Wednesday, December 29, 2010

OLPC: Needed for the UK?

The recent Minimum Income Standard report in the UK proposed that computers with internet were ‘ essential for households with working-age adults’ but not for pensioners. Now we read in a report from the e-Learning Foundation, which based on data from the latest Government Family Spending Survey, claims that more than a million school children in the UK do not have any access to a computer at home and approximately a further 2 million do not have internet access. . It also concludes that children in the lowest income households were two and a half times more likely to be without an internet connection than the wealthiest.

Valerie Thompson, CEO of the e-Learning Foundation said, ‘Without the use of a computer and the ability to go online at home the attainment gap that characterises children from low-income families is simply going to get worse.’

We now face a situation were computer and internet access is seen not just a must for the classroom but the home as well. We also find an increasing drive both by government and companies in services, such as banking, phones and utilities to move adults online. But when is a computer an access essential and when does it determine one’s wealth?

We believe in the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project and its educational aspirations in the developing world but wonder if it now needs to be realigned to all. Should we provide computers to schools or computers to students. When we see OLPC programme it begs the question why education authoristies still expect parents to pay for what they now deem as essential kit and then in effect spend twice by supplying the schools as well. Why not adopt a cheap cheerful and practical OLPC and stop this emotional blackmail to parent’s who may not be in a position to respond.


Wayan @ OLPC News said...

This is an interesting point. Might I republish it as a Guest Post on OLPC News?

Mike Perry said...

British officials may find they have stumbled onto a problem that can't be solved by handing out OLPCs like candy. G. K. Chesterton summarized it well when it pointed out that when Rome conquered Greece, it became enthralled with Greek art, culture and philosophy. As one nineteenth-century poet put it, "captive Greece took Rome captive."

But Chesterton went on to point out that the Ottoman empire responded to its conquest of Greece by learning nothing from the Greeks. Rome, he wrote, sat on Greece like a sponge, the Ottoman Turks like a stone.

It's easy to suspect that the computerless and Internetless children found in this study are disproportionately from the same corner of the world that was once Ottoman. It's not poverty that has them behaving like stones. It's a culture that responds to outside influences like a stone. And for the parents of girls, it's a culture that's hostile to even the most benign parts of the Internet.