Mobile Computing

International Nonprofit Brings XO Laptops to Afghan Middle School

The Zarghona Ana Middle School of Kandahar, Afghanistan has joined the ed tech revolution, courtesy of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation. The nonprofit, which seeks to bring modern education to children throughout the world regardless of geopolitical or economic circumstances, has delivered 774 XO laptop computers to the school, enough to give every teacher and student at the school his/her own conduit to the wider world of knowledge and technology.

"The main goal of this project is to improve the teaching and learning environment in the school while giving students the opportunity to further their education experience at home using the XO laptops," said Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan's minister of education. "Children having access to this type of tool can further their education and allow them to be actively engaged in their own study. They learn, share, create and have the opportunity to collaborate with their fellow students. They become connected to each other, to the world, and to a brighter future."

Students at Zarghona Ana will now have access to a digital library with thousands of pages of content translated into regional dialects, as well as educational games, study and review exercises, and other curriculum content.

XO laptops were created by industry experts for the OLPC program, and were designed to be less expensive, more energy-efficient, and better able to withstand the potential for damage in more rugged environments. The machine comes standard with a sealed rubber keyboard to keep out heat, moisture, and dirt, which often ruin conventional keyboards over time; fewer external connectors than conventional laptops, which leaves less circuitry exposed to the elements; a backlit LCD display that shuts itself off frequently and restarts instantaneously, providing significant aggregate energy savings; and a rugged handle designed for use by children, who tend to be more active than adults when transporting school supplies and equipment.

Also unique about the XO is the open-source desktop user interface known as Sugar. While Linux-based, Sugar is specially designed for use by children and is designed to be simpler and more intuitive than other operating systems. The current price tag for the XO is $199 per unit, though most of the machines are donated to students in third world countries through the fundraising efforts of the OLPC Foundation. Information on the group and its work, as well as on how to donate and become involved in local and regional OLPC efforts, can be found here.

About the Author

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.