A Holiday Wish: One Laptop Per Nepali Child


I am Shankar Pokharel, President, One Laptop Per Child Nepal. I present to you why I am working towards one laptop per child:

The Goal

Nepal has committed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. At the current rate we're moving, we're not going to make it. The key challenges are to get educators and educational materials out to remote areas. We can't truck in books because there are no roads. We can't convince enough teachers to go live in these harsh places.

It would be much easier and cheaper to send a hundred laptops than a thousand books. A hundred laptops don't replace math teachers but they are better than no math education at all.

The Challenges

A lot people argue that the OLPC project is impractical for a country such as my own. GDP per Capita is $1,675 and this country lacks a lot of basic infrastructure. A large chunk of the population lives in rural villages inaccessible by road. I argue the opposite: The OLPC project is the only way for Nepal and countries like it to provide high-quality education to all of their people.

Some people argue that it is arrogant for the OLPC organization to assume that poor kids want laptops. I think it is arrogant to assume that we don't want them and that we can't figure them out. Those kids are poor, but they're not dumb. They will figure out how to use the laptops and support them, even if their parents and teachers are dumbfounded by them.

A Nepali School

So how are we going to pay for these laptops? Nepal's yearly national education budget is only 100 million dollars. Nepal doesn't even provide education to 20% of its population in remote areas.

Nepal will have to dramatically change its education strategy and budget to provide universal primary education for all its children. We believe that we will have use funds from the government, international donors, and the villages themselves to finance this project. This will be a complicated but necessary process, certainly easier than the existing alternatives.

Let's Crunch Numbers!

I am going to crudely calculate how much Nepal needs to implement this initiative. The laptop cost $140 now and it may fall to $100 by 2008, and maybe $80 by 2009. Let's make it an even $100. Let's assume that each laptop requires $40 in annual support. We think that support will cost less here in Nepal because labor costs are quite low. Let's assume again that each laptop lasts three years.

That's a total of $100 X 6,000,000 kids + 3 X 40 X 6,000,000 kids = $1.32 billion

The Government:

The Government is going to have to dramatically increase its budget to educate its populace. It will have to triple its budget to educate all of its children. Let's say the government only doubles its education budget to $200 million per year and puts 1/3 of its budget toward buying laptops. That's $200 million over three years.

International Donors:

In FY 2004 Nepal received USD $320 million in foreign aid. In FY 2003 it was USD $555 million. I don't have aggregate numbers for 2005 and 2006, but in these last two years the World Bank has invested over $100 million in Nepal. You can guess that much of this money did not reach many of the intended beneficiaries. Let's say that Nepal receives an even $1 billion in foreign aid every three years. Let's say Nepal's foreign donors put a full third of their largesse into OLPC. That's $330 million


Learning in Nepal

Right now, Nepal does not provide books or school supplies to students at public schools. Parents typically have to pay around $40 per year for their child's school supplies. The XO is supposed to last about five years. Let's say that it only lasts for three years.

That is $120 for textbooks and school supplies compared to $140 for the laptop. We expect the cost of the laptop to fall to $100 by 2008. Perhaps they will fall to $80 by 2009. What if the price never falls? More and more affordable computing initiatives pop up every day, notably VIA's PC-1 initiative.

Not every Nepali will be able to contribute $120 towards the laptops but the 95% will be able to contribute something. How will we collect the money? What about those that can't afford anything? Let's round the average Nepali parent's contribution to $60 per child for every three years. $60 X 6,000,000 = $360 million


Damn, that's only adds up to $860 million! Even with very optimistic numbers at that. What a failure. We might as well give up on this whole laptop thing and revert to our current strategy which is succeeding fabulously at not educating our people. Hey, 45% literacy doesn't look too bad after all! We can always send our literate citizens to earn hard currency in the Persian Gulf as security guards and maids!

In case you missed the point of this little exercise, here it is: Nepal and countries like it can draw on multiple sources of funds to finance this project. Further, the current government budget isn't necessarily a good guideline to how much money its citizens pay for even public education.

And are my numbers really so optimistic? OLPC's laptop costs $140 now. About five years ago a computer w/ the roughly the same specifications would cost you about $1000. How much will it cost in five years? Certainly under $50. Countries like Nepal have to make smart choices now in order to achieve 100% literacy within the next eight years.

I recognize that one could criticize many aspects of my arguments here. But critics don't have to make choices. I am focused on the year 2015 and how to make high quality education--not just literacy--available to every Nepali child by that time. That is why I am working towards the goal of one laptop per child for Nepal.

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Great post. There seems to be an assumption among critics of olpc that people in the developing world are idiots who could never figure out any way to finance the laptops and make good use of them. You post demonstrates this is not the case.

You say that teachers don't want to move to more distant locations. Perhaps the laptops could include a how-to-read program. And once they children know how to read, they could make use of programs in mathematics and other subjects.

firstly; coment on the original article!

>The Government is going to have to dramatically increase its budget to
>educate its populace. It will have to triple its budget to educate all
>of its children. Let's say the government only doubles its education
>budget to $200 million per year and puts 1/3 of its budget toward
>buying laptops. That's $200 million over three years.

No! I thought budget allocated on a topic for a year IF NOT USED will get automatically disolved and gets deposited to the national tresury at the end of every YEAR! What is the new policy for for payment under OLPC? Is all money for the laptop be pre payed or just partial amount?

Also, as per INTEL'S anouncement they plan to launch LOW COST LAPTOPS similar to that of OLPC ( with some more features and little more cost) But suppose if government decided to fund on this project... as per your assumption with 3 years of money... it will be 4 years before Nepal gets the laptop (as budget for this year has already been finalized)

In 3-4 years time... i SUPPOSE cell phones WILL have farrr more features than that of the laptop. already right now Nokia 140$ cellphones == 10000 rs nepali has more features than the laptop has promished with only disadvantage of small screen & source for battery charge.

nepali population: 26469569

Note 0: According to the article funds for 6,000,000 SETS OF LAPTOP should be gathered to process the order.

ref: http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nepal/one_laptop_per_nepali_child.htm

Note 1: 6,000,000 == 1/4'th of Nepals population! (roughly)
Note 3: Kids below 14 years of age 43% == 11381915
Note 2: So target consumers of the laptop (roughly) HALF of the Nepalese kids below age-group 14. so from (NOTE 1:) our target consumers are (roughly @ maximum) Half of the nepali population!

also look at the stat for literacy rate:
http://www.uis.unesco.org/profiles/EN/EDU/countryProfile_en.aspx?code=5 240 but as per the literacy stat (@ max... rough assumption): 75% of kids below 14 are literate; then Note 3 becomes: ==8536436 KIDS using laptop.

Now Ref: Note 0 Ignoring all other factors!

If 1 person is assigned the responsibility of 1000 laptop for support, education etc.... it will still require 6000 individuals/volunteers?

Considering all of the above factors i dont see a very bright future for OLPC project ( i'm a supporter of this project but a critic) unless the laptop production and shipping as per OLPC starts soon and nepal can order fraction of 6,000,000 SETS!

"In 3-4 years time... i SUPPOSE cell phones WILL have farrr more features than that of the laptop."

Cell phones will have far more features than at present because chips will continue to give more power for less cost. But that applies to the chips for the olpc, too

"already right now Nokia/sony 140$ cellphones == 10000 rs nepali has more features than the laptop has promished with only disadvantage of small screen & source for battery charge."

I don't think anyone could get any real work done -- like writing research papers or studying physics experiments -- on a smart phone. The screen is too small and it is much harder to key in text. If it was possible then corporations and governments would throw away all those millions of desktops and laptops they purchase and maintain at enormous expense, and substitute smart phones. Are you aware of any plans to to that now or in the future?

"i dont see a very bright future for OLPC project ( i'm a supporter of this project but a critic) unless the laptop production and shipping as per OLPC starts soon and nepal can order fraction of 6,000,000 SETS!"

The minimum order for olpc is 1,000,000.

While this might surprise some people, I too love this post! While I'd still say that there are more numbers not calculated in to that 1.32B number, nit-picking doesn't really change the basic logic of the post, which is that countries can and will make sacrifices to fund OLPC projects.

My concern is what the results of these sacrifices be, and will the OLPC make it worthwhile. Countries must make some hard choices, whether those are requesting that loan and aid agencies focus their funding on the OLPC at the cost of other projects, which may range from business development to agriculture to HIV/AIDS projects.

Which is fine. Long term, I don't doubt that education and access to information is the best, if not only, path out of poverty. But it'd be nice if we had something beyond a nifty laptop, hope, theory and a program in rural Cambodia using normal laptops to work with...

Nepal can't advance on the whole w/out first addressing education. How can businesses and agriculture develop if everyone is illiterate? Also, literate people can read about HIV/AIDs.

We've (OLPC Nepal) got the B1 prototype and it lives up to the hype. It already effectively replaces pen, paper, and books. That alone makes if cost-effective. The next step will be to see if it can transform learning along the lines of Seymour Papert's learning vision. Children and adults around the world already use computers to learn by doing. I don't see why the OLPC will be any different.

Thanks, Eduardo, bipin, jon and ShankUr for your comments.

bipin G, we will not wait until Nepal will be able to pay for 6M laptops, i.e. we'll start by deploying the laptops to the most deserving children first and reach to every child as soon as possible.

Regarding your Cellphone vs. Laptop proposition, can you please refer me to the cellphone model of $140 that has open source software, dual mode display, writing input/touch pad, wi-fi networking....... with 2W max. power consumption?

bipin G, the laptops are not for the literate kids to learn using the computer applications as you have written, but they are the tools for "learn learning".

Great article Mr.Shankhar Ji!!! Really a great job!!!

It has been consistently and deeply supported as a global goal that every child of an every country should have a chance to complete at least a primary education regardless of their origin, sex, age, caste, race and ethnicity specifically to the children of rural parts of the country and the government of that particular country is responsible for providing that.

Education can only be proved as a powerful driver to drive towards the path of success and development thereby lowering the poverty rate, unemployment rate and filling the gaps of inequality with faster economic growth and also the most effective weapon against HIV/AIDS too if it is distributed all among the children of the country.

In this regard, OLPC is the one that can be best proved to provide children in learn learning environment, cognitive learning, creative thinking and constructivism therby revolutionizing the current poor and root learning education system of developing countries which has actually lag them behind from the competitive global market.

Laptop is just like a key for creating, applying and spreading new ideas and technologies among themselves. Laptops will be used by the children as window to perceive the world in a new dimension through individual interaction and exploration and a tool for creating and constructing new ideas. Moreover, laptops will build human capabilities among the children like individual power to speak, make choices, raise a voice in a society and live a better new life.

Great post, maybe you can organize something to work with: www.infonepal.org so that you can have those that volunteer to teach through their program work to help with your goal!

An interesting initiatives to link nepal to the global knowledge. Fantastic. Moreover, the youth energy that is in to make this move a success is praisworthy. Hoever, time and again while talking about the education system, many people see problems at delivery level. Hence, this aspect is an important to consider to make the move a success.

Good Luck.

Althogh its upper level plan but implementation in nepal may require lots of problem facing.

I am Vice president of our new organization. but we the volunteers are working from several years in this service for worsen Nepal My experience is from health and social service in various Hospitals and social originations The change of New Nepal is growing deprive and poverty even in urban. Most of the students are dropping their schoolings. Most of the youths are in trauma from global gap and others that you know very well.
We the Children Adolescent and youth Movement –Nepal's staff commuting for the Democracy and human rights awareness as well as educational supports. if you think we are capable for involving and accompanying with your program , we humbly request you for submitting.
For a accumulation we have a permit to work in Nuwakot District. Where Tamang and other girls are to be subject for trafficking to India as per their poverty and oblivion.
Mrs.Sarita Rana Magar
Mob.No.: 9841362427
(kmshakya -9841272880)