A Thought: Computers for All

11 04 2008

Recently I wrote a paper for school about a problem that I would like to solve. I thought I would share it with you guys today.

Living in the 21st century, it is almost impossible to avoid a computer. Not restricted to only homes or offices, computers control systems behind everything from banking to traffic lights. However a substantial percentage of people in the world do not own computers- in fact, some have never seen one! To someone living in the United States, on the East Coast, this concept is almost unimaginable. Everyone should have access to computers- from the deserts of Africa to the arctic planes in northern Russia.

Among the many issues in this world, education is often overshadowed by poverty and disease. While poverty and disease are more important, with good education, the percentage of disease and poverty can be reduced. While some view education in a traditional manner, with a teacher, blackboard and a textbook, the computer can be a very powerful educational tool and is often under utilized. Computers can not only serve as a teacher, but save paper and stay up to date- unlike textbooks.

While computers have the potential to replace teachers, eerily alike robots replacing humans, the execution is what has held the concept back. In the past, it was that computers were too expensive, not reliable, and not durable enough. With technology becoming cheaper, more reliable and more efficient everyday, it is now come time to start building computers meant for worldwide distribution at a small cost. For example, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project goal is to produce a laptop for $100 that could be distributed to children across the world, in a variety of geographical locations. This is a step in the right direction. Not only is the OLPC computer durable but it contains a wide variety of educational software and tools.

Another step would be to standardize the software distributed on these computers- be it an OLPC or other machine. Assuring the quality and compliance to curriculum will not only help sell more computers, but allow for the use of this software across the world. The OLPC excels in its software and price point, but it’s superior hardware design makes it durable and usable even in the worst conditions. This is another area of importance as not everyone in the world has power or internet connection at home. The OLPC can be recharged by hand through its hand crank, and receive internet through a large peer to peer chain of other OLPC’s, starting with only one internet connection far away.

Everyone is in the position to help. Be it the OLPC project, or something similar; spreading computers helps educate. With the help from larger companies like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Google, Intel and IBM we can all help to buy computers like the OLPC for children across the world in need. With creative ingenuity, like a small tax on all computers sold would help these companies subsidize the purchase of OLPC’s. You can buy an OLPC for yourself, but you are required to buy two- one for you and one for a child. Computers can help us with just about everything, and with some small steps in the right direction, make the world a better place for all.