India, known for the “world’s cheapest” innovations, unveiled a prototype of a $35 tablet computer aimed at students.
The project is part of an ambitious education technology initiative by the Indian government, which also aims to bring broadband connectivity to India’s 25,000 colleges and 504 universities and make study materials available online.
The government even plans on subsidizing the cost of the tablet for its student which would bring the purchase price down even lower. According to Kapil Sibal, the country’s Minister for Human Resource Development, this is their answer to MIT’s $100 computer.
The Linux-based computer at first glance resembles an Apple iPad and features basic functions you’d expect to see in a tablet–a Web browser, multimedia player, PDF reader, Wi-Fi, and video conferencing ability. It has 2GB of RAM (but no hard disk, instead using a memory card) and USB ports and could be available to kids from primary school up to the university level as early as next year.
(Sources: telecentre.org, cnet news, bbc news)
The computer has been named “Nano” and has been developed through joint efforts of IISc Bombay and IIT Chennai. Although the computer itself has been developed through the interfacing of various off-shelf components yet it has been engineered to be rugged and all-weathered, suited for use by children, and can be termed as a very promising innovation. The use of opensource software and cheap hardware, memory cards instead of hard-disk, makes the promise of $10 (aimed target) somewhat plausible.
Plan Ceibal, the education reform initiative that is aiming (most famously) to provide one laptop for every student and teacher in Uruguay. The initial goal was primary education and now its being extended to include the secondary education level. The presentation given by Brechner at IDB’s sponsored event describes the pillars of Plan Ceibal as Equity, Learning and Technology (video of presentation available here). The plan targets to provide one laptop per student and per teacher at all public schools, but is not essentially limited to laptops, rather it extends to development of contents and tools for improving education. The plan also includes efforts for provision of wireless internet at school and public places.
Summarizing the results of partnership with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, Bechner stated that, when it came to individual access to personal computing for all students in Uruguay, “What was a privilege in 2006 is a right in 2009”. The Uruguayan example, Brechner continued, shows that it is indeed possible to provide a laptop (for free) to every student, and how this can be done. In the case of Uruguay, “costs are manageable”, he said, and “impacts are immediate”. Uruguay’s interest in serving as a global model for educational transformation enabled in large part by 1-to-1 computing for students is laudable. The presentation provides financial data to substantiate all the above claims.
The official portal of Plan Ceibal provides various news of the subsidiary projects and initiatives of the Plan. The most striking feature of connectivity through laptops is their ability to connect rural and remote areas to the rest of the world, Plan Ceibal is doing the same. The Plan Ceibal Blog covers the latest news and updates on the project. The blog covered the impacts of OLPC on learning of children in schools and lives of children with disabilities through short anecdotes. A book on the Plan titled “Ceibal in the society of 21st century” was also published in collaboration with UNESCO giving a detailed account of the project and its evaluations.
See the detailed and complete analysis at Trucano’s Page
More information about Plan Ceibal and OLPC in Uruguay:
One Laptop per Child, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide low cost, connected, educational laptop to each child in the world, recently announced its product road map regarding new versions of their XO laptop with enhanced performance, lower power requirements and lower costs.
XO-3, the latest XO concept to be available in 2012, would offer an innovative design of a thin touch screen tablet at lower power consumption and cost and will have a target price of well below $100.
OLPC laptops are designed to be rugged, low cost, low power, connected laptops with special educational softwares for children of remote and underprivileged rural communities.
How many countries are really participating in One Laptop Per Child? Do you know? Does Nicholas Negroponte know? I only know that the definition of “participation” is rather loose right about now.
On one end of the spectrum, we have Australia, where two laptops somehow mean a pilot. On another end we have Pakistan, a country that really has need as Farrukh Ansari says in an OLPC News comment:
Could anyone tell me that how i can get this laptop for my kids, they are keen to use it, but as i live in Karachi, Pakistan, how i can get it. Please, someone help me to find the way to get it.
Well Nicholas Negroponte says Farrukh will soon be in luck:
We are talking to the Philippines and Pakistan – I’m convinced that’s going to happen.
Dr. Negroponte has reason for optimism. He has the commitment of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz. According to an APP news article from November 29, 2006:
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Wednesday the government will consider the feasibility for making low-cost laptop computers available to school going children in Pakistan.
He was talking to Nicholas Negroponte, who is the head of the MIT Media Laboratory and Chairman of a non-profit organization called One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC), which promotes the production of laptops for children at low rates.
The Prime Minister asked the Ministry of IT and Telecom to form a committee to look into the feasibility of such an initiative.