About two years ago, we were following the progress and release of the One Laptop Per Child program, an organization that was developing a cheap laptop that it wanted to put into the hands of schoolchildren around the world.
While at the time of its release, the XO laptop (as it was called) made a great toy for adults and children alike here in Canada, now that two years have passed, we can start to see the results from the real-world experience of certain countries.
One country that took a lead in distributing this machine to schoolkids was Uruguay. According to a recent Economist article, almost all of the country’s 380,000 primary-school children have received one. This month, all of the seven year olds will take standardized online exams, providing an opportunity to measure their effect.
Of course, the goal of providing a laptop to children in developing countries brings plenty of challenges. A Globe article posted online today points out a few of them, including the difficulties of ensuring a reliable power supply, and the inevitable trade-off between laptops and things which could be viewed as far more essential (the Globe suggests mass de-worming as an alternative destination for funds).
Still, I suspect many of us feel that there is great value in equipping children to participate more fully in the digital age. It will be interesting to see what comes of Uruguay’s experience.