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This got published in ShowBIz Magazine, Nov 06 ISsue

OLPC, is it a distant dream?

Imagine a day when Nepali school kids will ask their mothers to recharge the battery for their laptops. This seems to an over statement in current milieu but it may not be distant dream.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association is a U.S. based non-profit organization set up to oversee “The Children’s Machine” project and the construction of the 2B1 (laptop model) “$100 laptop” converts to around 7 thousand 5 hundred NC. Both the project and the organization were announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2005. The organization gained its most attention after Nicholas Negroponte (the founding chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab) and Kofi Annan unveiled a working prototype of the ‘CM1’ (another laptop model) in November 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia. The whole project is the brain child of Mr. Negroponte.

This novel plan to develop a 100 dollar laptop and distribution to millions of school children of developing countries has caught the interest of governments and attention of many computer industry heavyweights. Some heavyweights supporting this praiseworthy causer are Google, Red Hat, AMD, Brightstar Corporation, News Corporation and Nortel Networks. Each company has donated two million dollars. The MIT Media Lab is also involved in the project.

So, what is OLPC then? OLPC is a program to enable all children, everywhere, to have the best education possible. Creating and distributing inexpensive laptops will allow students to become more active and creative, letting them take their learning beyond the walls of their schools and off the pages of textbooks. These $100 laptops will serve as libraries, music studios, art galleries and communications devices, using an open-source software platform that the students can customize and expand as their learning needs and programming skills grow. These machines will permit students to move beyond static, information-centric views of computing and learning by providing a vehicle for experimentation and collaboration. All in all it will teach students how to learn from a wider perspective.

Although no contracts with governments have been signed, Mr. Negroponte says current plans call for producing five to ten million units beginning in late 2006 or early 2007, with tens of millions more a year later. As from the map in the official website (http://laptop.org) Nepal lies in yellow category that specifies those countries which are currently seeking government support. Therefore in the context of Nepal we can encourage this project as it will uplift the education status of the whole nation.

The Nepali localization of the OLPC project is “Mero Sanu Sathi”. Mero Sanu Sathi is the name given to the laptop that may be distributed to the school children of Nepal. It is not a technical project but an educational project which is of the child not for the child. This is the best way to revitalize and revolutionize our education system that runs at the pace of a tortoise. It does not teach the child but make them learn learning. We haven’t seen any government interest in this topic till date but some NGO’s and INGOs are warming up for this worthy initiative. Interested organizations in Nepal for implementation of this project include FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Nepal Communtiy, Nepal Engineering College (NEC), UNDP, United Mission to Nepal, Education Network Nepal, Bellanet Asia/SAP International, Curriculum Development Center, IT- Resource Nepal (For More see http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Nepal) . But in these sorts of project government help and support is critical. The non government and private organization cannot make this kind of project reality. So I urge government and all concerned parties to support this noble cause.

So may be in five to ten years the children going to school in Nepal may be saying “Mummy mero saanu sathi ko battery sakiyo, charge garidinu na hai.”

Geshan Manandhar
About 650 Words

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