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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Is "One Laptop Per Child" a Good Idea? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Is "One Laptop Per Child" a Good Idea?
skillery
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I saw the OLPC at the Consumer Electronics Show and was impressed by how much technology they were able to put together so inexpensively.

The plan is to sell these to 3rd-world governments for distribution to children. The thing has WiFi and a browser.

How long will remote cultures last if we parade our values via the Internet in front of their children?

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Phanto
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quote:


How long will remote cultures last if we parade our values via the Internet in front of their children?

The odd thing is, I don't really know how to respond to this.

Social darwinism, anyone?

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Avatar300
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
I saw the OLPC at the Consumer Electronics Show and was impressed by how much technology they were able to put together so inexpensively.

The plan is to sell these to 3rd-world governments for distribution to children. The thing has WiFi and a browser.

How long will remote cultures last if we parade our values via the Internet in front of their children?

So you want to deny children access to technology so that their culture can be preserved? Why not let them decide?
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pH
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They'll be able to parade their values around in front of us, too.

-pH

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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by Avatar300:
Why not let them decide?

Why not let their parents decide?
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Kwea
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What makes you think their parents won't have a say in it once the things get home?
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skillery
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Let the parents make a fully-informed decision. Tell them that the most popular information on the web right now is photos of Britney without panties.

Of course just telling the parents what to expect will plant the seeds of their culture's destruction.

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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
What makes you think their parents won't have a say in it once the things get home?

Does Suzanne Somers ask the parent's permission when she feeds those children?

The intent of any do-this-to-the-children campaign is clearly to bypass the evil parents.

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BlackBlade
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Look there is NOTHING I can think of that does not have some identifiable draw back.

Lets give food to the starving! Well now they are all lazy good for nothings.

Lets educate the ignorant! The Al Qaeda plane highjackers were all educated in Europe!

All you can do is estimate the benefit of giving all these children laptops, minimize the problems with doing so (allowing their parents to choose, I think, helps a bit) and then decide if its a good idea.

I personally think unifying the human race through the medium of technology is a very admirable goal. Enabling people to exchange ideas and information has a higher potential for good then it does for ill IMO. Give the kids the laptops as long as their parents are ok with it. Eventually parents who said no will be able to see the benefit of having one from the parents who said yes and naturally conclude that accepting one is a good idea.

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Phanto
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You don't think that Britney without panties isn't worth study, care, and love? What is the world coming to!
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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Enabling people to exchange ideas and information has a higher potential for good than it does for ill IMO.

Even when there is solid proof that at least 90 percent of that information is porn?
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Phanto
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Yes. This is the opportunity to expand their knowledge of sex, and to provide them with learning opportunities that will psychoactivly diversify their limited experience.

They probably do not know about the beautiful love of an Asian, or that of a native Irish-man. This is their chance to expand. As a firm proponent of affirmative action, I say this is the time to eradicate prejudice at the roots with racially diverse and balanced porn.

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Synesthesia
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You could listen to pop music and still preserve your tradition culture. Heck, after stuffing themselves silly with Britney and McDs maybe they'd be happy to go back to traditional stuff.
Or make pop music with traditional elements.
Now that would be cool.

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Avatar300
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Enabling people to exchange ideas and information has a higher potential for good than it does for ill IMO.

Even when there is solid proof that at least 90 percent of that information is porn?
Doesn't matter. You are not the arbiter of what information is relevant, or who is allowed access to it. Nor do you decide how people live their lives, and if they wish to make a change they will.

What, do you think American culture is 100% free of foreign influence?

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skillery
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The 3rd world isn't ready for our filth. They need to build up to it. It's like sending a kid from Catholic school to Vegas for the weekend.
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The Pixiest
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No. I think the vast majority of these laptops will be destroyed post haste by people who don't understand them or don't appriciate them as they are given to them for free.
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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by Avatar300:
You are not the arbiter of what information is relevant, or who is allowed access to it.

Then nobody is.

Better to do nothing than the wrong thing.

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TheGrimace
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my problem with this is that I don't know that it'll do any good. What good are a bunch of cheap wifi-enabled laptops in countries where the majority of the population lives without plumbing, electricity, internet... I guess if they target only urban centers the computers will be more usable, but despite a high level of poverty in those areas as well those are the sectors that already have a much better chance at development without this kind of aid.

I would love for these countries to be at the point where this will actually enable access to the internet etc as it should help a great deal in educating the world. Heck, if everyone in the world just had access to wikipedia I think it would be a huge step forward, and I'm not even a die-hard fan of wikipedia.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
quote:
Originally posted by Avatar300:
You are not the arbiter of what information is relevant, or who is allowed access to it.

Then nobody is.

Better to do nothing than the wrong thing.

Am I to understand then that you would be in favor of rolling back technology specifically the internet if it could be done?
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erosomniac
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
Better to do nothing than the wrong thing.

I cannot imagine any human being who seriously lives by this mantra. I seriously doubt you do, or even believe you do.
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Puppy
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Wait ... are people under the impression that foreigners are not already inundated with American products and culture? How is this program going to make a difference?
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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
in favor of rolling back technology specifically the internet if it could be done?

We grew as the technology grew. It did not just fall in our laps. I think that's okay.
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Occasional
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I don't know about the moral or social reasoning, but its a waste of money better spent trying to improve basics - like food, clothing, and housing. As much as laptops cost, the money could go toward other things far more important when you are at the absolute bottom of the poverty line. My guess is the kids and parents would end up selling them, probably after more than half are destroyed.
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Lyrhawn
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Let them have it and do what they will with it. It's their choice to adopt what they want of the rest of world culture and also put their own out there for us to peruse.

It's part of globalization. We don't get to decide who lives in a vacuum. And there are no human zoos. We don't get to decide to deny technology to a group just because we think their culture is nifty and we'd prefer it if they lived in third world please, so we can avail ourselves of their uniqueness. That's far more immoral than anything the internet will do to them. We're not gods, we don't get to decide for them.

Occasional -

I doubt you'd see any of the things destroyed, well maybe not ANY, but not MANY. At the very least people would sell them, or they'd sit idle. But I think enough people recognize the value of these things, and they'd find a way to take advantage of them, even if it's something as simple as checking the nearest four villages to see who has the cheapest price on food.

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quidscribis
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quote:
checking the nearest four villages to see who has the cheapest price on food.
Sorry, but this made me laugh.

What makes you think you'd find food prices on the internet in a third world country? Who can afford to host their own site? Heck, how would they access it to set it up and maintain it? And why would they care?

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ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by Occasional:
I don't know about the moral or social reasoning, but its a waste of money better spent trying to improve basics - like food, clothing, and housing. As much as laptops cost, the money could go toward other things far more important when you are at the absolute bottom of the poverty line. My guess is the kids and parents would end up selling them, probably after more than half are destroyed.

I don't know about that. These represent an amazing source of information and communication. Food, clothing, and housing are great, and are certainly needed for basic survival. They don't do much, however, to improve the situation of people in poverty. Communication and knowledge, however, can do a lot to help people improve their situation. This is the whole point of the program, giving people the tools to improve their own lives.
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Lyrhawn
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Quid -

Studies and experiments on the use of the internet in the third world have shown that this is exactly the kind of thing they DO use it for.

There are TONS of free places they could post prices. The advantage being the person with the lowest price will sell the most food if everyone around KNOWS you have the lowest price, and people will get cheaper food. They care because they want to feed their family for cheap, the sellers care because they want to sell their items and also have an idea for what the going rate is. Maybe they're selling below the going rate, or above it, and they can adjust.

Combine it with microloans to help establish the "market" and educate people on how to access it and you've just created a very, very cheap high tech market in a third world country for the benefit of all.

I know it SOUNDS odd, but it works. And it's no more odd than giving away computers to people who don't have stable governments or steady access to food.

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stihl1
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I'm not convinced laptops or the internet means better education to a kid that just wants to have food in their bellies and a clean, safe place to live. Great, they've got computers, but not safe drinking water, or mattresses, or food not contaminated with water, etc. Dumb idea.

I don't even think it's a good idea for US children to all have laptops.

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Lyrhawn
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I don't know, I saw proof in another thread that children and laptops pretty much mean a guaranteed route to education. Education = money in the third world (and really, EVERYWHERE). What they don't know keeps them in their current situation.

I think it's a good idea on paper, I'm skeptical on how it'll be pulled off. As of now I'd like to see trials done.

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TheGrimace
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while in principle I'm in favor of this (once the more basic living necessities have been addressed) I do see what some people are trying to say about thrusting technology on unready cultures.

I've long been a believer that introducing technology too fast to developing cultures can be a terrible thing. Just look at what's happened in Africa (and other areas) where cultures that were still at the point of petty tribal warfare suddenly had access to assault rifles and their little squabbles turned from clashes killing a dozen or so to genocides killing tens of thousands...

hopefully the internet is more benign and helpful, but there's also dangerous stuff out there (both socially and tactically). Porn is what kept popping up here, but what about when those same tribal conflicts start involving more and more home-made bombs and the like?

Just because something is good for us doesn't mean it's going to have the same effects for people of drastically different cultures/living situations. But like I said, I'm potentially for making this technology more available to developing nations eventually, but there certainly is some rationale for being wary of it as well.

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Avatar300
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
quote:
Originally posted by Avatar300:
You are not the arbiter of what information is relevant, or who is allowed access to it.

Then nobody is.

Agreed.
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Lyrhawn
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Grimace -

I'm pretty sure the US doesn't enforce the Prime Directive. [Wink]

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quidscribis
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In reality, I can't find the prices of food or anything else for Arpico, the largest department store chain in the country that actually has bar code readers in their store. They even have A/C and fixed prices for their goods. They're modern. Singer has a website with prices, and they're the only local store I've found that does that.

Heck, the government is on the internet, and they don't even update their own information. A page on immigration & visas has info on it from a bill that was going through parliament four years ago but didn't pass as the government changed. Most other departments have very little or what's there is never updated. They don't care. They like obfuscating information. They like keeping it vague and not understood. Then they can charge bribes all they want to do what they should be doing anyway.

Back to produce. Most produce shops don't have electricity. They're stands at the side of the road, constructed out of used pieces of wood shoddily put together to support the produce. Flies swarm in the heat. The shops vary the price according to the person who's doing the shopping. Someone like me would pay up to 10x what everyone else pays. Someone like my mother in law gets a fair price - she's a local, a regular, and is excellent at bargaining. She has a harder time getting a fair price at shops she hasn't been to before if she takes me with her.

Most places here do not have fixed prices. Most places try to get the highest price they can, and WILL try to gouge anyone who looks foreign or wealthy. Pricing based on skin color and social & economic status is the way of life here, and it's a game to see who can gouge the most.

You're talking about a complete overhaul of the entire culture.

It also makes me wonder, if it did happen like you say it does, what else in the culture would change?


As of now, this country doesn't have safe drinking water - even in Colombo, the largest city, all water has to be boiled. Less than 2/3 of the population has electricity. Many people live in huts 4x4 to 8x8', perhaps lining the railroad tracks so close they could stick their hand out the door and touch a passing train, dirt floor, scrap wood walls (when there are walls), corrugated metal roofs. No running water at these huts - they share a communal water pipe which they even bathe at.

Consider that this country already has pretty good education compared to elsewhere in the region with a high literacy rate of over 90%. We need more post-secondary institutions with free or cheap education, granted - the existing government ones that are free have 1000 students competing for the same seat.

I think it's a bit more complex than simply providing computers to cure everything. You've also, in this country at any rate, stop the war. That's what's really killing the country. That, and get rid of the corruption, which is also killing the country, but then, it's the corruption which is causing the war IMNSHO.


I'm skeptical.

I'm not saying that computers wouldn't be good. I'm saying that I don't think it would necessarily provide the results claimed, or even in the time frame claimed. I think it's also likely to have a lot more consequences than anyone can foresee at this point. Some would be good, I think, but others? Not so much.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
quote:
Originally posted by Avatar300:
You are not the arbiter of what information is relevant, or who is allowed access to it.

Then nobody is.

Better to do nothing than the wrong thing.

Doing nothing is WORSE than doing the wrong thing, usually.
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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
The 3rd world isn't ready for our filth. They need to build up to it. It's like sending a kid from Catholic school to Vegas for the weekend.
That's kind of how I feel about it. My imagination can't cope with all of the negative externalities, but on the other hand, the benefits are enormous.

I guess I'd like us to get our house in order before we start Fed-Exing free porn all over the world.

quote:

Just because something is good for us doesn't mean it's going to have the same effects for people of drastically different cultures/living situations.

I don't even know if that stuff is good for us.

quote:
They'll be able to parade their values around in front of us, too.
Are we giving them web cams and sound equipment?
___________________________________

I don't know the answer. I don't think that the internet necessarily makes people better, but the proliferation of information does exert a muscular effect on people's lives. To be honest, I haven't travelled the world enough to weigh in on this subject intelligently. The families and communities who'd be harmed may be so small in number and suspicous in moral character that it may not matter. I mean, you aren't going to be forcing them on the Amish, are we?
_________

I'd rather we build schools, is all, at least with schools, there is a responsible human mind guiding the educational process.

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Lyrhawn
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Quid -

Well, as for electricity, if they have laptops, I think we have to assume they've got electricity, otherwise the entire argument is a moot point no? If they can't recharge the things, there's really no point in discussing their usefulness.

Second, while I don't at ALL claim to be an authority on third world intra village trade, I think it's fair to say that Africa is different from Sri Lanka, hell, I think it's fair to say most of Africa isn't necessarily like the rest of Africa.

The studies I've seen on the uses of laptops for education were all done in poor sections of India with astonishing results. Examples of using the internet for business were in Africa. I'll look for the sources later, but I don't know if the Africa one was even online.

On a separate note: Porn

Let's look just at Africa for the moment. We're talking about people who've lived through civil wars where rape was the norm, rather than the exception, where people live in one room huts, with nowhere to go for privacy, where literally with nothing else to do, people have sex just to kill time, and no, that isn't flippant, I've read reports that list idle time as a problem with the spread of HIV. People there have sex just for the heck of it and don't think about reprecussions.

Everyone so worried about American porn invading the naive sensibilities of the third world is I think affecting too much of a paternalistic approach. They aren't children, we aren't their parents.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
if they have laptops, I think we have to assume they've got electricity, otherwise the entire argument is a moot point no?
The laptops are powered by a hand crank, IIRC, and have a wireless network range of several miles. They're designed to operate in villages which could be many miles from the nearest outlet.
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Lyrhawn
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So one would assume that the shopkeeper with no electricity has just as fully functional a laptop as the poor villager down the road with no electricity correct? And the shopkeeper in the next village over?
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Will B
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I see 2 issues here: children, and 3rd-world.

When I was in Eritrea, the people there who used Internet (at Internet cafes) were mad for it. They'd have to be, to put up with the maddening download times; their country hadn't supplied enough bandwidth for the inevitable explosion of interest. If they'd had wi-fi that worked, they'd have thought they'd died and gone to heaven.

From what I have heard, Internet has really taken off in Ethiopian cities, too.

I don't know much about keeping children away from rough sites, since I don't have any kids. But don't worry about whether the 3rd world will find a use for it. They already love it.

They already decide what their priorities are, to whatever degree they can; we don't need to decide it for them. That said, if someone is considering where to send charitable dollars...I'd go with vaccines, like the Gates Foundation. A lot of bang for the buck in preventing suffering. But if you want to promote economic development, laptops with Internet hookups have to be a great idea too, as long as they can get access. I can think of lots of ways to use it. Based on what I see on the web, so can a lot of other people.

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Avatar300
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quote:
I'd go with vaccines, like the Gates Foundation. A lot of bang for the buck in preventing suffering. But if you want to promote economic development, laptops with Internet hookups have to be a great idea too, as long as they can get access. I can think of lots of ways to use it. Based on what I see on the web, so can a lot of other people.
Greater economic development is the only thing that will end suffering in the long run. Vaccines and medicine help, but they're only part of the cure.
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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
...computers to people who don't have stable governments

A stable government should be a pre-requisite to putting kids online. It's one of those steps that have come with our growth as a connected society.

Kids online need the protection that a stable government provides:

  • Locking up kiddie porn people
  • Locking up child predators
  • Providing enforcement for privacy policies
  • Making sure one tribe or caste or village doesn't benefit unfairly
  • Keeping a lid on fraud
  • Monitoring for and prosecuting illegal online activities such as slave trade and drug trade

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quidscribis
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Lyrhawn, I also don't claim to be an expert in anything other than my own experiences. As well, I can also say that Sri Lanka is not necessarily like the rest of Asia, or even south Asia. Sri Lanka, for one thing, is going through a civil war. That changes things.


So, these laptops have handcranks for electricity. The wifi hubs have a coverage of several square miles. Great. Who provides them? What electricity are the hubs running on? Who's paying for that? Who's paying for the internet access for the hubs?

We have an internet throttling problem in Sri Lanka. Fahim and I have broadband ADSL. We're supposed to have up to 512 kbps(Down) / up to 128 kbps (Up). In reality, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-150 kbps down and 75-120kbps up. That's on a normal day, and that's also with a limit on the number of ADSL accounts in the country. Bad days get... painful.

In the last neighborhood we lived in, only 50 connections were being offered. The neighborhood we're in now is the same.

As more connections in a neighborhood are installed, connection speeds decrease sharply. After all, this is an island country and we depend on undersea cables for international phone calls and internet. When an undersea cable goes out - which happened a year and a half ago during the Olympics - we have no internet until it's fixed or backup services via satellite are put into place. Of course, when the undersea cable near Taiwan went out due to earthquake a week or two ago, we had similar problems accessing North America, but that's another story.

A fourth undersea cable was installed recently between Sri Lanka and the mainland, and as far as I know, there are no more plans in the immediate future to install more. That means that we are limited to whatever we can get out of those cables.

More people in the internet means slower connection speeds.

At this time, only a small fraction of the population is on the internet. Expand that, and the internet will essentially become crippled for us unless the telephone companies / government / powers that be install more undersea cables at great expense or we move to satellite, which is also expensive. Who's going to cover that cost? How much will our telephone costs/internet costs go up? And as they increase, how many more people will be priced out of the ability to get internet usage?

And that's another thing. Cost. To get ADSL, you have to have a phone line. To get a phone line, you have to pay a $250 installation fee, which is equivalent to 1/3 of the average person's yearly salary. ADSL that we have costs $25 a month, which is as much as garment workers make in a month. How much will one of those neighborhood wifi connections cost?

Do you think the government will pay for the internet connections for those free or cheap computers? With what money? The government already has major budgetary problems. Some, maybe even many, governmental employees don't get paid for six months or longer at a time because the budgetary money hasn't been disbursed yet because the government doesn't have the money. Some governmental departments haven't paid their electricity or telephone bills in years and owe millions of dollars. Electric, gas, and telephone companies are in serious financial straits and have threatened to declare bankruptcy and shut down.

So, to repeat, who will pay for this?


Let's get back to the produce example. Get prices on cheaper produce four villages over. Well, that's nice, but how are you gonna take advantage of that? I mean, I could, all the members of my household could, but we're relatively wealthy. Could the average person? Considering that s/he has to take public transportation everywhere (trishaws and motorbikes are too expensive for the average person) and buses are already severely overcrowded and take forever to get anywhere, it's not realistic.

Chances are that not many people will take advantage of online posted prices to go to another village for shopping very often. If or when they do, it'll be for more expensive items and it'll be a major shopping expedition.

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quidscribis
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
A stable government should be a pre-requisite to putting kids online. It's one of those steps that have come with our growth as a connected society.

Kids online need the protection that a stable government provides:

Ah, well, that automatically lets Sri Lanka out then.
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Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged
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Here's a quote about internet access taken from the wiki that might lesson alot of the fears about this idea.

quote:

The OLPC networking concept is not Internet-based. We assume that there will be no Internet connectivity and no Internet gateways. The laptops are being deployed into countries which do not have a lot of native-language content available on the Internet. The networking focus is to make sure that the laptops will be able to communicate with each other over a larger than normal area, and that they will be able to communicate with resources in the school. In most cases, these school resources will not be Internet gateways but will be more like a cross between a library and an FTP site with content that kids can download to their laptops. Of course some schools will have Internet access and may copy Internet content for use by the kids, but the laptops are not intended to be used for direct Internet surfing.

Ask OLPC a question


Let me add the laptops create a wifi mesh without the need for anything other equipment.

[ January 11, 2007, 01:02 AM: Message edited by: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged ]

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TL
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quote:
Even when there is solid proof that at least 90 percent of that information is porn?
That is ridiculous. There is no solid proof of this. I think you're referring to claims that a high percentage of internet traffic is porn -- which may be true. But there is a difference between traffic and information (if you use information to mean content) (for the record, this is how I mean it). Porn is usually video -- video files are large. What you probably have is a small percentage of users using a disproportionate amount of traffic because they're trading very large files.

quote:
Is "One Laptop per Child" a Good Idea?
Yes. Emphatically yes.
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ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
Yes. Emphatically yes.

I have to strongly agree with you here. As far as I can see, at most you can argue that this program is not the best use of resources. However, I certainly see very little evidence that it will in and of itself do more harm than good. There are potential risks, certainly, but the potential benefits are absolutely huge. As I said before, information and communication are incredibly powerful tools, and this is something the program is capable of providing.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
The 3rd world isn't ready for our filth. They need to build up to it. It's like sending a kid from Catholic school to Vegas for the weekend.

Right, they're young and immature, they need our guidence, they need us to help them by supressing them. Good idea.
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jehovoid
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This thread got derailed early on as everybody missed the point about the wifi connections. Thank you, Wowbagger, for setting that straight.

And Lyrhawn made the point regarding porn that I would've made. Kids that live in one room huts probably know a lot more about the birds and the bees than your kids do.

Irami said:
quote:
Are we giving them web cams and sound equipment?
It doesn't come with a boom mike, but it does have a video camera.
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Will B
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It seems that hand-me-down laptops would be cheaper and so they could ship more of them. OTOH hand-me-down laptops have hard drives, which these aren't supposed to; and they're seriously looking at incorporating power generation into the computer.

I looked over the software they intend to provide; looks useful.

Thanks for posting this.

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lem
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quote:
The 3rd world isn't ready for our filth. They need to build up to it. It's like sending a kid from Catholic school to Vegas for the weekend.
Exactly how *pure* do you think 3rd world countries are? It could just be the bias of the news I read, but most times I hear about poverty, no education, and 3rd world countries, I hear about female genital mutilation, higher crime rates like rape and murder, drugs, and mafia style child sex rings /prostitution parlors / forced adoption agencies.

I am not saying that is what all 3rd world countries are like, BUT I fail to see why there is an assumption they are more pure.

I think it is a great idea. Access to education can only help. The two major drawbacks I can see are: 1: Having access to see how some people live might make the children depressed, feel helpless, feel cheated, or angry. 2: There is a growing phenomenon of children selling themselves
(or adults forcing children to sell themselves) on web cams as real time child pornography.

Since places like Africa predominately have a young and desperately poor population, they may use the internet as a way to pander to rich countries illicit and disgusting appetites.

I don't think 3rd world countries are models of purity who can't handle our filth. I do think they may be desperate enough to capitalize on the internet's darker side.

Without a strong government to crack down on such practices, 3rd world countries with a laptop for every child could become on online haven for pedophiles instead of just a travel haven for pedophiles..

Overall I think it is a good idea, but there needs to be a pre-thought out plan to deal with internet abuses.

EDIT: I missed Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged's excellent post. His post alleviates some of my concerns--of course there is still the problem *servicing* clients in the 3rd world countries. I do think over all , regardless if there is regular internet access, that access to information benefits a population more then it can hurt.

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