Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogging about OLPC in Bangladesh

I would like to share some of my Grade 12 ITGS (Information Technology in a Global Society) class student's comments from our ITGS Forum blog recently. We have regular discussions about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative and I have shared with my students the excitment of being in the front at the NECC06 keynote by Nicholas Negroponte (see my blog post). We have also explored and studied digital divide issues and third world access to information and networks.

I feel priveleged to be in Bangladesh in this stage of it's development and very privileged to be a part of the development of these young minds and the future decision makers of this country. It is refreshing to look at problems and issues away from western-tinted glasses. Yes, I think Nicholas Negroponte is a great man and innovator with the interest of the world at heart. However, is the $100 laptop a good idea for Bangladesh? Here are some comments:

Wasi said: " I do not think that the OLPC program will succeed in Bangladesh and other developing countries. First of all .......... the OLPC it is a 100 million dollar project. Frankly speaking 100 million dollars is extremely expensive for many developing nations.

Bangladesh already can produce decent brand new desktop computers with a price tag of Tk. 9,000. Second hand desktop computers can be bought for around Tk.5,000 to 6,000 range. Now if we do some calculations $100 is equivalent to around Tk.7200.

If Bangladesh purchase’s these laptops we lose a large amount of our valuable foreign currency reserve. Why don’t we develop and experiment with the indigenous Tk.9000 desktop and try to bring down the price? This implication will be very useful for Bangladesh and other developing nations to adopt because by buying indigenous products the government will be supporting its own industries. This will be encouraging private sector, new employment will be created and thus it will be a big boost for the local economy. Consequently creation of such an industry will be a matter of nation pride and this concept or our products could be introduced or exported to other developing nations.

Saif said: "Also, even if underpriviledged children are provided with the laptops, don't they need the basic computing skills to use them? I think before a country like Bangladesh takes in the OLPC project, the government should first start a training program, and educate the underpriviledged, raise the IT literacy rate. Just purchasing the technology and spending money on such projects will not work, the main area which lacks improvement is education."

Nader said: "Not only do the local communities have to learn how to utilize these devices, but if they are expected to follow the mainstream of digital technology, they must be connected like the rest of the world; to the internet, to a reliable power source, etc."

Ishad said: "initially training centres can be opened up by the government to provide training in order make the OLPC programme succesful..because the literacy rate in BD is extremely low...less than 50% of the population cannot read or write...for an underdeveloped country like BD this might be too soon to invest on the IT sector because the majority of the population are deprived of primary education. therefore i dont think OLPC programme is viable in bangladesh."

The future of Bangladesh may rest on the IT-based decisions made in the next few years. Will we be the next IT center like our neighbour India? Another good topic for our blog!

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