There is a great article in the New York Times today by Thomas Friedman. It’s called “Connecting the Last Person.” Friedman’s column is syndicated, so you may find it in your daily newspaper at home. Otherwise, you can read it online at http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/connecting-the-last-person/?ref=india.
It’s about the significance of India’s government-sponsored program, in conjunction with The Indian Institute of Technology, to get very affordable tablet computers into the hands of poor students. To help educate them and prepare them to become more valuable employees or start entrepreneurial businesses when they leave school. To help them escape the seemingly closed-loop trap of extreme poverty. To help raise the skills of the people of India and help them catch up with the growth of China. To help India become an economic powerhouse.
An interesting note is that a similar program was started in 2006 in the U.S., funded by AMD, eBay, Google, News Corporation, Red Hat, and Marvell, among others. Computers from that program have been being delivered to students in developing countries since 2007. They are available through purchases made by governments and given to the students at no cost. The program is called One Laptop per Child (OLPC). It’s run by One Laptop per Child Association, Inc. http://one.laptop.org/.
It seems sad that we seldom see any publicity on such a fine program. And although it’s available to state and local governments in the U.S., in all the time it’s been running, only Birmingham, Alabama has used the program.
If the India’s idea of jump starting the climb out of poverty through the tools of education and training has inspired you, perhaps you’d like to investigate this some more. After reading Friedman’s article and exploring the One Laptop per Child Association, Inc. site, you could look deeper into what other programs are ongoing. You could encourage your state or local government to look into the possibilities of getting into the program for your local schools. You could consider using your technical skills to develop similar products. You could develop a community organization to promote better tools for better schools. What else can you think of?
Are we so backward that we’ll let India do better at helping their el-hi and college students than we can? Don’t we need to ensure our near-term and long-term performance and productivity by educating and training our students in the knowledge and skills that best support our businesses and economy.