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One Laptop Per Child?

by Sanjay Sharma
16 Apr 2007 • Comment (0) • Print
Posted: General Issue [0] | Commons


If you surf the net you’ll eventually come across the buzz over the one laptop per child initiative. Simply put, it’s a scheme to make very low cost, open-source software based wireless laptops available to the children of the so-called ‘Third World’. Clearly, such a venture cannot alter core structural neo-liberal global inequalities, but should opening up technology to the economically improvished be welcomed?

Techno-utopianist Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the non-profit olpc, seemingly is aware of the limits of such a project. Even he admits it is not able to address basic issues of survival, such access to clean water.

Nevertheles, the digital divide perversely deepens both across and within many nations (with only approximately 10% of the world’s population having access to the internet).((>darkmatter as a online project is hardly global in its reach! The question of mapping the digital divide is not straightforward. While the 10% figure is slowly increasing, divisions within nations are often significant, especially in relation to class disparities. See

The scheme requires the laptops to be mass purchased and distributed by governments of ‘developing’ nations. While many have signed up, e.g. Rwanda, Uruguay, Brazil, Libya, Thailand, Nigeria, others have dismissed it:

We do not think that the idea of Prof Negroponte is mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage and no major country is presently following this – Indian Ministry of Education

Notably, mobile phone network coverage is far more established in poorer nations in comparison to the internet, and perhaps is a more necessary everyday communications technology?

Unsuprisingly, the uber-consumers in over-developed countries are clamouring to get hold of a $100 laptop, either because it’s so cheap or because of the ‘cool’ – geek – factor. (Nor is it yet that the working classes in the west are wanting or necessarily are aware of this technology).

The plan is to eventually to sell a slightly more costly commercial version of the laptop, tied in to raising money for the olpc project. The problem is that such a ‘charity’ based practice legitimises a twisted capitalist logic which makes consumption desirable in order to aid the improvised. Get real.

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Sanjay Sharma is a Co-Editor of darkmatter and responsible for the site admin. Currently teaches in the School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, UK. Twitter: @sanjay_digital
All posts by: Sanjay Sharma | Email | Website

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