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Peruvian educators hope to inspire children to be more than farmers with the XO Notebook

A lot has been said here at DailyTech about the XO Laptop and the lofty goals of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC). The original goal was for the OLPC’s XO notebook to sell for $100 per unit, which never materialized with finished machined costing nearly double that amount.

Despite the cost issues the XO notebook has had some sales with Peru ordering 260,000 of the notebooks for use in its schools across the country. Peru faces some significant obstacles in the roll out and use of the XO notebook including teachers who lack what would be considered a quality education in most countries to towns and schools without electricity.

According to Technology Review, Peru is committed to the program and may even order more XO Notebooks if the program works well. What we consider poor here in America is often far from what other countries consider poor and this is very much the case in rural Peru where homes have no electricity and often no running water.

Part of the program of providing the XO notebooks to towns and villages in Peru involves providing solar power or generators to charge the notebooks. Most of the places the XO will see duty in Peru don’t have Internet access. One of the main components of the XO for its use in education is digital copies of books. Many students in the very poor Peruvian communities have never owned a book.

To keep digital content up to date on the XO notebooks teachers download updates for the Education Ministry office one per month when the pick up their paycheck according to Technology Review. The initial Peruvian test project was conducted in a small town with a previous Internet connection via satellite called Arahuay, described by Education ministry officials as “not poor enough” to actually receive XO Notebooks in the full program rollout.

Children in the town say they use their XO notebooks to send email, play games, take pictures, draw and perform calculations. The town internet connection is slow with web queries described as taking several minutes to execute.

A father of one of the children in the town said about is son using the XO Notebook, “He knows how to use the computer--he knows how to use every part of it [the XO notebook]. Above all, it is more knowledge for him."

Peruvian educators say what they hope to give children in Peru from the XO Notebook is hope and the opportunity to do something else with their lives other than to become farmers if they desire.

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Internet > Food.
By Reclaimer77 on 4/25/2008 2:27:06 PM , Rating: 5
Children in the town say they use their XO notebooks to send email, play games, take pictures, draw and perform calculations. The town internet connection is slow with web queries described as taking several minutes to execute.

With everyone trying to use it at once, its going to go real slow like. I knows because I seen it. Two kids tried to load a web page. Took em' over three days ! They sat there waiting, and by the time the loading bar was only half full, they was DEAD ! Starved on the internet. With their bellies all stuck out like a pigs bladder...

RE: Internet > Food.
By nosfe on 4/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Internet > Food.
By Reclaimer77 on 4/25/2008 3:00:02 PM , Rating: 3
lol trolled !

I used a South Park quote from last weeks show. I thought it was semi-fitting. But I just couldn't help myself.

RE: Internet > Food.
By napalmjack on 4/25/2008 3:01:06 PM , Rating: 2

Yes, it's an obscure, but recent, South Park reference. Good work. I love it when they're not so blatantly obvious.

By HighWing on 4/25/2008 3:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
The original goal was for the OLPC’s XO notebook to sell for $100 per unit, which never materialized with finished machined costing nearly double that amount.

I read this and I couldn't help but think, wasn't Eeepc supposed to be one of these laptops? And I've only seen the costs of those things go up and not down... Something doesn't seem to be right here?

RE: Costs!!!
By tanishalfelven on 4/25/2008 3:17:01 PM , Rating: 2
considering how much more capable even the 2G eeepc is than the XO, the fact that it cost only 300 (including profits, packing, overhead, and warranty) is really amazing.

either ASUS is really good at optimizing to reduce cost (and no don't say they cut corners on customer service, like the XO did cuz i got my dead eeepc back in less than a week replaced by a new one), or the OLPC team are stupid bad.

ofcourse the falling dollar and the fact that its impossible to go below a certain base price in some products is always there too.

limited, but not useless
By MrHealer on 4/25/2008 4:38:31 PM , Rating: 4
my title is really my point. it is important to point out the limitations of this project and they are numerous. the majority of these children will continue to grow up as farmers, if they get tech jobs they may have to leave their local communities, and simply knowing is not the same as applying.

that having been said, most of us take for granted the fact that if we want to know how to fix something, we can google it and get a detailed, step-by-step instruction manual on how to do it. if we want to know how to improve our crops from a scientific, unbiased, non-local tradition based source, we can google it. even if it takes many minutes, the right web query could save a life, if we imagine a rural village without adequate medical facilities and the possiblity that a little bit of factual knowledge about how to treat a wound or condition.

and so some villages don't have internet. that doesn't render the device useless; i've been places in the world where a dog-eared manual was a treasure posession, even if it was missing pages. if your teacher gets a disc once a month with updates, with the right updates (ones chosen by educators and policy makers in an intelligent way), that the medical and farming and development examples still apply. and moreover, chicken and the egg: no village on earth is going to get internet with no computers, just as having lightbulbs is no good without electricity. computers create the basic need for other services that drive progress.

XO computer
By Macrobot118 on 4/26/2008 3:31:11 PM , Rating: 3
We shouldn't look at the XO computer in isolation. XO computers along with some simple wind turbines, a water pump and purification system and some simple greenhouses could elevate the whole village beyond subsistence farming. I would imagine the cost of the other equipment would more or less equal the costs of computers for all the kids. When the US created the agricultural extension service, commonly called county agents, they tied farmers directly to universities and farm production increased five-fold in less than 5 years.
Educate the kids for tomorrow and their parents for today.

Severe mismatch on the line
By phxfreddy on 4/25/2008 10:01:07 PM , Rating: 2
As a former RF designer this is something you could call a severe mismatch. You know when you throw a wave at something and most of the energy is destined to reflect.

If each of the cities in Peru had internet available I could understand the move. However I am guessing since they do not have electricity they PROBABLY do not have internet also. However these types of stories are always overstated so without researching I do not know.

I had a girlfriend in Lima Peru for a while and it was modern enough there it might help. However given conditions there one wonders how long such an expensive goody will stay in the intended hands also.

Lofty Goals
By IHK on 4/27/2008 4:32:30 AM , Rating: 2
XO is good efforts. But the need for trained personnel is vital for proper utilization

By ocyl on 4/27/2008 1:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
It's great that OLPC is finding use where the program targets. Hopefully the recipients' infrastructure will catch up in the foreseeable future.

Hand crank
By Azsen on 4/27/2008 7:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Why did they get rid of the hand crank idea? That was awesome. Would save them having to then get power to all these schools and you can charge it up anytime.

Internet access?
By PrinceGaz on 4/28/2008 1:10:29 AM , Rating: 2
Why do they need internet access?

Surely if the laptops were pre-loaded with a copy of Wikipedia (minus unnecessary pictures so it would fit on its SSD), then the students would have access to all the reference material they would ever need. Stick a few PDFs of course books on and there should be no need to update the software for years. Printed books do a perfectly good job in schools for several years, so the PDFs of school books plus Wikipedia should do also.

Are these help or hinderance?
By NickF001 on 4/26/2008 3:58:45 PM , Rating: 1
Have any studies actually concluded that notebooks will help these people? In my CS classes with PC's and internet a large number of the students used class time to play web games or watch youtube instead of focusing on bettering themselves.

Sell the free notebooks for $$$
By Baked on 4/27/2008 1:11:08 AM , Rating: 1
I would just make an ebay acct. and sell the free notebooks. Profit! Then I would use that money to buy farm hands to do the hard labor. More profit!

Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Lofty Goals
By jtemplin on 4/25/2008 2:03:01 PM , Rating: 4
Knowledge is power.

RE: Lofty Goals
By murphyslabrat on 4/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Lofty Goals
By Master Kenobi on 4/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Lofty Goals
By JAB on 4/25/2008 2:26:43 PM , Rating: 5
So the alternative is no books no education at all. You have to start somewhere and it is easer to start with the very young many times.

You dont even need to teach them how they can read it. It is a lot better than giving people a fish. Life is not over if you dont make 50k a year there other alternative is noting at all.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 3:36:31 PM , Rating: 1
Did I not say that it's better than nothing? It is a good thing, but much much more is needed.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Solandri on 4/25/2008 2:34:56 PM , Rating: 2
The goal is to raise the general level of education and technical competence, so that these kids can make better jobs within their own country. Instead of begging for jobs (or food) because the country lacks infrastructure, they'll have the education and technical tools needed to create work projects or companies that can help build that infrastructure.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 3:49:54 PM , Rating: 3
Again, I have already said it's a good thing to have more knowledge etc., and I'm not debating that. Knowledge and skills are great, but it still takes much more. I never said they shouldn't give them laptops, it can be a good start. Unfortunately knowledge and some skills are not enough.

they'll have the education and technical tools needed to create work projects or companies that can help build that infrastructure.

That's all well and good, but how is someone with this knowledge going to create new infrastructure, new companies, and work projects without investment capital, modern transportaion, electricity, running water, or enough food to eat? I have extensive computer knowledge, but without any starting capital I can't just start up a new business let alone without already having some infrastructure in place.

Every litte bit does help, I just hope they start doing a lot more.

RE: Lofty Goals
By maxl on 4/25/2008 5:46:27 PM , Rating: 5
These comments are nonsense, and I am speaking from personal experience.

I grew up in a country with average income of less than $20 per person per month, and my father built my first computer from parts that were worth far less than $100 (so yes, he was not a farmer, but he still made less than $20 a month and sometimes we had nothing to eat but potatoes). This computer changed my life in so many ways - I used it to learn English and programming, then got my first job as an interpreter, bought a better computer, got on the Internet via free access provided by some charity and started my own small business. Then another business, then another... At 25, I was already in top 0.1% of world's population by both income and net worth. Ironically, my like-minded friends from those days on average are FAR more successful than my classmates from a top-tier MBA program...

So yes, sometimes all it takes is a computer and motivation. And yes, even such a small thing as free access to Internet for few hours a week does make a difference. And you do not need money to start a business - if you have knowledge and drive, there is more than enough money around (but you need internet access to get to them :-)).

I despise people who give fish instead of fishing rod and think they are doing good - it is just as "good" as giving candy to a fat kid. And I have no respect or sympathy for those who choose flipping burgers (or a $100K job, for that matter) instead of studying and then blame society or fate for not giving them a chance to do better.

Knowledge is power, hunger is motivation - by giving bread instead of laptops you are taking away both power and motivation...

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 6:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I agree with much of what you said. When I talk about wanting governments to do more, I'm not talking about handouts of bread. What I'm looking for is more investment into the infrastructure, things like electricity and so on. I too believe handouts can become a crutch, even in the US there are many on welfare because they have no motivation not to be. I also agree that too many blame everything but themselves for their lot in life, and on an individual level anything is possible.

It's on the wide scale level that I think more investment needs to be made, again not in the form of handouts but in general necessities that promote economic growth for the whole area. Electricty being a big one along with clean drinking water and so on.

RE: Lofty Goals
By rebturtle on 4/25/2008 10:11:40 PM , Rating: 3
Now that they have something that runs on electricity, there might be enough demand to bring it to the villages......?

This program is a great step in the right direction. Help educate the young and let them drive the future of their country. Their government is buying these laptops, and they rightfully expect to see a return on their (long-term) investment.

What would the return be on building infrastructure up front? I guarantee you can't provide electricity for everyone for <$200 US per-capita like the OLPC (Actually less, since only grade school children are getting these, it's only an investment of [wild guess] $20 US per-capita.). If you did, what would they do? Spend three months earnings buying a refrigerator? Once they have committed themselves to a life in the fields, they don't have much flexibility in their working income to make career changes (or to pay utility bills). This is one government project that (hopefully) will not get caught in a quagmire of cost overruns and red-tape like public works projects noramlly do.

Just imagine how much they will be able to improve their country by being well-informed voters! As a bonus, if they can find hope where they live, they won't be desperate to flee to America.....

RE: Lofty Goals
By TomZ on 4/25/2008 2:33:36 PM , Rating: 3
Knowledge is power.

No, knowledge is just knowledge. The power comes in being able to apply the knowledge in some way that improves your life. A desparately poor, hungry kid sitting in a mountain village who knows something about how a low-end computer works might still be poor and hungry at the end of the day.

The idea and intention of the OLPC is a good one; I'm just not confident that it is practical relative to alternative ways that the same resources could be invested.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 3:07:33 PM , Rating: 1
Wow what negative fools you are.

1. Actually asking how being able to do calculations improves your life, makes you look stupid for not having the common sense to figure that one out (think about any skilled profession that requires math... now imagine 200k more people being able to do those jobs... now imagine how that might improve the economy... now put your foot in your mouth)

2. Actuallying saying what's the point... they're not going to be motivated to do anything with their new education, is like saying human beings don't want to improve their lives through education and use of those skills... yah, you might be lazy but you're not the adv. 3rd world nation person.

3. WTH do you care, at least it's a positive cause, why do you guys have to be so damn negative all the time? Go spam in Masher's threads imo.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 3:35:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not being negative, in fact if you read my post you'll see that I did say it's a good thing. I just don't think by itself it's going to accomplish as much as they hope it will. Basically what I meant is the goverments in countries like these need to start doing a lot more. While the OLPC is good, it's a small drop in the bucket as to what is needed.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 3:40:22 PM , Rating: 2
GG the same argument everyone makes... when was there one initiative where people were like OMG this is the best thing ever and will solve all the problems. Of course every action alone is a "drop in the bucket" what a moot comment. Actually I think this is the best thing you can do. Educate a nation, and it will evolve and take care of itself... throw money into programs which only improve conditions, and you'll see less progress in the long run.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 3:53:21 PM , Rating: 2
Peruvian educators say what they hope to give children in Peru from the XO Notebook is hope and the opportunity to do something else with their lives other than to become farmers if they desire.

No, it was the article that was saying they expect the XO by istelf to give them more opportunities, so my point is not moot.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 4:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
While the OLPC is good, it's a small drop in the bucket as to what is needed.

No, you missunderstood. I'm calling that attitude in that statement there, moot.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 4:09:32 PM , Rating: 2
Although the idea may still be worth debating and exploring academically, and such a discussion may be useful for addressing similar issues in the future, the idea has been rendered irrelevant for the present issue.

That's what moot means if you didn't know... Cause I think you're taking it as an insult.

The present issue is the implimentation of them, not whether the government should do more to help out.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 4:11:11 PM , Rating: 2
What attitude? You already agreed that it is a small drop in the bucket. Now if I had said that because it's a small drop, they shouldn't do it then I'd understand what you are saying. I however never said that, they should do it. I just want them to do more in addition to it.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 4:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
Educate a nation, and it will evolve and take care of itself... throw money into programs which only improve conditions, and you'll see less progress in the long run.

Actually I didn't agree with your "small drop in a bucket idea"

And secondly... you just ended your sentance with that moot point again... gg. And if you still don't get the def. of moot, and try to say... "what's wrong with wanting them to do more" than I'll just stop posting, cause you just won't ever get it.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 4:36:34 PM , Rating: 2
Of course every action alone is a "drop in the bucket" what a moot comment.

How is that not agreeing that this action is a drop in the bucket?

And yes I do know what moot means. What makes "drop in the bucket" relavent is that the article itself states that they expect the laptop to give these results, not the laptop combined with other measures which I think is wrong. Why can't you get that?

RE: Lofty Goals
By donwhitmore on 4/25/2008 4:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
because you're calling it a small drop... i'm calling it a drop... biiiiig diff. I say it's the biggest drop, you say it's the smallest. everything's a drop.

I do get it btw, and I'm dissagreeing. I think it's a big step, and very well could be the right way. You do understand the nature of arguing right? It comes with some negative energy, because I strongly dissagree with you.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 5:39:16 PM , Rating: 3
That's the difference between arguing and debating. I see no reason for it to go negative and to attack people and call them fools etc. for an opinion, but you have every right to do so if you wish. That said I don't blame you for negative energy though. If you truly do believe strongly in something it's hard to keep emotions out.

In actuallity I would like to see myself proven wrong in this case. I sincerely hope it does accomplish more than I think it will. I guess my cynicism is from seeing many other projects start with good intentions then kind of fade away. Not referring to the OLPC itself, but mostly the individual governments. In general I just don't trust most governments to follow through and help provide the infrastructure and economic freedom to truly make a difference.

RE: Lofty Goals
By TomZ on 4/25/2008 3:39:22 PM , Rating: 5
You really have to look at this in terms of opportunity costs - in other words, if the money was not spent on the laptops, what else could it have been spent on? For example, maybe electricity could have been provided to more citizens. Electricity is known and proven to have a large positive impact on standard of living. Same for running water. Same for more schools, etc.

Giving laptops to children is not proven to have any effect. In fact, sadly, little/no pilot programs have been run to really understand the potential impact, positive or negative, that these machines can have. If such studies had been carried out, then we could objectively compare the results against investment of the same amount of resources towards other development. Instead, the people participating in this program have the same naive view as you that somehow the effect will be exceedingly positive, which cannot be supported by the facts - it is pure hope and speculation - and that is not a basis for responsibly policy making.

So forgive me if I have a reserved view about OLPC. I'd like to see OLPC and governments run more pilot programs before they order machines in large quantities.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 3:46:31 PM , Rating: 1
Laptops = Education
Education = Proven to improve conditions in the long run better than any other form of support.

Give a man a fish and he'll be full for a day
Teach a man to fish, and he'll never be hungry again.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 3:55:12 PM , Rating: 2
These people know how to farm, they most likely know how to fish, yet they are still hungry. Hmm.....

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 4:14:13 PM , Rating: 2

Just a quick article you might want to read... but please don't use your computer to read it... I have a hard copy here in New York... and you have no money to get here... damn you're never going to learn how to preserve food... guess that surplus you have will go wasted.

Try that one too while you're at it... discusses how when you're educated you can learn how farm more effectively. What are you guys just posting without thinking first?

RE: Lofty Goals
By donwhitmore on 4/25/2008 4:33:11 PM , Rating: 2

Oh look, the government is help there too...hmmm. I especially like where they talk about more effective farming. You might like it too.

RE: Lofty Goals
By bodar on 4/25/2008 6:16:40 PM , Rating: 2
IIRC, posting with 2 accounts can get you banned. Stick to one please.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Ringold on 4/25/2008 5:13:24 PM , Rating: 3
Half truths, which are about as useful as being completely wrong.

This shouldn't be so hard to understand; I don't know if its the natural aversion many have to thinking of business, or what.

Human capital and no way to utilize it results in just a bunch of smart people wallowing in poverty. The World Bank has studies where they noted that in impoverished communities, the thing that provided some of the best benefit wasn't clean water, education, etc -- it was, in fact, reliable electricity. Why? All modern jobs that would use this education these kids are supposed to be getting rely on electricity.

In other words, if governments make the infrastructure investments necessary to attract business, all other things follow rather naturally; clean water, improved health, higher productivity, etc. The optimal approach is to make investments in both infrastructure and human capital. If these towns don't even have electricity, though, then trying to make brains out of these kids will do little unless they relocate to other areas.

I hate to pop some peoples bubble, but life is about jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. No infrastructure, then if you're an international capitalist, why invest there? No infrastructure, not jobs -- unless gold or whatever is literally jutting out of the ground.

You can find World Bank reports on it by googling 'World Bank Rural Electrification', but be warned, some of the language is technical.

RE: Lofty Goals
By littlebitstrouds on 4/25/2008 3:54:03 PM , Rating: 2
A desparately poor, hungry kid sitting in a mountain village who knows something about how a low-end computer works might still be poor and hungry at the end of the day.

Funny story... the kids know nothing about how a low-end computer works... see all they did was turn it on. However once they did, it tought them how to farm their own land and presearve that food in warm climates. It also tought their friend over there how to be a doctor, and he kept the village healthy. They've also learned how basic electricity works, and have traded their now surplus of food to the neighboring village for wire to run their own electricity... I could go on, but I'd just be stating what should have been obvious to you.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Ringold on 4/25/2008 5:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
Wow. Congratulations. Go to the World Bank, IMF, Oxfam, and scream it from the mountain tops -- you've solved the vicious cycle of poverty in one swoop! Half a century of intense economic study by armies of PhD economists all for nothing, you've fixed it all.

I'll point out that people were preserving food and passing along knowledge centuries, millenia before anything similar to the modern sense of an educational system came in to force.

There's a small amount of debate about education being included in things such as the Human Development Index, some fear it is industrial/post-industrial nations looking down their nose at the ignorant masses, suggesting that large amounts of education are necessary for improved quality of life. I see that same arrogance dripping all over this place. Not say its useless, clearly there are advantages to education, however its but a small component.

RE: Lofty Goals
By Ringold on 4/25/2008 5:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
Also, it wasn't education that boosted agricultural output dramatically in China. It was the introduction of free-market incentives.

Similarly, it wasn't a collapse of education in Zimbabwe that lead to a collapse of agricultural output; it was land being confiscated from white farmers. The rest of the company collapsing didn't help.

Two of the most stark changes in agricultural productivity in recent history, and neither had anything to do with education. Could it be that other policy tools might be more important?

RE: Lofty Goals
By Kenenniah on 4/25/2008 5:43:24 PM , Rating: 3
Wouldn't it be nice if we could just buy a $200 laptop and suddenly become a doctor though? Think of all the money we'd save on college! Oh crap, I think we just put all colleges out of business and professors out of jobs. If all you need is a cheap laptop what do we need those institutions for?

RE: Lofty Goals
By Ringold on 4/25/2008 7:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
I am in agreement with your sarcasm.

RE: Lofty Goals
By squeezee on 4/25/2008 3:35:16 PM , Rating: 3
And what kind of adaptor do i need to get this power?

at least they are free of miCro$oft pimps
By dare2savefreedom on 4/25/08, Rating: -1
By erikstarcher on 4/27/2008 11:44:12 AM , Rating: 1
What an asinine comment! This article is about computers for poor countries, not about your opperating system preferences. At $200 each, who cares what os is running.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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