It has been a little more than one year since I first posted about the "One Laptop Per Child" project (OLPC), also known as the "$100 laptop". So far as I can tell, these were the first sustained criticisms of the project concept, and they have been linked to extensively, most notably in the Wikipedia entry on the OLPC. Over 26,000 views have occurred since then, the largest number of them originating from the Wikipedia entry.
Wayan Vota has since set up the OLPC News site with daily postings giving an independent look at the progress of the OLPC project and raising issues that are not always comfortable for the principals to discuss, such as the total cost per child. Wayan is the Director of Geekcorps , a division of the International Executive Service Corps, and is directly involved in getting computers and Internet implemented in the developing world. I have met him and I have a high opinion of him. I recommend his site as a primary source of news on the OLPC project.
In all of the discussion on the OLPC News site there is a recognition that the matter of educational approach and content are lagging far behind the development of the hardware and software. However, there is not much commentary that would encourage a sense of alarm about what is and is not being done. I feel that such a sense of alarm may be justified, as the OLPC project is based upon a strong "technology push" approach which has in many other cases led to negative outcomes.
It is my observation that in such cases the leaders say to the technologists "let us worry about the consequences - just do the job", and that afterward they say to the world at large "we're not technologists - how could we have known that there would be such consequences?" As a technologist who takes his responsibilities as a citizen seriously, I feel the occasional need to play the part of the biblical prophet Jeremiah and issue unsolicited warnings about the woe that will betide those who act in unknowingly dangerous ways.
While I very much want to move on to facilitate discussion about what should be done, I feel that I cannot let go of the subject without putting forth my most dire concerns. Perhaps doing so will exorcise my demon, and get it out into public view where it can be defanged.