Technology and empowerment — lessons for the west

According to this report, the government of India — having rejected Nicholas Negroponte’s offer of $100 laptops, is examining proposals from a student from Vellore Institute of Technology and a researcher from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Engadget meanwhile calls the Indian rejection “sour grapes” and gave a (satirical) picture of what the Indian computer could look like. Clearly, only the west can produce “technology”. Already, commercial players in India are producing low cost PCs for about £100 (read here and here). So, the criticism in western media is one of sour grapes as the Indians reject their ideas. IISc has a proven record of technology development. For example the Simputer, which “has a special role in the third world because it ensures that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer”. The Indians have a much better understanding of technology for the masses. For example, the entire assumption of projects such as OLPC, Mobilis, Intel Classmate is literacy. On the other hand, the IISc begins with the assumption that technology should delived shared devices that permit truly simple and natural user interfaces based on sight, touch and audio, thereby bypassing the barriers to usage of technology due to illiteracy.

The real reason why there is an opportunistic interest in cheap PCs for India is here.

Update (added 15 May): Intel has piloted its Classmate PCs in India. According to this report:

The first pilot program with classmate PCs started four months ago in India with class VI students at DPS Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad, Vasundhara (in New Delhi). Using classmate PCs, these students were able to learn through computers and participate in collaborative activities such as notes sharing, emails, content development and other innovative educational exercises.

To further accelerate access to uncompromised technology and education for students in India, Intel is also joining hand with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), an autonomous organization under India’s Department of Education. The collaboration supports NVS’ goals of introducing students to computers in the classroom to enable interactive education . As part of the collaboration, Intel is donating 60 classmate PCs to class VII students at NVS Mothuka, Faridabad to enable students to use PCs to improve their learnings. The pilot in this school is expected to take place in late Q2 or early Q3 this year.

Links: Simputer, OLPC, Mobilis, Intel Classmate

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