21st century pencils

Yes, yes -I'll get back to urban planning issues soon enough. I actually have two draft posts gathering cobwebs. - I just can't let this story go.

from the FAQ

Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?

One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to "own" something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.

From Negroponte's interview in WIRED:

WN: Do you have any thoughts on what the long-term impact of giving all these kids a programming environment and an open-source ethic might be?

Negroponte: Those are two different questions. Giving the kids a programming environment of any sort, whether it's a tool like Squeak or Scratch or Logo to write programs in a childish way -- and I mean that in the most generous sense of the word, that is, playing with and building things -- is one of the best ways to learn. Particularly to learn about thinking and algorithms and problem solving and so forth.

And providing the tools for some people -- it's going to be a very limited subset (who will use them) -- to develop software that will be redistributed and versioned and so forth out into the world is also important. It's part of the whole open-source movement.

WN: You're going to be unleashing a whole new generation of open-source programmers, who otherwise would never, possibly, have gotten their hands on a computer.

Negroponte: I hope so. I hope we unleash half a billion of them.

WN:What, if anything, has been challenging about bringing this idea to national leaders?

Negroponte: Bringing the idea to national leaders has been easy, partly because I know some of them, or they know me.... It's almost easier for me to get in the door than Michael Dell or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, even though they're more famous, richer or more important. It's easier for me to get in because I'm not selling something.

Once I'm in the door, the idea takes seconds for people to get.... People get it quickly, they sleep on it, very often they wake up the next morning saying, "Oh my god, this is a really big change." The whole idea of harnessing the resources of children themselves to participate in education is a pretty big one. A lot of people don't think about it....

It's a short story. It's also a pretty good story, and there aren't too many good stories in the world right now. There's no angle to it that's bad.... And with the possible exception of the circumstance in which (the government) is so poor that the $100 can't be reached, it really isn't a balancing act here. Why would you not do this?

And Thailand is lining up to buy $1M worth.

hmm... if there was a way to funnel .01% of this year's $10B OFW remittances, we could buy up to 100,000 of these "pencils."

(OK, you have a thousand implementation questions - but let's figure out the solutions to the problems after we commit to an approach.)


batchmate said...

How about having the Philippine cellphone companies have a crack at it first? I know it isn't the most altruistic, but if co-opted into the text messaging, picture sharing realm, there is a chance of getting some attention, and more importantly users.

Having big Philippine business develop and sell versions of the computer, should eventually translate into versions for schools. From a utilitarian perspective, what is a computer without connectivity?

Urbano dela Cruz said...


the OLPC laptop has built in wireless mesh networking.

maybe it's not such a bad tactic -have a "premium model" that retails for $250 - with $100 of the price going to subsidize a free laptop.

cellphone companies are making money hand-over-fist as it is with the volume of text messages. I don't see an income model for them in this.

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