Christian Long

Nicholas Negroponte: OLPC to Columbia

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Reflection by RIVU D.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Nicholas Negroponte:  OLPC to Columbia

So frequently do we as people forget the meaning of the word “luxury.”

Getting three meals a day, having a bed to sleep in, having an education, are all things that some people in the world desperately want and even more so desperately need, but cant afford to have. Even though most people have heard the “never forget how lucky you are” speech from their respective parents multiple times, how often does one actually take the time to think about it? Most often, only when something triggers an emotional response, such as a video, or seeing someone else suffering on a street corner.

But what separates some people from others is simply that some people take action when they see another human being who is less fortunate suffering, instead of sitting idle and feeling pity which often manages to wear the mask of compassion. How often do you give money to the homeless man on the corner of the street, and how often do you think that it’s justifiable to sit and feel sorry? The latter is what is called pity, a human emotion all the same, but in reality it isn’t helping anybody. The first is called compassion, helping another human being at your own expense and expecting absolutely nothing in return. Neither emotion or act makes you morally questionable, but one does make you feel a bit better about yourself.

What Nicholas Negroponte has done for worldwide education with One Laptop Per Child is absolutely revolutionary, in almost every sense of the word. And equally amazing is his willingness to do it.

The opportunity Nicholas Negroponte has provided to so many children world wide in the form of an education is simply astounding. Given a proper education, the potential these kids, or any kid for that matter, has is literally limitless given effort is applied. One of these kids may be the kid who does something as radical as find the cure for cancer and discover a way to fight the ever changing RNA of viruses, or maybe out of influence one of these kids could even go on to help others who are unfortunate like him. But as with all programs there are skeptics, and some of their concerns should be addressed.
One Laptop Per Child is a program that does exactly what it says, give one laptop per child in third world countries whose educational standards are more than sub par or even non existent. But if these areas are as poverty stricken and rural as they say, then how exactly will a device as complicated as a laptop solve anything?

Well first and foremost, the term laptop is almost a misleader. Because in actuality, they are more like skimmed down versions of netbooks that are focused on things such as storing books and other educational needs, not RAM, graphics cards, or any of the other processing power that people desperately want, but don’t really need. And the laptops themselves are engineered to be easy to use and so far in the program, there haven’t been complaints of the lack of the knowledge to actually use the devices. Things such as damage and theft are also accounted for by means of advanced technology, and if you’re curious, you can look up the specifics on the organizations website Another issue is actually being able to go to the countries themselves, as many of the areas are so rural that its difficult to access them in traditional ways. In this video, Nicholas Negroponte gets aid from the government to deliver his laptops and usher in a new era of education for so many kids in Columbia.

As of October 2009, OLPC has 1.6 million free books available on its laptops networks. This means that these children who didn’t know how to read, write, or do basic math now have access to the tools to do it themselves. Negroponte stated that the goal of OLPC was to abolish poverty completely, and while that may seem like an almost impossible task, his program, and others like it, give way for individuals to at least hope such a goal is reachable.


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