After weathering multiple rebuffs, Nicholas Negroponte’s much touted One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has finally found a foothold in India, in the form of ADAG (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group). The Digital Bridge Foundation, part of ADAG, is providing the technology backbone and logistics for installation of OLPC’s white and green laptops in primary schools. Dubbed as XO, the laptop is finally being mass-produced in China.
OLPC’s approach in India has been a break from its usual strategy of partnering with governments. In Negroponte’s own words:
Scale is key to OLPC. Unlike other countries where the XO laptops are completely funded by the federal state, the Indian blend will include corporations, industry bodies, and state governments. Recruiting Reliance and other allies may overcome New Delhi’s lingering reluctance toward technology spending in primary education
It makes business sense for Reliance, as the company will sell bandwidth and the XOs will be connected to servers powered by it. Thus, ADAG’s participation in the OLPC project is not entirely philanthropic – on the contrary it makes pure business sense. This is not to allude any hidden agenda in ADAGs benevolence but to appreciate the the fact that pure business sense makes social sense too.
Opinion in India is divided over the relevance of these ultra-cheap laptops.
“Our primary school children need reading and writing habits, not expensive laptops,” says Arun Kumar Rath, India’s Education Secretary.
“Now the children will be able to move ahead even faster. The XO will replace their notebooks completely,” says Sandeep Surve, a school teacher.
These comments pose a very interesting point for debate – not just for academic interests, but also to facilitate decision-making that will affect our approach to issues related to education in India. What is your opinion about OLPC and specifically, its relevance in the Indian context?
Do read up on similar projects here.