[LINK] $100 laptop could sell to public

Danny Yee danny at anatomy.usyd.edu.au
Wed Jan 17 10:27:08 AEDT 2007

I think the OLPC project has a lot of problems, but most of the
criticism here is poorly thought out.

If support for different projects were fungible, then on a cost
benefit analysis no one would ever put money into anything except
public health and education.  But that doesn't happen in Australia --
even charitable donations go to all kinds of purposes -- and it's
just utopianism to expect it to happen anywhere else.

Development IT projects are not, in most cases, an alternative to
public health ones, but an extra.  And access to information is
critical both for health (how many village clinics in Africa have
access to decent medical reference works?), agriculture (information
about market prices as well as techniques and weather forecasts),
politics (getting input into metropolitan decision making and claiming
rights), and education (obviously).

There's a *lot* more to development than providing food handouts
(which in fact is often a really, really bad idea in fact, as it
risks undermining local food production).  And assuming poor people
can't or wouldn't be able to use IT resources is patronising.

The OLPC project should be criticised for not being cost-effect,
for being too inflexible, etc.  There's nothing wrong with its goals.

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