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January 2009

What's new, and what isn't: Observations from the BETT show (2009)

Michael Trucano's picture

stopping at Kensington Olympia to get a glimpse of the future | image attribution at bottomThe British Educational Training and Technology Show (BETT) bills itself as the world’s largest trade show of its kind.  This year’s show in London (14-17 January, featured more than 600 distributors and over 30,000 visitors.

A visitor from abroad -- or at least this visitor -- is quickly struck by a number of products and services that appear to be specific to the UK market, or at least indicative of market needs in the UK that differ from other countries.  Two product areas notable in this regard are those addressing issues of cyberbullying and truancy.  These include products that allow schools to notify parents via text message (SMS) when their child is not in school and network monitoring tools designed to detect on-line communication that may indicate where bullying is occurring.

Big Changes at OLPC

Michael Trucano's picture

preparing for a change-up | image attribution at bottomBig changes are apparently underway at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation (referred to by many as the '$100 laptop project').  The organization has announced it is laying off about half of its staff and refocusing its mission.  Included in its new intentions is that "Sub-Saharan Africa will become a major learning hub". 

You can read the official announcement over at the OLPC blog, which goes into much more detail.

What this may mean for the fate of perhaps the most famous "low-cost laptop" remains to be seen, but a few things *are* clear: Since the idea for a $100 laptop gained wide currency in the aftermath of the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos in early 2005, and its first unveiling (of a sort) at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis later that year, the landscape for 'low-cost computing', and the recognition that there are emerging markets in developing countries for such appliances right now, if the price is right, has changed radically.  infoDev used to track about 50 'Low-cost computing devices and initiatives for the developing world', but gave up at the end of 2007, when the explosion of activity in this area made the maintenance of such a list increasingly unfeasible (and, given that one of the rationales for such a list was to highlight that there was a lot of burgeoning activity in this area that people didn't know about, increasingly unnecessary).  While many of the highly-publicized commitments to buy the OLPC XO laptop for use by students in developing countries have not (yet) materialized, it is a testament to the attractiveness in many quarters of the vision (if not its implementation) of the 'one laptop per child' idea that the of the relevance of computer use in schools continues to gain traction in many ministries of education and parliaments around the world.