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Great article as usual Sarah! In Uruguay we are very proud of our OLPC implementation (Plan Ceibal), that with all of it's problems - of which there are many - still managed to enable access and open a world of previously unthinkable possibilities to children all across the country. I believe the mere fact that a child is given the chance to know about and experience a virtual window to the world and a new, fantastic tool to learn, create and share while sitting on the middle of nowhere is a paradigm altering experience. I know it was for me 25 years ago when I got my first computer and started dabbling in BASIC - I can only imagine the impact now.
Critics will attack Ceibal and other implementations of OLPC based on the fact that test scores don't improve. That is a pointless argument to make; test scores don't matter at all when you are fast tracking whole generations into a new, digital based world that they would otherwise have no chance of knowing. This is a long term bet, one that will be cashed 15, 20 or 30 years from now. And it's the right bet to make in countries like Uruguay that need that change in culture to make a better future happen.
I don't think people living in developed nations can really understand the kind of impact these kind of programs have. Don't get me wrong, Uruguay is far from being a poor country, but we are still very far away in many ways from the standard of living, expectations and opportunities that people have in developed nations, even in the middle of a crisis. Critics should try and understand our reality as framed by our limitations and possibilities, and not through the lens of someone that can use Google Maps to know that the bus will stop at exactly 2:43 at the bus stop and will take 16 minutes to make the route, can Uber-hail a cab or pay for the hotdog with Square while reviewing at Yelp and listening to Pandora. Heck, you'll have a hard time finding anyone that can take your debit card! (incredibly frustrating btw). It's akin to analysing history with a modern day perspective - you need to understand the circumstances of the historical time to be able to really understand what happened and why.
I am a software engineer now, and worked for many years as a web developer creating things that didn't exist had I wanted to learn them when I got that first crude computer. Yet I can trace my whole career - and incidentally my life - back to that moment when the cursor started blinking in the black and white TV and the cassette tape started playing after the command "LOAD "" ,8,1;" (or something like that - hey that was 25 years ago ;)
P.S. Sarah, looking forward to meeting you in Punta del Este next January! Big fan, loved your Crazy, Cocky book :)
6 months, 3 weeks ago on One Laptop Per Child still not changing the world enough for Silicon Valley bloggers