India rubbishes MIT’s laptop scheme for kids

The Human Resources Development ministry in India has rejected the idea of 'one-laptop-per-child' (OLPC) being aggressively marketed by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Laboratory. The ministry says, India must not allow itself to be used for experimentation with children in this area.

The ministry's detailed objection based on technical, social and financial grounds was sent to the Planning Commission two weeks ago. Negroponte had made a presentation on OLPC on April 7 seeking to sell one million laptops at the rate of USD100 per unit for children, the cost to be borne by the government. HRD contends that spending INR 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. It would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents, the ministry says. 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. The ministry says 6-12 is a highly vulnerable age group to cover in an area of human technology interface which is so new and heavily debated.

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