In the second half of January, I had the opportunity to attend the Pacific Telecommunications Council conference, and presented on the panel: Extending Communications to Underserved Schools: Sustainability Challenges
I’ve been attending this conference for some years now, and proposed this panel to continue a dialog that started a few years back, focusing on the tough questions of how to get ICT to rural, remote locations, how to make these endeavors sustainable, and how to measure or evaluate success. (Below is my colleague Art Garbiso, with the slide asking: How to Measure Success?)
This continuing panel has had a theme of OLPC running through it over the years, and it was at and/or through this conference that I met the people working with OLPC in the South Pacific, who encouraged me to carry out the fieldwork research I did last summer in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands, which I presented on this year.
Here’s the presentation: OLPC in PNG & Solomons Reflections from 4 Site Visits
The main summary points made were: There was a great deal of excitement, enthusiasm, and support for these programs at each site I visited. However, there were also many challenges, ranging from not enough laptops to go around, to insufficient local content, to apparent program abandonment by the government, after a seemingly successful pilot.
Thus, recommendations included: BEFORE laptops-in-schools programs are implemented, the long-term must be considered: in terms of maintenance, continual teacher support and training, and replacement and provision for sufficient laptops in the first place. If there are only enough laptops to saturate two grade levels, for example, reconsider whether to implement, or jealousy, rivalry, and resentment will be introduced along with the laptops. Make a plan for developing local content, from before the program starts—it would be great to really train the teachers, to the point where they’re comfortable developing content on the laptops, to know that they’re comfortable using the laptops and introducing them into their classrooms. Finally, think of the energy situation! Energy is most often a very expensive, precious commodity in developing areas. I’m discovering that this is one of the most frequently overlooked considerations in ICT4D projects…