Will technology really aid in the alleviation of low living standards in developing countries? One non-profit organization says yes.
Since its institution seven years ago, the One Laptop Per Child or OLPC has been at the forefront of the unwavering battle against poverty. The organization aims to provide technology to students in developing countries through durable but low-cost laptops. They believe that if every student is given an individual computer as his or her own, learning will be revolutionized, creating a domino effect which leads ultimately to a better living society.
There are arguments that provide valid insight against the project. One of which is the appliance of its program. Many areas targeted by the One Laptop Per Child are also areas where electricity is a major issue. Is it really a top priority, on a societal level, to hand out tech gadgets to children when the infrastructure in itself needs crucial attention? Currently, the OLPC operates in familiar locations such as the suburbs of North Carolina to the outskirts of Rwanda and West Africa.
According to One Laptop Per Child’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Hacker, the most important thing about having these laptops is the capability to access the Internet. “When we think about the causes of poverty, access to information is essential,” said Hacker. “That opens up a huge resource for learning.”
The laptops being given to students are uniformly designed all over the world. The signature mint green color is used by almost two and a half million impoverished children spanning over 40 countries. Called XO Laptops or the Children’s Machine, these low-cost devices function both as traditional notepads or tablets. It has an open-source operating system which is compatible with a plethora of educational apps included in the Sugar software suite. Sugar is designed to be a tool to help students even without the aid of a teacher.
Until now, students are eager to use the XO devices thanks to its colorful design. There is a noticeable increase in engagement, according to OLPC’s Chief Executive Officer Rangan Srikhanta. He said that the young one come out of their shell because of the program. Confidence boosts and enthusiasm are undocumented educational benefits. In fact, the organization’s Nicaraguan operation successfully raised the school attendance and created a more favorable behavior in the student population when the laptops were handed out. Social benefits, even though sometimes under-appreciated, are as important as grades.
With advances in the field of social work and education technology like One Laptop Per Child, it’s difficult not to lose hope that someday, everyone is connected with knowledge and information.