11.15.2005

closer to reality

Design Continuum's prototype of a $100 laptop with hand crank,
for students in developing countries.


Follow up to my earlier post and I'm still asking why we're not on the list?

The WSJ article points to a 2006-2007 release. Brazil is in the forefront and they also see the benefits of manufacturing the machines:
"Rodrigo Mesquita, a Brazilian entrepreneur and a member of a government working group on the project, says his country believes the laptops could be used both to improve public education and the economy. Brazil is hoping to manufacture three million units, beginning next year, and supply some of them to other countries, he says. He also says money normally spent on textbooks would be used to pay for the laptops for Brazilian schoolchildren. "I'm very optimistic," he says, giving the project a "70 to 80%" chance of being launched in the country."

If the national government is too busy (and it the NGO community is too busy), I hope some local executives get excited with the prospect of using this in city schools and take steps to acquire the technology.

UPDATE: November 17 -see pictures of the OLPC laptop (unveiled by Negroponte in Tunis during the UN Internet summit)

8 comments:

Rizalist said...

Hi there! You put your finger on the answer: you cannot rely on the government to do things like this, (where 93% of DepEd's budget is given over to salaries and textbooks are a minor afterthought). Imagine you owned FEDEX. Then you hired 400,000 truck drivers with permanent lifetime contracts, but you didn't buy any trucks, planes, phones or computers. That's Deped.

If the $100 laptop ever is viable, we shall surely get our supply from China, probably Lenovo.

Cheers! Nice Blog MLQ3 pointed you out to me.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

DJB,

thanks for the compliments.

I know DepEd's budget is constrained -hence the need for projects like GILAS. What I'd like to see is some initiative from the government, or even some interest. I sure there are some very creative ways of raising funds for even a pilot of this program.

(If ever there was a good reason for a cellphone or a texting tax, this would be it.)

I understand GILAS is in touch with Negroponte but they are concerned that it may not be applicable to the Philippines. I think they are constrained by thinking in the box (literally: desktops, MS Windows, telecom service).

I do think we have the capability to produce this laptop at home. We have the computer assembly plants and OLPC is, after all, an open source model.

Rizalist said...

Perhaps it would be better for us to invest in the training of software developers, which hardly needs any hardware at all. You may or may not know this, but it is legendary knowledge that the Russian who invented TETRIS wrote the code for it BEFORE he had a computer.

BTW, the Deped's budget is not "constrained" it is misallocated. They do not LACK for money. They lack the will to do the right thing instead of the political thing.

Dave Starr said...

As a foreigner whose only connection to the Philippine sis marriage, I can't possibly know the ins and outs of the DepEd or any other agency. But I can categorically say, based on my years in the US government and work in many other countries, that the chief problem in these cases is the focus upon money. When something like this comes along that might allow huge advances in education for a small fraction of conventional budgets, the powers that be see it only as something that will diminish their stature .. or worse, their salary.

Most of the educational administrators in this world come from an educator background. Go to a local school .. or school of your choice in any country .. and ask a teacher or school principal, "What would you do today to improve your school if you gave the $200; $2,000; or $20,000"?

In spite of their advanced degrees and experience in the class room, the number of cogent answers you receive .. or don't receive will shock you.

I'd love to be involved in some way with helping the Philippines get on board with this program, but don't kid yourself ... one of these machines on every desk will not solve the Philippines' educational woes.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

DJB,

I can't speak to whether the DepEd funds are "misallocated" as I have no data on it. Although with 12M elementary school children to educate, and a ratio of 1:40 -you'll need to pay an army of 300,000 teachers. that's not the ideal ratio either -if you push for a modest 1:25, you'll need 480K teachers. Hence, I would not be surprised if the personnel payroll ate up the lion's share of the DepEd budget.


dave starr,

I agree that educators should be allowed to be educators -and shuffling them off to the administrative positions is probably peter's principle exemplified.

The problem with the system is, the only way teachers get pay raises is to become administrators.

Ideally renumeration should be dependent on effectiveness -such that good teachers can continue to become even better teachers.

In my ideal world, teaching would be the highest paid job -it would also be the MOST difficult profession to enter.

As to the topic at hand: I do not dream that OLPC will be the panacea for our educational woes -but I do believe that empowering people (i.e.-giving students the tools to learn on their own) is always, always a very good thing.

Rizalist said...

Urbano,
My solution would be for government to get out of things it has tried to do good in for over half a century but has completely and utterly failed. For example, I would immediately get the govt out of high school and devote all of its money to the elementary level. Btw. my statistic that 93% goes to salaries is accurate. Where we are going wrong is indulging a deadly and frankly unattainable ideal: FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION in 10 grades. And look the private schools are all doing fine. I challenge the notion that private schools have to be expensive. I think it is the fact that govt supplied education is simply EXPENSIVE education because of the FEDEX syndrome I mentioned.

BTW hundred years hence, you might enjoy this link to tech memeorandum:
http://tech.memeorandum.com/

Rizalist said...

I can say it more clearly now.

The government, by providing "free" public schools is actually a big monopoly that competes with private schools for students. Because public education is "free" the private schools cannot compete with Deped except for the richer segment of society that can afford the high tuition costs the private schools have to charge because of the relatively small market share left to them. But I submit, that if for example the entire high school cohort were left to private schools, their tuition rates would drop because of economies of scale. And it would be for LESS than the current budget. Heck, if you gave Ayala Corp or De La Salle P125 billion I bet they could do deliver far better education than Corruption Inc.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

djb,

you lose my vote when it comes to privatizing education. I look at the examples of Finland or China -countries with centralized, state-run, public primary and secondary education systems and they have fared way better than any private system. Even UK's public school system is better regarded than it's aristocratic private school networks.

" And look the private schools are all doing fine."

I totally contest that. Show me proof that private schools are actually doing fine -or are even doing markedly better than public schools. (And by proof, i don't mean the high end sectarian schools - show me proof across the general spectrum.)

There are a number of areas that a commitment to free-market policies will actually lead to market failures. Education is one of them.

(Yes, corruption is a problem but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

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