1. OLPC for Iraq?

    brian on 2007.01.29
    at 08:59 pm

    On my commute home today, I was listening to an NPR report on the sorry state of education in Iraq today. Many, if not most of the country’s higher ed students are too scared to attend class under threats from the barbaric, hate-filled, ideological death squads that have declared war on secular education.

    Iraq was once proud of its doctors, engineers and professors. Many hoped that with Saddam’s fall and the end of economic sanctions, there would be a resurgence of professional skills.

    But the Ministry of Education says only 30 percent of Iraq’s students are currently attending classes – the lowest level since U.S. troops invaded Iraq four years ago. The universities, which are directly linked to Iraq’s future, are on the verge of collapse.

    Hundreds of professors have been killed or kidnapped, with many more going abroad to save themselves. Understandably this is crippling a country in need of scientists and engineers to rebuild itself into a modern society.

    One thing that was mentioned was that many students stay home based on the commute to class alone, having to navigate the sniper and bomb ridden streets of Baghdad. This brought something to mind… online classes.

    Two major problems exist in Iraq: a) lack of a steady power supply, and b) lack of infrastructure, especially internet access. From what I can tell, there are only two main sources of internet access: cafés and colleges.

    But if you think about it, that actually puts Baghdad ahead of much of the developing world who plan to employ the One Laptop Per Child Initiative (aka the $100 laptop). Three major pieces of the OLPC design are 1) ruggedness, 2) auto-generation of electricity for areas without power, 3) mesh wireless networking for areas without internet infrastructure.

    Perhaps with this system, the students and professors could hideout at home for the most part until Baghdad (or anywhere in Iraq) stabilizes.

    Are engineers going to be able to work on CAD on an OLPC? Obviously not, but at least this provides something to work with. A way to communicate, receive and submit classwork.

    Seems this would be a better use of our billions instead of some of the projects currently proposed for our money.

    Posted in: Technology


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