35-computer-taps-Indias.jpgFrom an article in The Times of India by Ajay Baishnav:

… The role of technology in furthering the cause of education in India is a far-fetched idea when we fail to fulfill even the basic conditions of schooling. When most of our government-run schools in the villages don’t even have basic infrastructure such as furnished classrooms, blackboards and toilets, our officials are itching to bring in subsidized computing devices. These devices cannot compensate for our crumbling education infrastructure and absenteeism of teaching staff.

Look at the issue another way. Let’s say the government actually succeeds in distributing low-cost computers to kids across the country, itself a charitable assumption. Computers are of little value without internet access. But how far is the internet available in backward and remote areas? Do they even have electricity, which needs to be at least intermittently available in order to power computers? Can we ensure maintenance of millions of computers across the country?

Points like these are too easy to forget whenever we talk about bringing computers to the third world.


  1. The first is a pretty standard objection (“We need desks and chairs and clothing and clean water, not electronic devices!”) that we all heard in the years of the late lamented OLPC.

    The second argument, though, is plainly fallacious: these devices come with SD-card slot. Hence it would be a fairly cheap means of distributing SD cards with full libraries of coursebooks and exercise books.

    Om Malik, when the iPad was first released, fell in love with it right away, as he compared it to the first ‘book’ he had in class in his native India — a small slate with chalk he could use to do sums, practice alphabet, and so on. These cheap slates could be much the same: the personal chalkboard slate, with so much more capability.

    Yet to be determined is the actual production costs, specs, and anything remotely not resembling the $10 Simputer vaporware India is famous for.

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