Will No One Speak for Africa?

Dvorak has written a scathing criticism about the OLPC ($100 laptop). Bill Thompson answers it in a BBC article:

“And he demeans the people who will receive the computers, asking his readers if they will feel “better about the world’s problems, knowing that some poor tribesman’s child has a laptop”, apparently contrasting a “tribesman” with a real person like himself, safe in his Western affluence.”

OLPC - Icons

Who cares?
Why does it matter that two rich Westerners are batting back and forth over the strategies and benefits of a cheap computer for children in developing countries?

As someone who grew up in Sudan and Kenya, I care. I care because I continue to hear the argument, “why give kids a computer when what they really need is food and water?” I care because people need to stop talking about Africans as if they’re in need of another handout and implying that every child in Africa is living in squalor. Most of all, I care because I don’t hear many voices from the countries that are going to be using these new computers, only from journalists from western countries.

Let’s talk about the Africa we know
There will continue to be drought, floods, war, corruption and poverty – all of the items that plague many African nations and which are amplified by the media.

However, there will also continue to be a solid majority of Africans who live happy lives without the interference of any aid or development organization. They will live in their village, raise their children, send them to school and teach them from their rich heritage. There will continue to be children growing up in the city who love to learn and would blossom even more with access to technology and information.

If you grew up in Africa, do you think that there is a use for inexpensive computers in schools?

African children in class - why shouldn’t they have access to technology?

See the picture above. Why shouldn’t those children have access to these machines? They aren’t illiterate or under-nourished. How many of us remember this same type of schooling? I do, I was in a primary school very similar to this in Southern Sudan. Why couldn’t any of my classmates become technologically literate with access to the right machines? Why only the relatively affluent white child?

What is Africa anyway, and who decides what’s “right” for each country?
Let’s stop painting Africa with a broad brush. Let’s speak out and remind people that it’s made up of more than just “tribesmen”. That not every country is the same and that there are wealthy, middle class, and yes, even poor people. Let’s stop pretending that Ghana is the same as Ethiopia, or that what applies to Botswana applies to Chad.

Most of all, as people with experience living there, let’s own our part of this debate. Why should one more Westerner be making the case for, or against, a cheap laptop for kids in Africa? I’d rather hear two Africans debate it. I’d rather have a thought leader from some African country step up and make the case for, or against, it.

Just because we grew up listening to others decide what’s right for our countries doesn’t mean we need to continue in that same way.

Try this on for size: as an African, you are more of an expert on what your part of Africa needs than any self-prescribed expert from the west.

59 thoughts on “Will No One Speak for Africa?

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  2. lova

    Tremendous post. The “why give kids a computer when what they really need is food and water?” tirade is getting truly tiresome and offensive.
    For instance in Madagascar, many initiatives are pushing hard for children to be more exposed to computer technology as early as possible because it not only is a unique educational tool but it also provides immediate dividend to the small businesses around the country.
    Right now, we are limited to organizing workshops for volunteers in cybercenters and negotiating a discount fares for those sessions because there are no other alternatives.
    OLPC would be a great improvement in helping the children bridge the technology gap before it becomes unmanageable and hopefully help them be competitive in the job market when their time comes.

  3. rob

    Thanks for this perspective. I’ve been wondering about the OLPC thing for a while. But what do you think about laptops vs mobile phones in Africa? It seems mobile phones may be a “better” device to have? I admit I’m a bit ignorant of it, but curious about your and other’s opinions.

  4. HASH

    @ Lova – agreed, my experience leads me to believe that there is a healthy number of children ready and able to make use of these computers right now. Imagine what the next generation of African graduates will be like armed with this knowledge. Worse, image what they’ll be like without it.

    @ Rob – Mobile is “Africa’s PC”. However, there are limitations due to size that can’t be overcome. Programmers will continue to use computers to develop applications, not phones. Web designers, writers, architects, etc. will continue to find a better user experience on larger devices – so there is still a need.

  5. Wanjiru

    I completely completely agree with you!!

    I”m really working hard to buck the trend of raising money for use in Africa by portraying potbellied sick kids.

    i’ve been wrestling with the issue of giving in my own blogging. Why can’t we give in a way that respects the dignity of those receiving?!!!

  6. Bill Thompson

    Thanks for a great article, and for taking the debate far beyond what I can do from my white western perspective – I’m very conscious that too much of this discussion excludes those living in Africa, South America and the other places that could make most use of an inexpensive laptop.

    I agree completely with your view that ‘just because we grew up listening to others decide what’s right for our countries doesn’t mean we need to continue in that same way’ – nobody should be telling you what to do, though there are friends out there who will help you figure it out for yourself.

  7. David Tait

    What Africa needs is to develop education and business skills, the OLPC is a step in the right direction, we are looking at the next generation, not the current situation.
    And who says that all these ‘tribesmen’ are wallowing in poverty and starving. It is this western approach to handouts instead of development that if anything has been more destructive than constructive.
    It is unfortunate that Dvorak has an audience that will listen to his views.
    Come to Africa before deciding what is good for Africa.

  8. Taylor

    So ‘Hash’, can you work your angles and get a discussion between two ‘native’ Africans on the airwaves? or Blogwaves (is there such a thing?) Maybe a vblog or podcast.

  9. Dan

    Live in Africa before deciding what it needs is certainly a good place to start for the west.
    On the flip side I would even venture to say that there is a lack of people who are willing to think outside the box in terms of their future (within Africa that is). This could be for a number of reasons.
    I know this isn’t the case everywhere but it is a vast and underlying issue that needs to be addressed and $100 laptops give the people a window to what is possible.

    I’m not sure that providing technology will improve things, there is always down sides. Loss of culture and more pressure to meet fast work loads etc.

  10. omodudu

    The poor child holding an oversized piece of cracker (AID picture) and that of a vibrant African child with an OLPC both have a place in Africa. The issues facing us Africans is how we can sell both images (unbundling the images). The message ought to be yes we have a tonne of problems, but see we are on the road to recovery and some areas are doing much better than they are portrayed. Some kids need food and water while others need laptops. If the right systems are put in place some of those that need food and water will soon be needing lap tops too.
    I had elementary education in Nigeria, I would use one of those lap tops, regardless of its capacity. I would even venture to say that the exposure to the idea of owning a lap top itself is worth more than 5oo bucks. That is just me.
    Stretching the idea a step further, a mildy more equipped desktop, say 200 bucks will go a long way for middle school and high school students too.
    I must say we Africans haven’t been too successful at selling the idea of a
    Say I am a middle school teacher in Nigeria, I will jump at the idea of teaching online collaboration to my students on a trimmed down low powered computer. Personally I would ascribe a value of 1000 dollars to something like these.
    I was cynical about Negroponte’s idea for over a year, but since I saw the picture of those kids with the laptop I do beleive there were possibilities which I did not consider. I am now for the OLPC.

  11. Lingamish

    HASH,

    Thainamu let me know about your blog. I’m excited by what I see here. I’m a white African living in Mozambique originally from the US involved in Bible translation.

    I have criticized the OLPC strategy several times on my blog: OLPC at Lingamish but you make a lot of good points.

    I’m also very interested in mobile technology and will read some more of your ideas on that before commenting more.

  12. tom muriuki

    Hear Hear…. the OLPC v/s Intel/ Msn has boiled down to market share-

    Market Share ?

    What relevance is an Intel or AMD chip or Open Source software app’s in a Sudanese or Burmese village with no electricity ?

    i’ve concluded that the chip- intelligentsia
    have clearly forgotten their own humble beginnings

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  15. soakri

    Great post Hash . Ridiculous to read these two Westerners arguing over whether African children should or should not have laptops – Do their kids not have computers I wonder? As for the term “tribesman” I cringe and rage at the same time.

    Taylor @ Is that not taking place here and now via this post?

  16. Bill Thompson

    Soakri – I agree entirely, and that’s why it’s good to find this discussion happening here. I know I can’t speak for any African country or for anyone living in Africa, and would never presume to – but I do care what happens in Africa, and I could not let Dvorak’s view go unchallenged. Since I’m lucky enough to have a voice through the BBC website I chose to use it.

    And yes, my children have computers – it’s one reason why I believe every child should have one, whether they live in Abuja, Amsterdam or Hyderabad.

  17. Taylor

    soakri –

    Maybe I don’t know. Not everyone puts their national affiliation/origin/birth/currently living information, so I don’t know. But I was refering more to getting two African leaders to have a public discussion and have it put on WIRED or NEWSWEEK or something of the sort. Anyone in a more developed nation of Africa want to host a public forum?… invite the media and hopefully someone will pick it up and publish the discussion. That would be nice.

  18. JohnofScribbleSheet

    Great post HASH.

    We have heard so little about “what Africa thinks” the debate really needs to be opened to the the so-called beneficiaries of this project. Is it really needed? Is it money well spent?

    These are the questions we must answer. Its worrying the project has come this far along and we are still having these fundamental debates.

  19. Tzaadi

    Thanks HASH for another great post. And thanks to those who commented. This site goes a long way to helping an aging man decide his (next) place in the world.

  20. HASH

    @ Bill Thompson – thanks for coming here to take part in the discussion. I think you handled Dvorak remarkably well in your article – after all, it did instigate this blog post.

    @ Sokari – In the world of PC terms that we live in now, I’m surprised that they let the term “tribesman” be used in this context. I’m not a politically correct guy myself, but do try to have a little tact as needed. :)

    @ Taylor – I’d love it if the larger (than myself) media organizations would seriously let indigenous people talk about the challenges/solutions in their countries. There are some incredibly powerful speakers and thinkers from Africa who could frame both sides of this argument equally well. It would be nice to see them given the same media coverage as Westerners.

  21. Taylor

    Question Hash… What is your web traffic like? How many unique visitors from the African continent view your site daily/weekly? I’m just curious as to the reach your blog has and how many people are reading/viewing these articles…

  22. Keguro

    Of course, the question of why can’t African’s speak is more complex–at times, it means we have to listen. For instance, Binyavanga had a short piece on the meaning of the laptop about six months ago, I believe (I’m too lazy to link). Potash, while not directly discussing the laptop, has had some incredible responses. That we, as Africans, might be indifferent to, bored by, or otherwise disengaged by western-based discussions of us is, in its own way, a fairly appropriate response.

    And, coming from my particular side of the academy, I also want to point out that silence can be its own mode of communicating. Being accused of not speaking when others don’t listen is a catch-22. In a literary vein, I’d ask how we can learn to listen for the silence. (Oh, yes, Sokari also mentions the laptop, if pictures speak–in an interesting take on the silence as speech motif).

  23. Mark Steudel

    I lived in Kenya for over a year helping to develop various ICT programs. One thing I think I found was that there is often “singular vision” among volunteers and ngo workers I met. In demonstrating some of the educational projects we worked on, I almost always got someone coming up to me saying, “Well that’s great, but my children don’t even have computers, what’s the point of this?”. I think this statement is similar to the “Food and Water” vs “Laptop”. In my limited opinion I think that there needs to be parallel efforts made to solve problems at all levels from basic neccasaties to computers to things like blogging, web sites, to programming, etc. Africa’s problems are only going to be solved by Africans. We don’t know at what point innovation is going to happen and by whom, so I believe that every opportunity should be there and whoever wants to grab a hold and run with it will have the tools they need.

  24. Joshua

    Word Hash. Great post and one that I agree needs more of our input. Until we own our stories, the world will continually see us through western journalists eyes. We nee to keep representing Africa and speaking for it.

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  27. Liz

    Powerful post Hash. However, I do believe there are African people talking/debating about this. The issue here is that they are not able to elicit the same media coverage for example as the western personalities who are deemed to be the authority on African affairs. Another example is books on Aid to africa/poverty/diseases/health the leading authorities here Jeffrey Sachs, Collier, Easterly etc. How come we never hear about books written by African individuals based in Africa? We have so many trained and highly skilled individuals all over the continent who can best articulate our issues. The challenge is thus how do we get the rest of the world to listen to our stories as told by us Africans.

  28. Ella Romanos

    Great post. I have to say though that I am quite a sceptic of the OLPC, but not because I believe that kids in Africa shouldn’t have laptops, but more because of the way that the OLPC project itself is being implemented.
    For example, it has been shown in Brazil (having spoken to Jose Valente, one of the people involved in the development of the OLPC in schools project) that for every $1 spent on the laptops, $3 more is needed to support it. Where is that money going to come from?
    Also, an argument that has been made on several occassions, which in theory appears very strong, is that the laptops can hold many textbooks, and therefore are a benefit in that way. But having tried out an OLPC, the screen is so small that reading from it for any substantial amount of time would not be feasible.
    All I am trying to say is that yes, giving Africans a chance to have access to this technology can clearly lead to benefits, and just the fact that the OLPC project has opened up the market to lower cost laptops is certainly a big step in the right direction.
    However, this doesn’t necessarily imply to me that the OLPC itself is a good solution, because there doesn’t seem to be a long term plan of support and development in place.
    (And I completely agree that the African perspective is needed much more on this issue and all others – it is due to the lack of African input that many of the problems with development have occurred over the years, and the issue will not be resolved until there is more input from the end users themselves.)

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  30. ken Opalo

    Africa finds itself at cross roads. We can choose to feed ourseleves – so to speak – and then acquire cutting edge technology later or we can choose to do both at the same time. The latter choice seems more reasonable to me. Lets fight famines and diseases and stop civil wars but at the same time lets teach our brothers and sisters to use computers and be on facebook and be aware of the world around them.

    We simply can’t afford to sit back and wait to play catch-up games in the future.

    The OLPC, I think, is a good idea.

  31. Henry Owera

    I agree with you Hash! Let the experts, the poeple of africa chose their their technological destiny. Since no country is known to have developed through donations, the people of Africa had better take Science and Technology more seriously. ( I prefer to use that phrase the “people of Africa” to “Africans” because it seems “African” means blacks!)

    I posted something similar on my blog, now renamed Salam Taki. Follow the link
    http://owerahbits.blogspot.com/2007/06/free-computers-to-africa.html

    I am now in Juba, Southern Africa and I can tell your readership that I can wispher in the ears that be in the Ministry of Telecommunication and Postal Services.

  32. rob

    I thought the laptops were $100. On the site it says they are $200. Did they double in price or am I missing something?

    BTW, I tried emailing them at the address posted on the site and it bounced. Not good. :(

  33. alexcia

    Another issue being missed in this discussion is the role of governance. This is essentialy a government owned project.
    Once a developing country’s government has these laptops ( a million of them) on its hands it has to wonder: why not give them to every police post? or every school teacher? or every government clinic? or every outreach health worker? every chief? every election polling station ?every every university student? registration office? every village co-operative?

    There are other sectors in economy/government that are RIPE and READY NOW to use these gadgets in a value-adding sustainable way. And these sectors are suffering for lack of an effective IT infrastructure.
    They have more pressing needs and higher opportunity costs in not being computersized,

  34. Taylor

    alexcia-

    I believe the reason for your thoughts is that the OLPC was designed as a learning tool. Since it’s computing power is so low (small screen, hand crank power, b&w screen, lack of use with peripherals, etc.) I do not think anyone would ever suggest it actually be used for real work, only for education.

  35. Ken Banks

    There’s little point in congratulating you on your Blog post, Erik – everyone else seems to be doing so and the debate going on now is testament to it! Really great work.

    There’s been an occasional mention of “mobile being Africa’s PC” here and, as you know, this is an area where I focus most of my time and effort. I decided long ago to see how I could apply my knowledge in a more meaningful way, and kiwanja.net (now five years old) is the result of that.

    This whole debate touches deeply – I am always so incredibly conscious of being a “white guy working in/on Africa”, and feel very uncomfortable with the approach of many organisations, and individuals, who (often unintentionally) reinforce the Africa-in-povery stereotype. As we all know, Africa is a rich and diverse continent and I have the huge pleasure and honour of having worked and lived in a number of African countries over the years.

    Africans, if we can speak of them as one people, are not passive receivers and users of technology. They can also solve many of their own problems with their own ingenuity. So, in my work I only seek to empower African NGOs. I don’t offer answers or solutions to their problems, just tools to help them work it out for themselves. I am proud of my approach, not just because I believe it is the right thing to do but because it also keeps me well away from much of the politics surrounding ICT4D. I’d guess that OLPC, for example, has had to spend at least 20% of its time defending its position, time which could have been used more productively (I’m not saying this is their fault, but it is what seems to have happened).

    The nGOmobile (http://www.ngomobile.org) competition, which you have been great in promoting, has attracted 72 NGOs, many from Africa, each of whom has their own ideas and own solutions to the problems they face. FrontlineSMS, another product I offer free to NGOs, is again an enabler, bringing mobile solutions within reach of grassroots organisations doing the most incredible work in some of the most difficult conditions.

    OLPC, and not the mobile, may be the way forward, but I’m all for local solutions to local problems wherever possible. “Ideally, technology, as a cultural product, should rise from the culture of a people, if it is to be directly accessible to a large section of the population and its nuances are to be fully appreciated by them” (cf. Wim van Binsbergen, “Can ICT Belong In Africa?”, 2004).

    I’ll leave it at that…

  36. alexcia

    @Taylor
    This is a powerful machine, more powerful than mobile phones that we keep hearing about as the gadget for africa.
    Let me count he ways: OS is linux based(very secure), many open source apps, good battery life, has a camera, speakers and microphone, touch screen, tablet capabilities and is network (internet,etc) ready!
    What more can you ask for?
    I know many rural government offices that can put it to very good use!
    Outreach (Health, agriculture, law enforcement, surveyors, construction, architects) workers, can take pics, conference and also use for reference.

  37. Ella Romanos

    It is powerful theoretically, but I know from first-hand experience that it is very limited, the OS will not run some linux-compatible software (for example skype), or mp3’s. If it doesn’t support those, what else does it not support?
    And I completely agree with the local development discussion, I think it is an important issue that the OLPC lacks.

  38. Ella Romanos

    I’m not sure what exactly you mean? I didn’t mean to imply that it is ‘useless’.

    Thanks for that link, I hadn’t seen that info before, and it is interesting (however it does mean still that you will only be able to play mp3’s if you have an internet connection to download the codec – may be a problem/maybe not?). It however doesn’t answer (as far as I can see) why linux-compatible software doesn’t work? I did just do a search in that wiki for IM, and it does have some discussion of that too, but if anyone could tell me why a linux-compatible piece of software won’t work I would be very interested.

    Overall, I just have a potential concern about some of the issues which I think are worthy of consideration when looking at the longterm use of the product. I am not by any means saying that they necessarily make the product useless. And these issues would be applicable for whoever was using the product, although my interest would lie with children using it, as I’m not convinced that the design is really something that would take off with adults (for a start, a man’s hands would probably find it uncomfortable using the tiny keypad for any period of time, and someone my parents age may well have trouble reading the tiny screen…)

  39. alexcia

    Thanks Ella
    I use the term “useless” figuratively. Experience with technology has shown that if a product is not “user friendly” out of the box, it will not make any impact in the market.

    These kids will definately not be typing unix “instal” instructions from the command prompt or anything like that.

    Bottom line is that if we accept that this machine is what we can get, as is, then the most productive use for it would be to try it on different “users” and purposes until we get the best fit. For olpc this is not an option.

    On the keypads (touch-screen input?)and tiny screen, the standard for me is still the mobile phone. .

  40. dlwanga

    On your question of why no African leader is speaking out or comment on the “OLPC” campaign for Africans…i imagine they are so busy deafened by the so many other campaigns for Africans in “there names”..i.e., the Bono Poverty Campaign, the Bush Anti Aids Campaign…the Madona/Jolie adoption campaign..just to mention but a few

    sometimes is gets too defeaning to be an active and politically astitute, well-travelled African..sometimes the Africans themselves encourage this abuse of themselves…in my experience, sometimes Africans in fact sabottage advocacy for the better of our lives and places…i know this from my experience in uganda…particularly if you’ve lived away and return to visit or live, and try to share with people what you have learned about our mis-education of ourselves…so it’s tough

    but obviously, we know that no about of aid can save anybody…i walk around uganda now and wonder, where is all this aid raised for uganda going? what are all these international experts and international orgs doing here? because all is see is people’s resilience that makes them survive…not aid as talked about…in fact the aid i see is SUV driven around by the ‘bringers of aid’

  41. Ella Romanos

    alexcia – I completely agree about the user friendly/out the box comment.
    I think the problem is that to be successful a product has to have a specific target user, in this case children. If a product is well designed it should know who its ‘best fit’ users are before it is even developed.

    The issue with the OLPC is that it was not about the laptop, but about the education, so I guess it could be argued that really it was purposely not designed to be used in other ways (not that I am really saying I agree with the idea behind it…)

  42. ayo

    As a west-initiated and funded project the OPLC is bound to generate controversies and inputs from the so-called experts, well, just like almost any issue relating to Africa with. This will never stop,

    Ory at Kenyan Pundit had a personal experience on this recently when she got yanked off a BBC program – at the last minute for an Asian expert – to talk on issues relating to Africa!

    I have learned to ignore and disregard these instances – their manifestation is just one of the traits of the global society we live in.

    Until Africa can hold its ground collectively and individually, we will continue to be target for experts to dissect. However, after the “experts” are done presenting their opinions to the best of their abilities – they can be sure that someone, somewhere, who is more grounded in the issue, will pick holes in their well-knitted stories.

    And this is what Erik did, hat-tip!

  43. alexcia

    @Ella
    This “education” angle is a “solution” looking for a “problem”. There is no evidence that the traditional model of education “teacher-student” has failed, or is failing.
    olpc is not cheaper and contribute little to the model (it is being force grafted w/o adding value to that paradigm).
    However, there is a HUGE and obvious need for ICT in both government and private sector in Africa. The Q is why not use this “affordable” machine in these sectors?

    I am not suggesting this machine be used in an office setup as a replacement for desktops! but outside it. Most users can even work from home.

    PS. i work in IT, most of the time we do no more than push data (numbers) onto tables (kickoff a job which happens in the background on a remote server), read and send emails and surf the web.
    I can envision an outreach AIDS worker visiting clients at home and giving them ARVs or other drugs using this. Same with an agricultural officer. Even police doing their patrols

  44. Ella Romanos

    In terms of the need for computers in the government/private sectors in Africa – I’m sure there is a need for them, and clearly there would be benefits from having them like you have suggested, but I think that maybe the OLPC is not the machine for the job? Maybe even something like the classmate PC might be better, just because it runs windows? A lot of companies have started making low cost laptops, perhaps there are better alternatives for this.

    In terms of education, I don’t really want to get into a debate about that, because the issue with the OLPC and education in Africa is so broad and there are so many issues that we could go on forever!

  45. Chris

    What a great discussion!

    Many people have declared the OLPC useless because it does not have this feature or that feature (or run Windows, etc).

    This is not important! What is remarkable about many of the people I know in developing countries is that they will innovate once given the basics — look at cellphones, for example.

    The OLPC has all the right basics, let’s just hope the proper distribution and training channels are established for it to become a successful overall project.

  46. Ella Romanos

    Good point Chris, I hope that it does become a success.

    My concern however is that with the limitations it appears to have against other low-cost laptops, it may be hindered from really becoming a big success? And also the fact that other laptops will have potential for futher development, coming out of companies such as Intel or Microsoft, whereas the OLPC does not have this assured continual development/upgrade/maintainance promise?

    That said, it does have some very good points, and I don’t want to sound like I am saying it will fail, just that I’m not convinced either way, and will be interested to see what people make of it, like you said.

    Whatever happens I think it is going to be an interesting learning curve for everyone.

  47. Chris

    Thanks for the insight, Ella.

    What I see as the mistake in your thinking is that “assured continual development/upgrade/maintenance” mustn’t depend upon an external corporation or entity’s indefinite participation.

    The OLPC XO, Classmate or any other device should depend more upon the proper training of host country nationals and the cheap availability of repair parts on a world market so that recipients can adopt the technology in a sustainable manner.

    Otherwise, soon enough, you will have classrooms full of bright green paperweights.

    (See my November blog entries on the OLPC for a longer discussion of this.)

  48. sabina

    I agree with that point of view,but then again our politicians or leaders are busy attending to money and scams that are not helpful to us.

  49. Alexandre

    This comment thread is somewhat reassuring to me. It’s one of the first places I’ve found where thoughtful discussion about the OLPC is allowed. Too bad it took me so long to come to it. But maybe it isn’t too late.

    I’m a French-speaking ethnographer and teacher from Montreal who has been working with Malians involved in hunters associations. Yes, I’m one of those outsiders who does research in/on/with Africa.
    I was originally enthused by the OLPC project. I happen to share several of their goals and approaches. But I’ve grown increasingly worried about the way the project is being handled. To be perfectly honest, it feels as if the XO-1s are being forced on ministers of education in different part of the world with little thought given to the ways the laptops are integrated in local realities. Instead of cultural awareness, some dimensions of the project display an attitude of idealized “cultural neutrality” which, in fact, represents Africa (and “The Rest of the World”) as an amorphous blob of uneducated children. Some parts of this attitude are rather subtle but others aren’t, including statements made by participants in the project.
    Like many others, I happen to think that some tools could make sense in some learning contexts. Personally, I happen to think that cellphones would be more appropriate than laptops in many parts of Africa. But I still wouldn’t want Nokia, Motorola, or Sony Ericsson to push a given cellphone model on African ministers of education, regardless of “location appropriateness” in terms of ruggedness and energy consumption. I cherish human diversity and, at this point, I don’t see the OLPC project as a way to benefit from human diversity.
    In other words, I can relate with some of the stated missions of the original OLPC project but I have deep concerns about the way it is handled at this point in time.
    The reason I think about this so much, these days, is that I’ve been trying out an OLPC XO-1 a friend has received through G1G1. I do agree with everyone who says that “regardless of the tool itself, children will find ways to do neat things with it.” Yet this specific device seems to have been designed with so many assumptions about the world that I think this specific device is the wrong one at the wrong time.
    It does have some really neat features in terms of mesh networking, security, and power consumption in daylight. But, to be honest, it feels like an attempt to shove an inferior product on people who “should consider themselves lucky to get anything at all.”
    While the original OLPC project was allegedly not about technology, the most tangible outcome is a device which seems overrated and oversold. At the same time, the project had valuable outcomes in intangibles like making people think about technology in diverse learning contexts.

  50. summatime

    thank you for showing my young mind yet another perspective on yet another issue in the world.
    on the topic of giving people or children in africa access to cell phones and or computers ,well it doesn’t make a great amount of sense to me.the only thing a human needs to live a fulfilling life is clean water,enough good food to keep a person healthy and strong ,good teachers and elders to help the young to learn about the great big planet that they are placing one foot after the other on,and a sociaty that is excepting and there to help out the sick and old.
    i think that if the bringing of electronics to all people is an attempt to make people feel a sense of equality it should be switched around to the people who have so much access to computers phones tvs ect. should get rid of these electronics that,in my opinion have done more harm than good, and goe back to a more real way of living.

  51. mido

    can i use the pictures published in this article in one of my company’s projects? dont they have a copyright or something like that?
    best,

  52. Bonsa

    the first and basic things to be considered for human beings are not…. but food ,shelter and cloth. Many African children are dying there down town of poverty,starvation and crime . The govt and aids cannot fully address it and so without even fulling their stomach is that moral,legal or ethical to talk about providing those children the so called PC. To decide or not it is up to the Africans govts, people and elite generation! rise up ! dare and stand firm before any one. “Africa ever forward never backward” in words of K. Nkrumah .

  53. Pingback: Will No one Speak For Africa! | besime

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