Syndicate content

Add new comment

Submitted by Barry Walsh, Justice Reform, Legal Vice Presidency on
It is good that you have highlighted the distinction between the cost of devices and the cost of using and gaining benefits from them in the context of educating children. Laptops and similar devices empower the user to interact with others in many ways. Not all of them are necessarily high priorities for education. Sending emails to one's teacher, for instance, may be convenient, but not necessarily better than attending class in person. Yet web emailing is a relatively cost free benefit of providing web-enabled laptops to children, at least for educational institutions. But providing managed purpose-designed online learning systems, on the other hand, can be very expensive to design and manage. So too is raw connectivity, although even in developing countries the cost of this is gradually falling. So the value intended to be provided may depend on what else an educational institution may intend to do, once the devices are distributed. As you suggest, few of the programs that aim to give devices to children seem to have much to say about how the devices will be used. A question that may be worthy of focusing on, however, is the potential of e-book devices to overcome the costs of providing school children with books to read, including school text books. The distribution of paper books to those in need in developing countries is one of the major challenges of many development programs - it is always expensive and is a recurring cost that does not diminish. Not only is it a problem for children, but also professionals, such as physicians, engineers and judges. On the the other hand, Kindles, Ipads, Nooks other e-book readers are the kind of devices that are already available at very low cost compared with laptops. And they are able to provide passive, rather than interactive access to books and other documents. I wonder if the distribution of e-book readers, with associated subsidisation of intellectual property rights of authors whose books are read via those devices, is not a better way of getting value out of "laptops for every child" programs in developing countries.