I am Anders Mogensen, co-founder of Seismonaut - a Danish idea and innovation consultancy. At Seismonaut we map emerging technologies, new media and user trends in the changing global landscape.
A few weeks ago I was in Nigeria taking a closer look at the OLPNC (One Laptop Per Nigerian Child) initiative. During my five day visit I had the opportunity to meet with the key stakeholders in Abuja, and pay a couple of visits to L.E.A School Galadima. Over the next three days, I will share some of my findings in short write-ups.
Visiting the school
Before meeting with the stakeholders I decided to pay an unannounced visit to the L.E.A. School Galadima, to get a personal first hand impression of the project. This was a few days before the school would resume after the summer holiday.
As we got closer to Galadima the setting surrounding us started looking as what I had mentally visualized. Small villages, cows and goats running along the road side and small market stalls set up selling locally grown fruits and vegetables. So I was rather confused when our driver suddenly turned off the main road and entered a gate that read: "Welcome to Abuja Model City".
The road led us into an estate area with a large number of newly built villas all with green grass lawns, electricity, running water, satellite dishes on the roofs of the houses, and security guards standing outside each house. These villas were so big I guess only the wealthiest Nigerians could afford to stay here.
A few hundred meters further down the road we suddenly saw the old school building located on a large plot that was not in any way as fancy as the housing estate. This was L.E.A School Galadima. The school was locked up, but we could see the solar panels on the roof that are used for the "gang chargers" (multi laptop battery chargers) in the classrooms, and noticed the satellite dish providing the internet connection.
Some workers on the site were building two new classrooms which would double the total number of available classrooms. With about 350 students in total this was a much needed improvement.
The surroundings confused me a bit, and I wondered were rich kids attending this old and dusty public school? I asked the workers if this was the case. They laughed and said that not a single child attending the school came from the estate area, rather they all walked several kilometers to school from villages behind the housing estate. However they knew of one kid, Ola, who lived with his grandmother very close to the school.
They pointed us in a direction to area and we set out to find Ola. The story turned out to be that some relatives of Ola owned an empty housing plot and to ensure that nobody would suddenly come and claim ownership over this plot they had built a shabby shed and offered this to Ola's grandmother. In order for somebody to look after and assist the grandmother, Ola was sent to her, as Nigerian culture prescribes it.Ola was a wonderful chap. He was 10 years old and attended primary 2. He had received his laptop just a few weeks before the summer holiday, and with no form of forehand knowledge on using technology I was amazed at how confidently he used the laptop. He told me that he had watched the older boys using their laptop, so when he received his own, he was quick to catch up.
His favourite program was "camera" - as he said with his distinctive Nigerian accent. He showed me drawings he had made, video clips he had filmed and also demonstrated the use of the tam-tam music program.
The main challenge for Ola was where to charge his laptop, as there was no electricity in his house. He told me that he found somebody in one of the big villas that let him charge his laptop. This is not a viable solution, but as Potenco are yet to release their interesting invention the human power generator designed for the XO, and OLPC seem not to have any ready alternative, electricity is one of the big challenges of this implementation.
In the next report I will turn to looking closer at the stakeholders of the project in Nigeria. Clearly if Nigeria is to succeed with the OLPNC project the process must engage a number of stakeholders - governments, the private sector and civil society organizations and donors.
Who are involved and how do they contribute?