5.4 Low cost computing devices for schools initiatives

Governments and development partners around the world have implemented a wide array of initiatives to bring computers into schools. Purchasing options range from the centralized acquisition of new computers by ministries of education to the donation of refurbished computers by non-governmental organizations.193 A frequent goal has been to reduce the ratio of students per computer in order for children gain more computing time.

A recent trend has been the adoption of the “one-to-one” model, in which each student gets their own laptop. This movement has its roots in the vision of Nicholas Negroponte (cofounder of the MIT Media Laboratory), to provide every child with an inexpensive laptop. A prototype of such a computer was shown at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005.194 Negroponte then founded the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association, which manufactures the low-cost XO computer, specifically designed for children in developing countries. XO laptops have been ordered, delivered and/or deployed to 2.4 million children and teachers in 42 countries. 195 The biggest deployment has been in Uruguay, which provided all of its primary school children with a laptop before the end of 2009.196

Some development agencies are playing a significant supporting role in the OLPC movement. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is providing funding support for pilots in Uruguay,197 Brazil, Honduras,198 Peru, Haiti199 and Paraguay.200 The United States Agency for International Development provides assistance for Afghanistan’s OLPC project,201 while the Danish government is assisting with funding an OLPC pilot in Nepal.202

The growing visibility of the one-to-one computing movement has attracted the attention of the electronics industry. Semi-conductor giant Intel now offers a low-cost computer, the Classmate, intended for use in educational settings in developing nations. The Classmate is being used for Portugal’s e-school initiative, and Venezuela ordered one million of them in 2009. 203 The ASUS Eee Netbook, manufactured by a Taiwanese electronics company, has also been deployed for education in several countries, including a one million unit order for schools in Russia. Brazil awarded a tender for 150,000 Indian-manufactured Mobilis laptops as part of its One Computer Per Student programme.204

In Thailand, the One Tablet Per Child (OTPC) project officially launched in 2012. The Thai government planned to distribute tablets made in China to all first graders in the academic year of 2012, and to extend the distribution to seventh grade students the following year.205

The relevance of these projects for school connectivity is that there is often a networking component involved. Most one-to-one deployments are designed to incorporate school computer servers connected to the Internet in order to download software, electronic textbooks and educational applications to the school laptops. As a result, the low cost computing device movement is focusing increased attention on the necessity for school connectivity.

193 One of the largest is UK-based Computer Aid International which has delivered around 150,000 refurbished computers to more than 100 countries. See: http://www.computeraid.org/
194 “UN debut for USD 100 laptop for poor,” BBC, 17 November 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4445060.stm (accessed 5 August 2009).
195 http://one.laptop.org/about/countries
196 http://www.ceibal.edu.uy/
197 Uruguay http://www.iadb.org/en/mapamericas/uruguay/computer-use-in-schools-strengthened-and-extended-beyond-the-classroom,5839.html
198 Brazil Eugenio Severin and Christine Capota, One-to-One Laptop Programs in
Latin America and the Caribbean, Panorama and Perspectives, Inter-American Development Bank Education Division (SCL/EDU) TECHNICAL NOTES, April 2011, available at: http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=35989594
199 http://www.iadb.org/news/detail.cfm?artid=4413&language=En&id=4413&CFID=1280276&CFTOKEN=76605445
200 http://www.iadb.org/Projects/project.cfm?id=PR-T1081&lang=en
201 http://afghanistan.usaid.gov/en/Article.540.aspx
202 http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/182 and
203 http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/intel-learning-series/classmatepc-clamshell.html
204 Cieglinski168Cieglinski, Amanda, “MEC conclui pregão de compra do programa Um Computador por Aluno” Agência Brasil, 18 December 2008. http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/noticia/2008-12-18/mec-conclui-pregao-de-compra-do-programa-um-computador-por-aluno (accessed 4 February 2013).
205 http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/sis/newslog/2012/06/13/ThaiGovtStartsDistributingTabletsToStudents.aspx

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