The Give 1 Get 1 program's mission statement reads: "Imagine the potential that could be unlocked by giving every child in the world the tools they need to learn, no matter who they are, no matter where
they live, no matter how little they may have." Though OLPC's limited-time program doesn't directly affect the children of Guinea or Mali, as those countries are not currently enlisted to participate in the OLPC program, we sent a XO laptop to Africa and to find out what impact the XO laptop made.
An American eight-year-old wasn't able to appreciate the XO
, especially when compared to the technology he uses every day in his New Jersey school and home. In contrast, the children in the Guinea neighborhood were blown away by the XO and its features, such as the simple built-in VGA webcam. "I showcased the built-in camera first, and the minute they saw their smiling faces on the screen they all started cheering. They were pushing, shoving, and even biting each other to be the one with the face on the screen," Sali wrote in the journal she kept of her experiences with the XO.
One laptop didn't only bring the 14 kids of the Kaporo Rail neighborhood amusement, but also the inspiration and tools to learn. With complete focus, ten-year-old Mamasa, who spends only limited time in the village school, learned to type her name and play the preloaded Memorize game. She explored the computer without having been given instructions, and within a few minutes had learned how to use the laptop's touchpad and shortcut buttons. Considering this was Mamasa's first time typing on a keyboard, Sali was amazed by Mamasa's speed and rapid understanding of how to use the keys.
"Children can collaborate, can make things, and can learn by doing with the XO," Negroponte told LAPTOP
in April 2007. The XO laptop was designed to aid in fulfilling the constructionism educational philosophy, which is based on the idea that children learn by doing, exploring, and discovering, instead of being force-fed information. In neighborhoods like Kaporo Rail or Ouelessebougou, Mali, where Sali was able to observe the XO in the hands of children, there is no money to implement formal education programs, and the XO laptop may be these children's only hope of continuous, and personal, education.
To us, computers and devices are often disposable, so the idea that laptops could save the world seems like a far-off, science-fiction prophecy. But in the reality of Guinea and other developing nations, these laptops are their future. When asked what kind of impact the XO could have, Negroponte responded by saying it would create "a far more creative society 20 years from now. Not to mention a chance to eliminate poverty and create world peace." That statement seemed too ivory tower, until we saw the first-hand impact that the XO had on children like Fatoumata and Mamasa. Their eyes lit up when they held the machine, typed their names, and explored the operating system. It is humbling that what we consider everyday activities are, to them, slightly short of miraculous.
The village children face a glum future--one without education that goes little beyond their village's livelihood. The XO could change that. Olivier Boko, originally from the Ivory Coast but living and working in Conakry, told Sali that "with the Internet and computers, they have access to the largest library in the world, and they can advance however they choose and pursue knowledge in whatever way. It makes universal knowledge accessible to all."
How does that knowledge get into the hands of the "children of the world"? It goes back to young Fatoumata's question, "How can we get one?"
Maybe you can help answer her question.