs of the Colombian people in order to make some incomprehensible jibe at OLPC is despicable. Anyone who does that obviously doesn't have the best interests of Colombians at heart."

Actually, that is Irvin in a nutshell. He (?) never showed any interest in improving education or people in the developing world in general, or technology for that matter.

Search through OLPCnews for his posts and you will see why.

Winter

There is a very good reason why the "developed" countries don't give out free laptops in schools. Gawd, they might use their Internet access to look at pictures of naked women!
The holders of power are basically lazy and ignorant, and the people can easily afford extravagance. They're willing to leave it to the 'experts', most of whom are called "Information Technology" professionals. Typically they place their trust in Microsoft, and don't realise that books, too, and even just conversation, are an information technology, and that the people who write books or talk to each other are also IT professionals.

But One Laptop Per Child is a great way to provide the contents of libraries to children. Indeed, when I think of a friend of mine, active in school volunteering, who thinks that Microsoft's self-promoting free-as-in-free-beer funding of computers in schools is a wholly benevolent activity, I'm surprised that the drug cartels haven't thought of doing the same sort of thing.

I'll bet they won't promote free software, though.

Isn't Peru one of the countries that requires its public documents to be NOT in a proprietary format?
In that respect, Peru is a more advanced country than the USA, whose Department of Justice's lawyers proved in court that Microsoft is guilty of monopolistic practices, and also untrustworthy, but whose computer managing establishment nevertheless still uses the Microsoft Office formats for official document publication!

Now about third party evaluations of educational progress:
JBS Haldane, the great Scots biologist, declared that the test of an educational policy was not whether it gave a seemingly good education to the children of highly intelligent parents (for example, people like himself or Bertrand Russell), but whether, if implemented in thousands of schools, it delivered better citizens than alternative policies.
It does beg the question of what is a better citizen, but perhaps not being so easily dragged into creating a civil war in Iraq might be a criterion.
I'd hazard a guess that if unrestricted Internet access were available to children and youths in an otherwise oppressive political climate (like ours perhaps?) a more balanced view of world citizenship might spread.
It is clear that if George W. Bush had valued education, he'd have got himself one while he was a Yale.

Actually, the colombian military is running colleges for then general public which have a good reputation in the country.

I personally know a couple of folks who went to one of theem (and didn't choose a military carreer after that)

Though i personally like many things more the military (because I grew up in a quite militarized, communist country), it doesn't mean that it is throughout evil.

One have to be fair.

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