OLPC Kicks Off Ambitious New Efforts in Africa and Middle East
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has announced new initiatives to bring personal computers to primary school students in East Africa and to Palestinian refugee children in the Middle East. OLPC has gained renown for bringing durable, inexpensive laptop computers to children in economically and technologically disadvantaged areas throughout the world.
In Africa, the goal is to equip every child in the five-country East African Community (EAC) with better access to education and knowledge through the use of computers, broadband access, and the vast informational and creative resources of the World Wide Web. The countries whose students will benefit include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Said Juma Mwapachu, secretary general of the EAC, "If you want to build a knowledge economy, you must have a computer literate population, starting from primary and secondary school children and all the way to university.... This is a very ambitious project for which we will have to partner with various people and institutions to mobilize and fund the resources required to meet our objectives by 2015."
OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte said the organization aims to provide its signature XO laptops, which are specially designed and built for use in areas where rough terrain and minimal insulation from nature are common, to 20 million students by 2015.
On the other side of the Suez, OLPC is partnering with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide XO laptops to nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugee children over the next two years. The computers will go to children living and learning in areas such as Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
"Our partnership with One Laptop per Child has much potential to help us improve the way we work", said UNRWA Commissioner General Filippo Grandi. "It combines so much of what I consider to be to top priorities for UNRWA: concrete partnerships, innovative technology and new educational initiatives, bringing hope, and a belief in a peaceful future for the next generation of Palestinians."
At Rafah Co-Education Elementary School D in the city of Rafah, some 20 miles south of Gaza City, students recently received 2,100 XO laptops packaged with educational software. The donation came courtesy of the OLPC/UNRWA partnership, along with support from the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization and the Office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Additionally, OLPC has delivered 1,500 XO units to students in the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Nablus.
"Core to our mission is providing the world's most isolated and vulnerable children access to modern forms of education and the opportunities that follow," Negroponte added, noting the value of the machines in regions facing ongoing violence and unrest. "With the XO, the children can continue to stay connected and gain the skills and knowledge required to participate fully and thrive in the 21st century--even when getting to school is impossible."
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.