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Article on German TV (3Sat) with Ron Wertlen

Last weekend, an OLPC TV Article, with eKhaya ICT was shown in Germany.

The following is a translation of that article:

Education by Mouse-Click

"One Laptop per Child" [is also a] project in South Africa

An upcoming problem of African countries and other developing nations, is that they are missing the connection as far as the technological development of digital information. How are computers to operate when there is no electricity and they are unaffordable to start with? Nicolas Negroponte of MIT in Boston had the idea of a visionary initiative called "One Laptop per Child": a laptop for children in developing countries, which costs around 100 US dollars, definitely not exceeding 150 US dollars.

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, one of the poorest regions of the country, Ron Wertlen tackles pot-holed roads. He too has a great vision: The software developer, Ron, is one of 15 volunteers in South Africa for the campaign "One laptop per child".

Playful Introduction

Wertlen will demonstrate a special computer, which has been designed for children in developing countries. 722 pupils are taught by only 18 teachers here. There is neither electricity nor running water. Most textbooks are outdated. Modern learning is different to what is going on here. The learners have never in their lives seen a laptop - a sensation for them and for the education system. The keyboard and controls are specially tailored for children. Games and music programs will be used to introduce the machines, special learning software should lead to acquisition of knowledge.

Ron Wertlen shows the teachers an important feature of the children's laptops: The screen can be switched from colour to black-and-white mode, and is thus also readable in direct sunlight. Such details make the computer at all suitable for use in "Third World" situations. The Children's laptop was already presented in 2005 at the World Economic Summit in Davos. The then UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, and Internet guru Nicolas Negroponte of the famous technical university MIT in Boston presented the hundred dollar laptop for the first time. "Every technical breakthrough of the next five years, cuts the cost of the laptops," said Nicolas Negroponte, "which in turn benefits the children."

Large thirst for knowledge

The Children's laptop was designed by the company "fuseproject" in San Francisco. It belongs to the Swiss designer Yves Behar. The new wonder computer was designed to be simple, powerful and robust. How often does a designer get the job to connect the "Third World" to the computer-age? As that is what was being asked. "When you open the laptop, you see that every part has a number of functions," says Yves Behar. "Thus the radio antennas help one open the laptop, and simultaneously serve as a cover for the connectors. Another example: It can be used quite traditionally as a laptop or if one turns the screen, as an electronic book, which you can read."

In just one year, Behar and his team have created not only an impressively simple device, but also tackled fundamental problems, such as the electricity supply. "As far as the electricity supply is concerned, we have a dozen possibilities," said Behar. "One could use solar panels to load a number of laptops at once, there are also manual power supplies, such as the Power-yoyo. Using it, one can generate electricity by repeatedly pulling a cord. One minute's pulling power supplies ten minutes of usage. All this is feasible only because the OLPC [ed: called XO] consumes about ten percent of the electricity used by a normal laptop. "

At school in South Africa, the enthusiasm is not flagging. Meanwhile, the children have discovered the integrated camera and noticed that the laptops have automatically networked and that they, the children, can use them to communicate. "I want to learn what this laptop has to offer," says Yandisa Thanda. "I have seen that it has games, music and drawing programs. I want to master everything on it." At the moment the teacher still helps out. The long-term goal of the computer campaign is however that children teach themselves and grow independant. Currently, classical teaching methods are being used in the Eastern Cape. But for how much longer? When the government buys the new computer, it could be the beginning of a revolution - a revolution in education in the "Third World".

[First pass translation by translate.google.com, second pass by eKhaya ICT.]

See also the article previously mentioned in this blog below on Swiss TV (link to video).

Posted: November 13th 2007 02:13

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