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Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh, SNAP! OLPC Gets Chilly Reception in India

Seems the HRD Ministry of India (Human Relations and Development, I think) doesn't like to be told how to spend their money. At least, reading between the lines of the article in the Times of India, that was the apparent message.

Apparently, the presentation in April by Nicholas Negroponte of the OLPC project failed to win him friends or influence people. In fact, the Ministry went as far as to claim that implementing computers for the subcontinent's students was little more than junk science. " It would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents," the ministry said.

"Debatable scheme" though it may be, the OLPC project has garnered worldwide attention in recent months as prototype models have been unveiled. Negroponte will be returning to India for another presentation in August, for what may be a bit of windmill-tilting. This while the program is assailed by competitors, no less.

While pragmatic debate about resource allocation may doom the project in India, other countries including Nigeria* and China appear to be more open to providing a lappie to every lamb in the flock. That the OLPC program has failed to gain financial commitments in the Western world, however, seems a harbinger for India's HRD Ministry. Time will tell whether empowerment through democratization of technology is a better salve to developing nations' challenges. Mayhap some industrialized nation needs to step up to the plate and lend some cred to the diminutive device?

*POSTSCRIPT: Do 100,000 laptops in Nigeria mean more princes who need our help to rescue the millions in private family riches, if we'll only send our bank account information??

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