How would you accelerate the adoption of OLPC in India?


OLPC has already spread across some 40 countries. More than 2 million children are learning with the help of its laptops named XO. In India, however, while various states have approved the project and are piloting it, the central government has not taken a pro-active stance to roll it out and thereby letting 96% of Indian children remain generations behind the rest of the world. I have heard three main hurdles to it:

1. Its not cheap enough

At some Rs 15000 including taxes spent over 5 years, or less than Rs 10 per day per child, its still too expensive: I suggest, its less than a third of what the government schools spend on education and less than 1/20th of what private school charge and less than 1/100 of what higher end school charges and less than 1/1000 of what the American school costs in India.

If the government wants to think like a fixed-income employee, there is no solution in sight. If the government thinks like an entrepreneur, we can cover every child in 5 years and create a nation of people who can explore their potential in the times we live in.

2. Children do not have enough to eat

I asked several mothers who earn less than $20 a month and they all said that they all live and have learnt to live with hunger. But good education can give them hope. If the education comes with a piece of bread and a tablet when ill, that is all they want.

If we can offer every labour 100 days of employment at minimum wages totaling Rs 100 a day, can we offer every child Rs 10 per day for improving their learning please? This will be an investment with a 100% to 1000% return over time compared to the necessary cost of NREGA employment at simply survival and no returns.

3. India can do it cheaper

This hurdle is more intellectual. Those who have never created any product claim that they can create a next generation technology product for a tenth of the price: My take is that clearly they are clueless, let them plan to create a great product in the next 10 years, allocate a budget, get a globally accomplished team, show some commitment to the idea and let that go on in parallel. Meanwhile, please do not deprive everyone else with the opportunities that are present today.

What do you think? How would you advise India's honorable educational leaders such as Kapil Sibal? Or Purandeswari? Or Anshu Vaish?

Satish Jha is the President and CEO, OLPC India


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I'd advise them to wait until there are studies that show the educational benefits of one-on-one laptop programs. It would be a great disservice to Indian kids to waste our precious little resources on programs that don't work. I wish OLPC had taken the time to conduct the necessary pilot programs and to develop the necessary educational software. As it is today, the XO is nothing but a little underpowered computer and nobody knows how to justify its purchase. Ask the teachers in Uruguay.

I would love some pointers (URLs) that shows what the teachers (not "a teacher") in Uruguay have to say.
Also, a successful or failed pilot in Uruguay or Alabama does not necessarily predicts future in India or other places where the rest of the conditions are vastly different. A big pilot in India is the way to go on that.
Now if OLPC or India government should fork the $30-40 mil needed for a 100.000 laptop pilot (considering the size and diversity of the country), I can only say that positively OLPC _can not_. And does not make sense either. OLPC is a non-profit, not an NGO/charity organization.