13 February 2007

One laptop per child in Naga?

THIS news item via Yahoo! again tickled my curiousity. It appears the $150 laptop will be pilot-tested by school children in developing countries this month prior to its mass production starting July. Unfortunately, the Philippines is not one of them.

I remember discussing it with Dean Bocobo in one of his posts which I couldn't track now, because I did email Nicholas Negroponte to inquire how we can have these in Naga. Unfortunately, I did not get an answer -- maybe because it was not his correct email add.:)

But this site of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation is giving me hope, particularly because it has created an opening for for communities where the national government will not buy the laptops for them. Just what Naga needs, I suppose.:)

This early, I think we need to address the criticisms hurled against the project, including the possibility that it will end up being resold by poor families who will benefit. Another is the huge amount involved. For instance, if we approach distribution at the household rather than the individual child, it will reduce Naga's funding requirements from 36,000 (our public elementary and high school population) to around 9,000 families (the lower third of our household population).

A demand-driven cost-sharing arrangement might do the trick: if a family who wants the laptop must fork out half of the amount as counterpart, it will have lesser motivation to sell it later. And it will bring down our cost from P262 to a more realistic P67 million. But that is only half of the problem: the real challenge is how to fully maximize this investment, if ever it comes to fruition; as our recent experience shows, the "build-it-and-they-will-come" approach does not appear to work in ICT.

Reuters image nicked from Yahoo