Lets have a clever caption contest instead
November 4, 2011 12:22 PM   Subscribe

The sods must be crazy: OLPC to drop tablets from helicopters to isolated villages (Previously)
posted by infini (69 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
More likely the local thugs/corrupt officials will seize the tablets and resell them.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:25 PM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Required reading any time OLPC's hottest newest smartest idea hits the news: former OLPC security guy Ivan Krstic's rundown of what was not working for the project: Sic Transit Gloria Laptopi.

As I recall, one of the things not working was deployment-by-dropping-things-in-and-not-training-anyone.
posted by gusandrews at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Future iPad competitors take note: This might be the ultimate fate of your tablets too.
posted by Trurl at 12:28 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]



This article writing is biased and strange. I guess their aim is to be humorous, but I'm not sure that the topic is really terribly funny. Maybe we could find a better article on the topic, with less axe grinding. Or maybe I'm missing the context of this.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


First AskMe from a dropped OLPC: Which **** stunned mum's buffalo?
posted by Abiezer at 12:31 PM on November 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Despite the publicly bizarre anti-consumerist stance OLPC has taken, and all the critisism and predictions of failure....it's pretty neat to see the project still going strong and having an impact on developing countries. I still fire up the G1G1 XO I got years ago, and am amazed no one else is making dual layer LCDs to counter sun glare...brilliant touch....I'd buy a consumerized laptop/tablet that had that technology in a heartbeat. More news on the OLPC project can be found here
posted by samsara at 12:33 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but even dropping them anonymously is a violation of the Prime Directive.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:42 PM on November 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


"As God as my witness, I thought XOs could fly... No wait, that was turkeys. What the hell were we thinking, this was even worse."
posted by cog_nate at 12:42 PM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This article writing is biased and strange. I guess their aim is to be humorous, but I'm not sure that the topic is really terribly funny. Maybe we could find a better article on the topic, with less axe grinding. Or maybe I'm missing the context of this.

PC Mag

"We will literally take tablets and drop them out of helicopters," and return a year later to see if the effort was a success, Negroponte said. A new tablet design can withstand a 30-foot drop, and even be left out in the rain.

"When I say no people, I mean absolutely no people," he added, when asked if he was serious. "When I say I drop out of the helicopters, I mean it... it's like a Coke bottle falling out of the sky," he said, apparently referring to the 1982 movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy. In that movie, however, a bushman is convinced that the Coke bottle's embodiment of the concept of property is evil, and leaves his village to dispose of it.


TIME

He revealed his unorthodox plan Wednesday at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco. The third iteration of his low-cost tablet is designed to withstand both 30-foot drops and rain. According to PC Magazine, the XO-3 runs on solar power, making it ideal for isolated villages that lack electricity, and will be pre-loaded with 100 books and equipped with wireless internet connectivity.



and lots more to choose from...

oooh

Cloud platforms, information wars, e-commerce, are all part of the world's most famed telecom event, the Open Mobile Summit, which just opened in San Francisco. But the strangest news was a proposal by Nicholas Negroponte, leader of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Negroponte proposes to drop tablet laptops to illiterate villagers in remote 3rd world areas, using helicopters, then see what happens. His concept drew immediate parallels to the cargo cults of mid-20th century Pacific Micronesia islanders, who received air-drops that prompted a religious fervor and cult fascination with airplanes.

posted by infini at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sounds like they may be seeding new cargo cults.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2011


Somewhere a kid wearing "2008 Super Bowl Champions New England Patriots" shirt will catch one of these and create something that changes the world.
posted by drezdn at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nicholas Negroponte's book Being Digital changed the way I think about data. My laptop is a piece of crap worth maybe $50, but the data on it is worth a whole lot more too me, but when I go through airport security and state, "It has a value of $10,000" they will look at me funny.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:09 PM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Umm, the XO isn't an iPad competitors, Trurl. I suppose the XO inspired the whole sub $500 netbook market that afaik Asus' Eee PC has dominated, even saying the XO competes with the Eee PS. Apple has never touched the netbook market. I donno if Apple will feel any price pressure from the OLPC's XO-3 and India's $30 Android tablet, but those project's customers won't give a shit about any iOS devices.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I said in another thread, I think someone has been reading Neal Stephenson a bit too much.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Negroponte proposes to drop tablet laptops to illiterate villagers in remote 3rd world areas, using helicopters, then see what happens."

Has Sugar's (The operating system running on these machines) apps evolved enough to be so intuitive that they are able to be used, and be useful to an illiterate person?

I've just had a look at the activities available on the newest version of Sugar, and I'm finding it hard to see any illiterate person learning something from this device. Even the paint and photo programs includes written language.

What are the killer applications for this project?
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


. I suppose the XO inspired the whole sub $500 netbook market that afaik Asus' Eee PC has dominated, even saying the XO competes with the Eee PS.

The class of devices which, along with phones, have been at the center of pretty much all the developing world success stories of the type Negroponte envisioned, rather than the OLPC.
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2011


meanwhile the Indian government has designed a $35 tablet
posted by delmoi at 1:47 PM on November 4, 2011


Has Sugar's (The operating system running on these machines) apps evolved enough to be so intuitive that they are able to be used, and be useful to an illiterate person?
Keep in mind Children's natural curiosity. Back in the 80s when PCs were just coming out children didn't have nearly the trouble that adults did with computers, and these were machines that had horrible interfaces by today's standards... you had to be a computer expert just to use them for the most part, yet, kids were able to figure it out. Probably not all kids but a lot of them.
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


delmoi, that is so often the story we tell ourselves, and I think it is the story Negroponte has been trying to tell, but I think in telling that story we too often forget things about the important adults in the lives of the children who may have modeled behavior on the computers that kids had such a supposedly easy time learning to use (and which kids? Why fewer girls than boys?)

Also, my pet theory has been that those "horrible interfaces", themselves, were important in teaching kids how computers worked. We had to do a bit of speaking to the computer in the language of code even to get it to run. It taught us things like the phrase "syntax error": the basic lesson that computers cannot route around misunderstandings in conversation the way people do, because they think in math and code. The OLPC's Sugar has a graphic interface, and does also have command-line capabilities; I am not sure if that adds up to the same experience (though from my own experience using it, I also find it pretty horrible).
posted by gusandrews at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope this starts a cargo cult!!!!
posted by vorpal bunny at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2011


This project had better be more thought–out than it sounds.
posted by Jehan at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


About that laptop.org link - is it still the current one given the teams had split up? The first site's recent news section has been in stasis since December 12 (one assumes in 2010)
posted by infini at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2011


Also, does Negroponte have enough sense to keep from dropping them out of helicopters in places which have previously been seeded with land mines that look like children's toys?
posted by gusandrews at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Negroponte is just off his rocker.

OLPCNews, a blog/forum for XO fans, said as much in June 2011 when Negroponte first started ranting about helicopter deployments. They also helpfully noted some of many interesting failures. We've got an honest-to-gods Boomer visionary who has no concept of reality.

And the organizational politics seem to be so bad that there's legal action between the parent organization and groups actually trying to do sensible deployments.

It's all just broken now.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Has an XO-3 ever actually been demo'd, let alone dropped from a helicopter?
this is the organization that didn't just scrap the XO-2, but couldn't even tack a touch screen onto the current XO-1 laptop, which isn't anywhere near the $100 that Negroponte once dreamed of. (Hey, at least they gave up on the dual-touch-screen idea.)

This may say everything about the likelihood of the X0-3 ever happening. "We don't necessarily need to build it," Negroponte told Forbes on Tuesday. "We just need to threaten to build it."
posted by weston at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2011


Also, my pet theory has been that those "horrible interfaces", themselves, were important in teaching kids how computers worked. We had to do a bit of speaking to the computer in the language of code even to get it to run. It taught us things like the phrase "syntax error": the basic lesson that computers cannot route around misunderstandings in conversation the way people do, because they think in math and code. The OLPC's Sugar has a graphic interface, and does also have command-line capabilities; I am not sure if that adds up to the same experience (though from my own experience using it, I also find it pretty horrible).

It's not really the same experience. OLPC's Sugar is more like an information/education appliance than a computer. The point isn't to learn about computers; the point is to leverage computers to boost the education of those who otherwise don't have many educational resources available (books and tools). If the education includes software development and thinking, so much the better.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2011


This sort of thing seems more given to success, all without Nicholas Negroponte.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What could go wrong?
posted by biffa at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What are the killer applications for this project?

The cannibal-themed electronic cookbook is pretty popular with the locals. Though its tough to use a touchscreen when your hands are covered in human blood, so it's a good thing there are buttons for flipping through recipes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 PM on November 4, 2011


The cannibal-themed electronic cookbook is pretty popular with the locals. Though its tough to use a touchscreen when your hands are covered in human blood, so it's a good thing there are buttons for flipping through recipes.

It is especially useful if your daughter brings home her latest boyfriend who's kinda faddish and won't eat brain or claims to have an allergy to human heart.
posted by Jehan at 3:07 PM on November 4, 2011


Air, by Geoff Ryman?
posted by ohkay at 3:08 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm, the XO isn't an iPad competitors, Trurl. I suppose the XO inspired the whole sub $500 netbook market that afaik Asus' Eee PC has dominated, even saying the XO competes with the Eee PS. Apple has never touched the netbook market.

I'm pretty sure it was called the "Air." Same basic ideas (ssd-only disk, ultraportable), but with parts and shininess that put it well above $500.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:14 PM on November 4, 2011


Ok, I guess I've waited long enough so I'll just say it now,

Has anyone asked if the recipients *want* this gift from the man in the sky?

An eye opener for my own thinking was visiting the cyber cafe in what was ironically the least poor area of Kenya where the staffmember in charge laughingly told us (while subtly pointing to the traditionally dressed Maasai lounging by the Coke machine) that people often asked him if they (the monitors) were TVs for sale. They all have phones. Their kids are often studying in US universities. There's just no local demand unlike a town two hours north which has just opened its 78th cyber and most of the ones we saw had groups of young people hanging outside waiting for their turn on the Facebook.

Secondly, this built in wireless internet business - where in this supposedly remote area will it pick up that wifi signal from the sky? Or is it automatically connected to the globe's satellites ? Who is paying for that service? If you don't have context, forget literacy, will you know to turn that solar panel to the sun for charging?

Valuable resources turned into junk and littered across the world.
posted by infini at 3:15 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The cannibal-themed electronic cookbook is pretty popular with the locals.

...

Those racist 30s cartoons aren't documentaries, you know.
posted by kmz at 3:21 PM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


TBH I'm having a little bit of difficulty parsing the level of irony there.
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on November 4, 2011


I remember one time I dropped some tablets.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:34 PM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it was called the "Air." Same basic ideas (ssd-only disk, ultraportable), but with parts and shininess that put it well above $500.
The sub-$100 notebook for just $1000!
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on November 4, 2011


delmoi, that is so often the story we tell ourselves, and I think it is the story Negroponte has been trying to tell, but I think in telling that story we too often forget things about the important adults in the lives of the children who may have modeled behavior on the computers that kids had such a supposedly easy time learning to use (and which kids? Why fewer girls than boys?)
I think in a lot of cases it was the other way around, with kids teaching their parents how to use the machines. Maybe the kids saw someone using the machines first but honestly kids were way out pacing their parents in terms of being able to work with the machines.
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on November 4, 2011


infini: "Secondly, this built in wireless internet business - where in this supposedly remote area will it pick up that wifi signal from the sky? Or is it automatically connected to the globe's satellites ?"

Actually the OLPC folks did some pretty innovative work with networking. Any two or more within antenna range will (with the owners' permissions) mesh and create a shared network. If any one of these accesses the Internet at large (via satellite, dialup, whatever...), access can be forwarded to all devices within that mesh.
posted by idiopath at 4:11 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was one of the kids who outpaced my parents at the computer and other pieces of tech. I did have some instruction in the form of a few community and secondary ed classes, but not a lot of direct mentoring. Mostly I just had more free time with the equipment, and an inclination towards open-ended (rather than task/goal oriented) exploration of various devices. A lot of the time, I was just *playing* with them to see what I could get them to do.

Now that I'm older, a lot of times when I sit down to a device or a software package I have a task in mind and quickly get frustrated and impatient that it's not obvious or doesn't work the way I want it to.

I think there's a big difference in the two states in terms of educational value. I don't know that it's strictly a child/adult thing, but I can see how childhood affords more of an opportunity.

So I think it's credible that if you drop a device into developing-world territory, it might well find its way into the hands of children (and explorative/playful adults) who will figure out what it does, and maybe even how it does it. I suppose there might be differences I wouldn't anticipate in culture and rhythm of life in helicopter-drop developing-world territory that could present barriers, though.

I find it less credible that the device will actually ever get made at scale, though, and instead I'd bet on inexpensive smartphones becoming common first and the kind of catalyst envisioned.
posted by weston at 4:44 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


samsara, the pixel qi display is a new version of that display.
posted by fake at 5:29 PM on November 4, 2011


The cannibal-themed electronic cookbook is pretty popular with the locals. Though its tough to use a touchscreen when your hands are covered in human blood, so it's a good thing there are buttons for flipping through recipes.

Wow, man. Did you actually read and comprehend the racist bullshit that you just wrote?

That's pretty fucking fucked up.
posted by loquacious at 5:31 PM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]



Actually the OLPC folks did some pretty innovative work with networking. Any two or more within antenna range will (with the owners' permissions) mesh and create a shared network. If any one of these accesses the Internet at large (via satellite, dialup, whatever...), access can be forwarded to all devices within that mesh.


Well that was the way it was supposed to work. I went to a really interesting talk this year, at OSCon on the experience in Uruguay with OLPC laptops (which deployed them to all schoolchildren). Mesh networking was a notable failure. It basically never worked. As a result you can now apparently identify unsecured access points there by the groups of schoolchildren that gather in a huddle outside.

The other big failure was tech support -- 25% failed in the first year and people were expected to send them to a centralized place, though this has now changed. (I work for an org that basically exists to give away computers, and free tech support is one of the most important things that makes it work IMO, compared to other attempts to do similar things Ive seen elsewhere). Also lacking were training for teachers and a local support ecology.

What did work was learning through video games, in a self-directed fashion, though these were much more time consuming to make than books etc.
posted by tallus at 7:13 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


tallus, does the "learning through video games" that you are mentioning have any relation to the "activities" in the sugar environment?

Also, can you describe what exactly failed about mesh networking? I am sad to hear about that, because ever since I first got wifi I hoped that something like mesh networking would be possible (the idea that a group of computers with antennas should be able to connect just seemed kind of intuitive).
posted by idiopath at 7:35 PM on November 4, 2011


When did they weaponize the OLPC?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:57 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a concept, I love it; books not bombs, literally. But yeah, without the right software, support, and networking this could be an expensive failure.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:18 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dropping tech in without any ongoing support has been the road to failure for a lot of projects, yeah. But the goal of any such project has got to be to engender enough knowledge and skill among the locals to make the tech useful and the knowledge self-sustaining (whether the knowledge is simply literacy, or computer usage, or whatever). So if you can afford to have a really low success rate, then it becomes an interesting experiment, I guess— the rare successes might be even more completely successful.

If the goal is literacy, though, I do wonder if it would be more cost-effective to drop printed books.
posted by hattifattener at 10:05 PM on November 4, 2011


Actually the OLPC folks did some pretty innovative work with networking. Any two or more within antenna range will (with the owners' permissions) mesh and create a shared network. If any one of these accesses the Internet at large (via satellite, dialup, whatever...), access can be forwarded to all devices within that mesh.
posted by idiopath at 4:11 PM on November 4



Even if the mesh worked, if the concept of the helicopter drop is that its a remote inaccessible place with a few children but no school or teacher or other resource, Negroponte's concept being that this will prove that the OLPC alone can enable self directed literacy in a language they may or may not understand (uh, anyone thought of that? how will you learn to read in a language that you may not be speaking nor is anyone else?) - about the only signal available, if they're lucky, will be cellular - EDGE, 2G and in some places, 3G

You tell me how will this machine automatically connect to this network. Break down the scenario here, I want the step by step user behaviour:

1. No literacy if the goal is creating kids that read. No english or whatever language Sugar will make them literate in. No context (because if mobiles are already there then there's some amount of numeracy or literacy - here, delmoi is right in that its the kids who figure out their way around their parents smartphones better than the adults - but then why would we need this green thing?)
2. Beep beep beep connecting to the cellular network (signal implies local phone ownership - today in East Africa genuine smartphones on Android are sub USD100 and chinese fakes start around $20ish)
3. Cell network says where's my airtime minutes, data bundle or whatever
4. Kid says "Whut?" - if by then he has mysteriously learnt to read the english language instructions asking for a top up


WTF is all this nonsense?
posted by infini at 12:05 AM on November 5, 2011


tallus, does the "learning through video games" that you are mentioning have any relation to the "activities" in the sugar environment?

I believe a lot of them were developed locally, but I didn't take extensive notes, this page, linked upthread, has some good details.

Also, can you describe what exactly failed about mesh networking?

I don't have the details unfortunately though I believe it was partly a buggy implementation, and partly more fundamental -- not enough nodes and you can't make a network, get enough and the network falls over due to the amount of traffic (there are still open bugs relating to this in OLPC, though with v1.5 it was dropped altogether). Mesh networking sounds like a good idea, but the various projects I came across when I was involved in community wireless all struggled to get it to do anything. The group I was involved with when for a centralized set up (basically sectors on top of a tower block) and that worked with few problems.
posted by tallus at 12:06 AM on November 5, 2011


I just came across this quite balanced and well written article (for a change) from The Economic Times on low cost computing solutions and their role in education, from the Indian perspective - sorry the one page print didn't work for me so its a multipager :

Paul says that unless such devices help a taxi driver make a booking it won't be too relevant for him. Or can a small merchant do accounting on it? She points out that application developers don't come from a bottom of pyramid background . Hence, they may not quite know what will work for the masses. Adds Sivakumar of ITC, which is experimenting with tablet applications for farmers: "Because of lower education levels and poor infrastructure (for mass roll out) these devices need features like multimedia, video and photo shoot and transmission, battery time and ruggedness.

An eco-system that supports solutions will help in adopting computers." Education, where industry sources expect high demand for low-cost devices, will be a big testing ground. "They (low-cost tablets) will benefit only a small percentage of overall schooling in the country -- only 4-5 % of 1.5 million schools," says Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation. "For mass education computers are irrelevant, unaffordable and unusable." [ note: Azim Premji was Chairman of Wipro Computers]

The Premji Foundation works in teacher training and developing curriculum and impacts 2.5 million children. It developed school course in 175 CDs in 15 languages between 2002 and 2007. About 25,000 schools in 10 states use this. However the foundation has discontinued converting courseware to digital formats . "The process of learning does not happen via computer but via good teachers. But computers can be great for teacher education and adult education," says Behar.

posted by infini at 1:04 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the OLPC project has more good intention than it has sense. That said, there are reasonable responses to a few of your criticisms infini.

The difference from a smartphone is that OLPC ships with much of its source code, most of the software is implemented in python, the language was chosen because it is interpreted so it can be examined and modified in place by a curious user, and because it is a language well suited to pedagogy. Maybe they are being idealistic to think that any of these villages where so few are even literate has anyone who would care. But along with some basic literacy and curiosity and intellect it could lead to someone's software development career, or at least their foot in the door for a scholarship to a technical school.

A network that connects a few dozen laptops in a village is very useful, even if it does not reach the Internet. The apps that ship with the OLPC are designed for student collaboration and sharing and comparing their work via a network. Though it does sound like mesh computing (or at least the OLPC's version of such) is kind of a dead end.

Of course a laptop is no replacement for a teacher and is useless if nobody in the entire village can read. But if you have one adult that is literate, and 30 children and adult learners that want to learn to read, a laptop with the right documents and software on it could be a halfway decent alternative to a very large (and much more expensive) physical library.

I hear the points about support though. It is meant to be a self-documenting object as much as possible, but I think the technically inclined (we who don't always consider countless hours tinkering with unfamiliar software wasted time) can underestimate the impatience and frustration of someone who has no interest in learning general computer skills but just wants to complete a specific task.
posted by idiopath at 1:35 AM on November 5, 2011


Idiopath, I appreciate your insights (and most likely far greater technical knowledge and understanding than myself) and acknowledge that I'm likely to be cranky this morning but how does this address the issue of the language itself? A snippet from the Edutech blog linked in a few comments above:


In a comment on the Callis post on the EduTech Debate site, Isabelle Duston highlights a problem common to many 'new' initiatives in this area: They seek (for example) to use software that was created to promote literacy in native English speakers in order to teach non-native speakers how to learn English as a second (or third, or fourth) language -- even where such people aren't yet literate in their first language! It may be true that, in some exceptional cases, you will find kids who can pick up literacy skills in such contexts. (Indeed, in my experience, many pilot projects actively seek out and highlight such exceptional cases to illustrate the success of their overall approach.) That said, we shouldn't be surprised when the result is that such projects have little or no real impact.


Will Negroponte be adapting the software with localization appropriate to each region he helicopters into ? How does python work in this regard?
posted by infini at 1:44 AM on November 5, 2011


infini: "Will Negroponte be adapting the software with localization appropriate to each region he helicopters into ? How does python work in this regard?"

here is what they say on their website:
"At the moment, the laptop is 100% English, 98% Spanish, 96% German, 95% French, 65% Japanese, and 56% Portuguese. Many other languages are 5% done at best. Translating is fun, quite easy and the rewards are great: here's how you can get started."

Basically it looks like they are looking for volunteers to help with localization. This is a common approach with open source, since there are many people who speak a bit of a fully implemented localized language plus another unimplemented language, want to contribute to an open source project, and are not programmers. I don't know if this dynamic works out the same way with OLPC, but it seems to work out well with various Linux software.

Also there is an attitude in free software that is something like "I don't know if this is useful for you or not, but I figure I'll just put it out there and if you want to improve it go right ahead". Since the developer is rarely getting paid by the end user, they don't have the same kind of priorities and motivations that you see in the closed source world. And I think I see some of this rub off in OLPC. Also the choice to go with something as experimental as mesh networks seems pretty indicative of typical free software culture. Except that kind of risk taking is more expensive when you are talking about investing in custom hardware (a software feature can simply be held off for future implementation or rolled back to something less ambitious).
posted by idiopath at 2:27 AM on November 5, 2011


Thank you idiopath.

I notice that the languages mostly done tend to mostly have higher levels of literacy and educational facilities in their home regions.
posted by infini at 2:36 AM on November 5, 2011


Those racist 30s cartoons aren't documentaries, you know.

I was making a joke about another thread, not being racist, not saying patent law is perfect, nor voting Republican. You can put away your claws.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 PM on November 5, 2011


Changing the subject, what is it with Yves Behar and carabiner hooks? The concept design for the XO-3, the Nook Color - sometimes it feels like his target audience is highly connected mountaineers.

Back on the tablet that might actually be being dropped out of helicopters - part of what I don't wholly get is the helicopters. Helicopter flights are expensive, and if you're not talking about Yanomami levels of isolation (in which case, don't drop tablets on them) it feels like a better use of resources to send a jeep out with some charity workers able to show people how to turn the thing on and access a few basic services. The other thing is what exactly they are going to be for. The original OLPC was at least in part intended to get people interested in programming as well as provide them with access to educational resources, whereas tablets tend not to be so great for that.

Assuming some level of literacy in the targeted areas, and also assuming that the aim is not to create Linux programmers, would e-ink readers be a better idea? Relatively inexpensive, low power draw, sunlight-readable screens, already manufacturable for less than $99. They could be loaded up by a charity or NGO - say, lots of reference texts on engineering projects, water purification and so on, and then schoolbooks and novels to encourage local-language literacy in children - and delivered by an aid worker with some solar-panel MicroUSB chargers and a quick guide to turning it on and paging through the (non-local language to keep localization costs down) menu screens to get to the list of local-language book titles.

That could basically be done with no customization. More ambitiously, one could resurrect the mesh idea in some way to help villages without Internet access to get new content. So, on the irregular intervals when a villager goes to a larger town, they can take one reader, update the titles automatically by WiFi in a municipal building and (and this is where OLPC could consult on technology implementation) share the new titles to the other readers in the village when he gets back with some sort of peer-to-peer wireless update.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:34 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back on the tablet that might actually be being dropped out of helicopters - part of what I don't wholly get is the helicopters.

I think they are mentioned for the drama, which has somewhat backfired as it's obvious lunacy.
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2011


Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe...
Welcome to School in a Box -
A First World Solution to a Third World Problem

posted by Artw at 7:51 AM on November 6, 2011


An iPad, seriously wtf? iPads won't hardly let you install free software without giving Apple a credit card number. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 8:12 AM on November 6, 2011


Well, I think it's for the teachers rather than the kids.

Reports seem to be a bit confused and include a lot of retractions. That the Zimbabwean goverment is involved doesn't exactly hold out much hope.
posted by Artw at 8:20 AM on November 6, 2011


There's a great joke in here somewhere about Apple and cargo cults. Also, as noted, a wonderful metaphor for how schools and colleges often deploy tech. Whoever learns how to use the gadget first becomes a Witch Doctor, who feels powerful at first but then gradually realizes they are enslaved by their users/clients.
posted by mecran01 at 9:37 AM on November 6, 2011


Not wishing to threadcoddle, but would it be worth exploring a metaphorical palette not involving cannibals, witch doctors or slaves while talking about computing in Sub-Saharan Africa? I realise Nicholas Negroponte kind of kicked this off with a "The Gods Must be Crazy" shout-out, but I feel like there's a better way to have the conversation than that presumes, without losing clarity.

Back ontopic - leaving aside platform choice, the "School in a Box" does add an interesting feature in the projector - I can see the pedagogic advantages, and you could then spread the benefits with one device used by a trained educator, as Artw says, rather than going bottom-up by putting tablets in the hands of untrained users and seeing if they work out how to use them. It's a different objective, though; the former is basically using lower-cost, portable technology to replace a smart whiteboard as a teaching tool, whereas the latter is about getting people comfortable with the hardware and software interface as well as giving access to the educational benefits of the content within the device.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:02 AM on November 6, 2011


There's all kinds of reasons why an iPad might not be the most practical of choices as a machine for self directed learning in far flung corners of the globe, but I will say this: Kids, even or maybe especially young kids, take to the touchscreen UI like nobodys business.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2011


From what I can gather, these helicopter mentions have been heard since June (via Wayan Vota's tweets and posts) - as I read about it, it seems as though that's Negroponte's way of stating that there's proof this thing will work to teach kids how to read all by itself as he's always imagined it and therefore he'll just drop it out of the sky (therefore untainted by human contact or jeeps driving in) and come back in a year to see if the experiment worked by God he's fed up of everyone always doubting his theory that this will work since 1971!

Thank you for the lovely comment running order squabble fest, it reminds me of my own inability to have reflected sufficiently well on your thoughts ;p

Where did I hear that Apple was not involved at all in this Zimbabwean thing?

Unfortunately, the Internet being what it is, the NewsDay story has already been picked up by other publications including reputable global tech news sites like The Next Web and The Register. While The Register has posted a clarification update to their article, The Next Web has not. How news travels fast in these connected times! ~ No, the Zimbabwe government and Apple are not in iPad joint venture

From what I'm reading its really the baby of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dublin who will be launching the education kit including an iPad but ArtW may have cause for concern even if the govt wasn't involved:

Matter-of-fact aside, we wholeheartedly believe in ICTs becoming accessible to more people; however this project itself could be impractical here. Firstly due to the fact that iPads cost so much and secondly due to their iconic status, which could lead to them being ripped out of the kits and peddled to a ready market.
posted by infini at 10:33 AM on November 6, 2011


A blog post from interim thoughts out of Bangalore musing upon the Indian tablet that made me pause and think again:

Many years back, a newspaper in Mumbai had a 100 page issue as part of some anniversary celebration or something. Needless to say, vendors thought it was smarter to sell it directly as used paper rather than go through the trouble of having to sell it. Why? Because the cost and effort of carting it around was not worth the trouble of the commission it would offer them.

Ditto with laptops and tablets. The immediate utility of something like that is not that high as much as the immediate utility of the cash that the beneficiaries might get by selling them.

Imagine that you live in a slum. Now with the pathetic electricity supply you have, you have to manage a laptop or a tablet. And as it is in a slum,the risk of something being stolen is quite high - either by a drunkard relative or someone else. If the risk for stealing is low, then surely there are demands for money from everybody concerned - in which case, it is smarter to sell the damn thing for some immediate cash. And then to top it, you perhaps go to a school where the teachers is more absent than present. And while you do so, you have to lug around a laptop or tablet on your back. Overall, if you ask me, a losing proposition. Unless I plan to use the battery to power the monitor to light up the house during a load shedding in the evening hours!

You get the point. My smallish brain tells me that it is a waste of time and taxpayers money. The only people happy with this are the manufacturers and the supply chain who will probably laugh all the way to the bank. And then again, some of those who manage to get a good price on the damn thing may also be happy with it.

On the other hand - giving bicycles to schoolchildren might have a totally different effect...

posted by infini at 11:56 AM on November 6, 2011


I'll sort of believe the Aakash when I see it. Not that it's incredible in itself - according to the story delmoi linked to, the $35 price is subsidised for sale to students and the retail price will be $60, which for an android tablet with a resistive touchscreen, underpowered processor, 256MB RAM and limited battery life is not unimaginable by any means. I can run FroYo on my old HTC Sapphire, which is not that far from the Aakash in terms of specs. But it feels like there is still a lot of bureaucracy between breaking the ground and actually delivering 10 million of the things.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:29 PM on November 6, 2011


Changing the subject, what is it with Yves Behar and carabiner hooks? The concept design for the XO-3, the Nook Color - sometimes it feels like his target audience is highly connected mountaineers.

the new Nook Tablet has one too! Er, I really wouldn't dangle it from that thing...
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2011


Yves has such a robust head of fluffy blonde curls


anon me?
posted by infini at 10:28 AM on November 7, 2011


Since this seems to be the thread for low-cost tablets, there's a good (if non-technical) piece about the NOOK Tablet launch here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:31 PM on November 7, 2011


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