OLPC Peru: A Mystery Wrapped in an XO Enigma

   
   
   
   
   
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Press happy OLPC computing
On Sunday 6th, May 2007, Peru's Minister of Education announced that the country was to participate in the OLPC project. He appeared on the front yard of the Government Palace, next to the Housing Minister (more on him later). With an XO in hand, he stated the following:
  • Peru was going to signed an agreement with the MIT next July for participation on the OLPC program.
  • The computers were quite affordable, at 100 USD per unit. It wasn't completely clear, but it was understood that public funds were going to be used to buy an indeterminate number of the computers for the "poorest students" of the country, with further elaboration.
  • Finally, he stated that the computers are already been used in other Latin American countries, and the first 100 computers, already bought by the Peruvian government, were to be distributed for experimental purposes.
And that was it. No further information is available, not even in the ministry website or elsewhere. Not even on the video of the Minister's press conference:
Calls from journalists to the Education Minister's press office haven't been returned as of Tuesday. Here's a scan of the coverage by one of our newspapers, Expreso (not necessarily the most reputable one, BTW), the only that gave the statement significant real estate; other papers haven't publish much, though at least two, La República and Peru 21 have taken the very sensible step of looking around the Web and mentioning some further info, like the mistaken price.

There is very little need for the readers of this site to get into the details of the glaring mistakes in our minister's statement. The presence of the Housing Minister, Hernán Garrido Lecca, a MIT alumnus and an interesting character that has been involved in minor scandals about his personal PR machine and that fancies himself as a renaissance man, may be an indication of his involvement in the decision. On the other hand, the absence of the President, Alan García, is puzzling, since he is normally the one making all the interesting announcements.

Since there is so little information about the intended course of the XO implementation in Peru, I've taken the liberty to compile a list of questions that I believe the minister should answer to public opinion and taxpayers like me. This is not an attempt to question the very nature of the OLPC project, but rather the specificity of the Peruvian decision, and the actions considered to make the project worthy of the investment. Let's say that till there is some clarification from our government, my main concern is not the philosophy of the project but exactly why it has been decided this particular course of action, from where is the money going to come, and how the implementation will affect the whole educational edifice in Peru.

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OLPC and Peru's MoE

Here's the list, translated by me from my blog Adversus OLPC:

  1. Are you aware that the XO hasn't been used anywhere in the world, and that its real usefulness is unknown?
  2. The XO has been built around the constructivist educational model. Are there any plans to incorporate such perspective into our educational system? Which are those plans?
  3. The cost of each computer, without any servers, maintenance nor support plans, is currently estimated at USD 175. Initial orders are for 250.000 units, which translates into an initial investment of USD 43.750.000. Is this amount budgeted? What is going to be left out for this investment, if anything?
  4. What is the estimated amount, all included, to provide all schoolchildren with an XO? What is the estimated Total Cost of Ownership? How long is it expected to work?
  5. Is there an implementation plan? How are we going to provide a computer to all students? How long is it going to take?
  6. Are there any specific groups to be prioritize? Or everyone will be provided?
  7. The OLPC project assumes that the computers are the property of students. What is the transfer regime? What would happen if the computer breaks down, gets stolen or simply reaches its end of life and requires to be replaced?
  8. Will the teachers receive a computer too?
  9. Will private schools be allowed to participate in the project? Will they receive the computers for free, or will they have to buy them?
  10. Is there any relationship between the XO computers and the Plan Huascarán (an old program, by the previous administration, sort of left to rot by the current one)?
  11. Who is going to be responsible for content provision for the computers? Is there a plan?
  12. How will the computers be integrated into bilingual educational programs (for aboriginal communities)? Is there a plan?
I'll keep posting any new developments that may happen in my neighbourhood.

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14 Comments

Apologies to all who tried to comment on this post earlier today. OLPC News, Verizon, and half of Washington DC had technical difficulties with the Internets this morning.

I don't think the poor Peruvian Education Minister even knows that Negroponte's favorite answer when asked about pilot projects and testing of the XO machines is

"SCREW YOU!"

That's an excellent set of questions. I would add just one:

13. Is there going to be a follow-up evaluation program to determine what impact OPLC has on children's learning?

By the way, Negroponte was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today, talked about olpc at some length.

"SCREW YOU!"

Troy,

Why do you bother 'contributing' to this blog ? Your increasingly irrational and somewhat hysterical posts apart from slightly entertaining value add very little else...

I enjoy reading this blog as most posters seem genuinely interested in OLPC development and trying in their post to be both informative and civil. Unfortunately, your posts are a glaring exception - please don't spoil it for others...

Delphi,

I know this will come as a VERY DEMORALIZING SHOCK to you, but the "screw you!" words are not mine. They are Negroponte's, your beloved leader.

I wold not talk like that to you, to anyone, let alone to poor people willing to risk 100's of millions of dollars on my latest adventure!

Check this out:

******************************

“This is not something you have to test; the days of pilot projects are over. When people say ”well, we’d like to do 3 or 4 thousand in our country to see how it works..” Screw you! Go to the back of the line and someone else will do it, and then when you figure out that this works, then you can join as well”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5ySOqtxhbw&mode=related&search=

at 5:28 into the video.

********************************

Delphi, I hope you have the moral & intellectual integrity to judge Negroponte by the same standards you so quickly applied to me...

Guess what? Nicholas Negroponte's brother John, arrived today to Lima - Perú.

John Negroponte is the number 2 of the USA's State Department,

Alejandro, I fail to see the point.

Unless you are trying to say that the XO is just a conspiracy concocted by the Negroponte brothers to control kids' minds around the world, something that may only exist as a figment in the collective loony left imagination.

Some further developments:

Yesterday, May 10th, the ministry called for a press conference. The speakers weren't any officials from the ministry itself, but the chairperson of the Private Council for the Digital Agenda (http://www.agendadigital.org/) (CPAD), a private collection of interested parties in the development of the "digital society" in Peru.

I won't transcribe the whole thing, which is available in a formal press release here: http://www.minedu.gob.pe/noticias/index.php?id=4799, but basically they said:

1. The Minister asked this organization for their technical opinion on the laptop.
2. The computer, being studied / considered for acquisition by the ministry (please note the change here), is designed to work at places without electricity and to withstand blows, and it is water resistant.
3. Estamos frente a una herramienta que permite que el estudiante entre, salga y desarrolle las competencias necesarias para el futuro”, (we are in front of a tool allowing the student to get in, get out and develop the skills necessary for the future).
4. Some extra technical details, including a mistake by the ministry hacks saying that it has a 19 inches screen.

And that's it. Not a single word from the ministry itself, nor any consideration about the educational purpose, intentions and values to be taken into account for this project.

Swell...

A very small development: some journos have just told me that they've arranged an interview with the viceminister of Education, to discuss a recent tele-education plan and the OLPC, but the viceminister told them afterwards that he has received order from above that no mention whatsoever of the OLPC should come from the ministry.

I don't know exactly what is trying to achieve through this "cure of silence", as we call it here, but confidence on the plan, certainly not.

Classmate in Peru

Yesterday, El Comercio (the most important newspaper in Peru) has been announced that Ministery of Education will be started a pilot with 100 ClassMate PC and Intel vicepresidet's John E. David has been arrived to Peru.

President Garcia was famous because in his 1st goverment he dictate laws to manufacture computers in Peru (it was not allowed to import a complete computer)... and he export those computers to Russia. Then Russia bought papers of the Peruvian Debt and exchange (as part of the payment) with the Peruvian goverment (papers vs computers) and... this is the key: the free fish activity that the Russian ships develop during the whole 1st goverment of Mr. Garcia... no supervising of the Peruvian authorities... oh! yes... we try to supervise... but the first 3 people from the Marine Institute that board the russian ships never return to port, they were declared missed in the ocean by accidents... 3 in a row!!!

And García's Friend, a known arquitect, later named embassador in Germany, put a company and hire some russian employees to develop a BIOS chip... all a fake movement... there are only 5 or 6 known BIOS for the PC and all those companies are multimillion dollar companies... but Peru in those years ship the computers to Russia with those "cloned" ships (they burn the taiwan bios chips and "burn" a peruvian name)...

And García was involved in the SOLGAS and SICELA computer scandals too...

So doing business with high tech is very common to what Garcia and his people is used to do. Nothing new.

Another characteristic of Prsident Garcia is that he likes to have "private" meetings with ticoons and "key" people... example: when the 1st part of the Chavimochic multimillion dollar was on agenda (1st goverment) he meet with the 2 companies (the Brasilians and the Bertorello's companie) at the same time (different rooms of course!) and he went room after room looking who was able to give a bigger contribution to his personal account (told by a person that was there, a key player). But if this is not true... WHY a president like to meet with that key people in THAT special key moment? It is a matter of coordination.. now, year 2007, it is forbidden to have such meetings... but Mr. García like to have those kind of meetings, that are not totally published in his agenda. My logic is that millions must be in the play arena... that is the reason Mr. Garcia didn't show during the presentation of the Minister Chang.

Knowing the players... helps to know the game!

A recent development in Peru: Walter Bender was at demo of sorts (a tech demo, not a political one) in Lima, where the XO was presented to students at a low income primary school.

Here's the press release for those that read Spanish: http://www.minedu.gob.pe/noticias/index.php?id=4830

The shocker: Peru is "studying the acquisition" of the computers, so there's no commitment, yet. Or so they say now.

Apart from that, nothing particularly new, including the old mistakes. besides a very dark cloud: a new "expert" has been called to support the ministerial decision, and he's an employee of the university ran by Mr. Chang before he became education minister (he's a leave of absence).

Nicholas Negroponte will be in Lima. This wednesday (13, June). Negroponte will be awarded a DOCTOR HONORIS CAUSA by Universidad de San Martín de Porres (USMP). The minister of education is the president of USMP.

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