Reality Check India

No computer for you – bad boy !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 29, 2006

Human resources ministry rubbishes MITs laptop proposal

olpc.jpg

Link here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1698603,curpg-1.cms 

I am absolutely stunned by the reasons given. Now, I dont care who they select as a supplier. Maybe this particular laptop has technical problems – that does not mean we can deprive poor kids of the all crucial access to the wonders brought on to us by the age of the internet.

I am disappointed that knowledgeable bloggers too welcome this move ! See this post by Abi at nanopolitan http://nanopolitan.blogspot.com/2006/07/100-dollar-laptops-mhrd-takes-sane.html

The logic is this :

  1. Schools do not even have toilets or teachers, why do we need these fancy gadgets?
  2. No, we wont fix the toilets and teachers. We will just use the absence of toilets and teachers to deprive the really poor and needy kids access to the all critical computer.
  3. No, we wont select an alternate supplier or attempt to build it ourselves either.
  4. See, we just dont think the kids need computers. 

It is common knowledge that in todays world, the Internet and computers to a large extent shape you as a person. Rich and middle class kids in India from the age of 5 get to learn from the internet.  They start seeing zebras and other animals, move on to pokemon, learn about geography, then start chatting with peers. It is almost like a portal into dreamy lands, mysteries of the human body, of electonics and science, and the universe. Many kids today use the internet to check spellings of words, look up synonyms, learn painting even music.

What shocks me is the reason given ?

HRD contends that spending Rs 450 crore on digital empowerment can be better spent on primary and secondary education. “It is quite obvious that the financial expenditure to be made on the scheme will be out of public funds.

Are you kidding sirs ? You dont want to spend 450 crores on technology that will open up a world of wonder for truly disadvantaged kids, but you wont bat an eyelid to spend 16,000 crores on tertiary education in management and science – arguably the least of Indias problems ?

Wait there is more :

“India must not allow itself to be used for experimentation with children in this area,”

Hey, Reality Check: What kind of statement is that ? What kind of experimentation are you talking about ? Do your kids use the computer ? Are you not proud that your son can fix your software problems at age 10 ? Why deny poor Ramu or Jose or Iqbal – god knows they cant buy it themselves ?

It also finds it intriguing as to “why no developed country has been chosen” for MIT’s OLPC experiment “given the fact that most of the developed world is far from universalising the possession and use of laptops among children of 6-12 age group”.

This statement is so messed up that I dont even know where to begin. I have visited public schools in various school districts in the USA. Let me tell you about the facilities they have. Most schools are fully equipped with PCs and MACs. Europe is even better, why dont you visit a school in Germany or Austria and see for yourself the kind of computer facilities they have. My heart goes out to the poor lorry drivers kid who will probably never see a computer during all his school years in a government school – even if he manages to finish his schooling. Let us not even talk about the quota system where this fellow has to compete with kids who are exposed to computers and have probably downloaded all exam papers and reference material.

Wait some more gems:

“Both physical and psychological effects of children’s intensive exposure to the computer implicit in OLPC are worrisome, to say the least.

This is the silliest excuse. Are you kidding ? Look at your own kids in any urban area middle class school. They are all over the internet whether checking out cartoons, music , reading stories or just browsing. If the effects are so bad, then why dont you ban computers from private schools for the rich for the 6-12 age group ?

The icing on the cake.

Health problems of our rural children are well-known; personalised intensity of computer use could easily exacerbate some of these problems especially those related to eyesight and the back,” the ministry said.

I wont attempt to dissect that stupid statement, watching TV is more damaging for the eyesight than computers. What are you gonna do about that ? 

Listen, computers are the future. Every kid in India must have access to it. If you do not like this particular model (the OLPC model shown in the picture), then fine. You have to come out with technical reasons for why it is bad (bad processor, unreliable screen, small keyboard, low storage, whatever). If you want to let IISC design a new low cost computer as a replacement , great. Go for it !

Instead, you are trashing the entire concept. You claim that at the moment poor children in government schools should not be given computers. Why ! Dont governments give free color TVs estimated to cost 3000 Crores (minimum estimate) ?

To conclude here is a question by Abi-

What I would question is the OLPC’s strategy of selling the laptops directly to bureaucrats, but not to the actual users.

Cmon, the reason this device is cheap because of scale. This is targeted at the poorest of our kids, yes, those breaking stones or working in match factories or serving food in hotels. Do you thnk they have the money to spend on this gadget ? The government owes them this bare minimum. To sell directly would be a flop from the get go, because of the lack of a distribution system and the home truth that the buyers are just not there.

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8 Responses

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  1. Barbarindian said, on July 30, 2006 at 4:38 am

    RC,

    You might want to link Abi’s actual post instead of his home url. Given the ferocity with which Herr Doktor Professor (and others of his ilk) blog, the relevant post will be relegated to the archives in no time.

  2. Apollo said, on July 30, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    U nailed it. The problem with this system is that they still think in terms of the old socialist babu raj. This issue, the ban on blogs and laloo’s new idea abput banning visitors on railway platforms shows that our babus and political parties are incapable of fresh thinking.

  3. Barbarindian said, on July 30, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    RC,

    You might want to link the actual URL of Abi’s post instead of the home URL. He blogs ferociously and it is a matter of time before the relvant post gets relegated to the archives.

  4. barbarindian said, on July 31, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Just wondering, are you filtering certain comments?

  5. realitycheck said, on July 31, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    Nope – Why ?

  6. realitycheck said, on July 31, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Barb,

    Found your comment in the spam. No idea how it got there. Cmon, I aint filtering you 🙂

    Yes, the professors post has quickly been drowned in an avalanche of copy from various sources. His post did not have a direct link at that time.

    It just shows how much our social progressives really care about the truly disadvantaged.

  7. realitycheck said, on July 31, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Fixed it !

    I found the direct link on the right side panel.

    Thanks,

  8. […] Right wingers are taking opposite views on the $100 Laptop deal. One rightwinger  is saying that Indian govt.’s decision is right. The other right winger is saying that it is wrong. Knowing the inherent dumbness of right wingers, I am quite surprised that Rajeev Srinivasan is supporting the govt.’s decision. As per the right wing thinking (also known as shallow thinking), even if you don’t have electricity for everyone in the country, even if you have quite a lot of powercuts in the country, you have to test a nuclear bomb to show your supremacy. This is their logic. Hang on, don’t laugh at their logic. Thatz their level of thinking. Under such a scenario, you would expect them to support the $100 laptop plan for poor kids even if the kids don’t have food to eat or a place to stay. The second guy followed this logic and opposed govt.’s decision. He even swiped at a sane post by Abi on this topic. But the first guy surprised me with his support for the govt. decision. I am still wondering if he really thought out and came to this decision or ………. Anyhow, it is nice to see that even if one is a right winger, he/she can think in a saner way once in a while. In fact, right wingers can grow up into saner group with continuous practice to think along these directions. […]


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