Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Computer Per Child?

María Antonieta Guillén announced Wednesday that Honduras was launching its "one computer per child" program with a $3 million contribution from the government of Taiwan. This was one of the few campaign promises Porfirio Lobo Sosa made in 2009, that he would start such a program.

The article in La Tribuna says that Taiwan will donate $3 million to purchase the first 8000 computers. In addition, Guillén announced the government had obtained a loan from the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB) for a further $38.26 million dollars to purchase more educational computers.

The picture that accompanies the article shows Maria Antonieta Gullén holding a XO laptop, produced by the One Laptop Per Child foundation. This would suggest that Honduras will be purchasing XO laptops, a laptop computer designed for use in the third world for educational purposes. These would be ideal for deployment in Honduras. They are designed for use in both with and without connection to the internet, have simple off-the-grid rechargers, and abundant educational software. Both Guatemala and Nicaragua have purchased and deployed thousands of these computers.

Only something doesn't add up. The XO laptop costs $199, but if $3 million buys, as the article suggests, 8000 computers, that yields a unit price of $375 per computer. At the actual cost, the original $3 million investment would buy 15075 XO laptops, not the 8000 computers the article specifies. Either some of these funds aren't being used to purchase computers, or Taiwan is getting a large order for cheap Windows computers without educational software.


boz said...

For many of the OLPC projects, they include money to train teachers, install internet wifi connections and provide some limited technical support over the first year for laptops that break. Without those other costs, the use of the laptops tends to be less successful.

That said, there should be a transparent accounting for the costs.

RNS said...

That makes sense...not sure why the original article didn't elaborate on that.

There's an article here in English that does make that clear, that much of the IADB money is for training, internet connections, etc. in addition to up to 50,000 computers by the end of the program.

Any reports of how the computers are working out in Nicaragua?

boz said...

I haven't seen anything about it in my time in Nicaragua. But now that you mention it, maybe I'll find some time in the coming months to look into it.

I do know that there were problems with the program in parts of Peru because money wasn't spent on training teachers or providing the necessary support. They just bought the computers, dropped them in classrooms, and let them sit. If they don't provide the money (and oversight) to support the computers, it's not worth doing.

I also know the program has been a big success in Uruguay and in some areas of Colombia.

It's about implementation and commitment. It's not enough to just hand out the computers with a nice one day photo-op for the politician in the newspaper. Those computers have to be working for several years and teachers need to know how to integrate them into the classroom.

RNS said...

Peru looks like it fixed the program. They announced they'll distribute their 1 millionth(!) computer this year, and are building a factory to make the XO laptop.

Peru also had the honor of having the first robbery of the laptops, when thieves broke into a school and stole 66 of the computers.

I look forward to hearing about their reception and utility in Nicaragua, and Honduras.