06:31
TED in the Field

Nicholas Negroponte: Taking OLPC to Colombia

Filmed:

TED follows Nicholas Negroponte to Colombia as he delivers laptops inside territory once controlled by guerrillas. His partner? Colombia's Defense Department, who see One Laptop per Child as an investment in the region. (And you too can get involved.)

- Tech visionary
The founder of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte pushed the edge of the information revolution as an inventor, thinker and angel investor. He's the driving force behind One Laptop per Child, building computers for children in the developing world. Full bio

It's amazing, when you meet a head of state and you say,
00:00
"What is your most precious natural resource?" --
00:02
they will not say children at first.
00:06
And then when you say children,
00:08
they will pretty quickly agree with you.
00:10
(Video): We're traveling today with
00:19
the Minister of Defense of Colombia,
00:21
head of the army and the head of the police,
00:24
and we're dropping off 650 laptops
00:26
today to children
00:29
who have no television, no telephone
00:31
and have been in a community
00:33
cut off from the rest of the world
00:35
for the past 40 years.
00:37
The importance of delivering laptops to this region
00:40
is connecting kids who have otherwise been unconnected
00:43
because of the FARC,
00:46
the guerrillas that started off 40 years ago
00:48
as a political movement and then became a drug movement.
00:51
There are one billion children in the world,
00:56
and 50 percent of them don't have electricity
00:58
at home or at school.
01:00
And in some countries -- let me pick Afghanistan --
01:03
75 percent of the little girls don't go to school.
01:05
And I don't mean that they drop out of school
01:08
in the third or fourth grade -- they don't go.
01:10
So in the three years
01:12
since I talked at TED and showed a prototype,
01:14
it's gone from an idea
01:17
to a real laptop.
01:19
We have half a million laptops today
01:22
in the hands of children.
01:24
We have about a quarter of a million in transit
01:27
to those and other children,
01:29
and then there are another quarter of a million more
01:32
that are being ordered at this moment.
01:36
So, in rough numbers, there are a million laptops.
01:38
That's smaller than I predicted --
01:40
I predicted three to 10 million --
01:42
but is still a very large number.
01:44
In Colombia, we have about 3,000 laptops.
01:46
It's the Minister of Defense with whom we're working,
01:50
not the Minister of Education, because it is seen as
01:53
a strategic defense issue
01:56
in the sense of liberating these zones
01:58
that had been completely closed off,
02:03
in which the people who had been causing, if you will,
02:05
40 years' worth of bombings and kidnappings
02:09
and assassinations lived.
02:13
And suddenly,
02:15
the kids have connected laptops.
02:17
They've leapfrogged.
02:19
The change is absolutely monumental,
02:21
because it's not just opening it up,
02:25
but it's opening it up to the rest of the world.
02:27
So yes, they're building roads, yes, they're putting in telephone,
02:30
yes, there will be television.
02:32
But the kids six to 12 years old
02:34
are surfing the Internet in Spanish and in local languages,
02:36
so the children grow up
02:40
with access to information,
02:42
with a window into the rest of the world.
02:44
Before, they were closed off.
02:47
Interestingly enough, in other countries,
02:49
it will be the Minister of Finance who sees it
02:51
as an engine of economic growth.
02:53
And that engine is going to see the results in 20 years.
02:57
It's not going to happen, you know, in one year,
03:01
but it's an important, deeply economic
03:04
and cultural change
03:07
that happens through children.
03:09
Thirty-one countries in total are involved,
03:12
and in the case of Uruguay,
03:14
half the children already have them,
03:17
and by the middle of 2009,
03:19
every single child in Uruguay will have a laptop --
03:22
a little green laptop.
03:25
Now what are some of the results?
03:27
Some of the results
03:29
that go across every single country
03:31
include teachers saying
03:34
they have never loved teaching so much,
03:36
and reading comprehension
03:39
measured by third parties -- not by us -- skyrockets.
03:41
Probably the most important thing we see
03:45
is children teaching parents.
03:48
They own the laptops. They take them home.
03:51
And so when I met with three children from the schools,
03:54
who had traveled all day to come to Bogota,
03:57
one of the three children brought her mother.
04:01
And the reason she brought her mother
04:04
is that this six-year-old child
04:06
had been teaching her mother
04:09
how to read and write.
04:11
Her mother had not gone to primary school.
04:13
And this is such an inversion,
04:16
and such a wonderful example
04:18
of children being the agents of change.
04:21
So now, in closing, people say,
04:25
now why laptops?
04:27
Laptops are a luxury; it's like giving them iPods. No.
04:29
The reason you want laptops
04:32
is that the word is education, not laptop.
04:34
This is an education project, not a laptop project.
04:38
They need to learn learning. And then, just think --
04:41
they can have, let's say, 100 books.
04:43
In a village, you have 100 laptops,
04:45
each with a different set of 100 books,
04:48
and so that village suddenly has 10,000 books.
04:51
You and I didn't have 10,000 books when we went to primary school.
04:54
Sometimes school is under a tree,
04:58
or in many cases, the teacher has only a fifth-grade education,
05:00
so you need a collaborative model of learning,
05:04
not just building more schools and training more teachers,
05:07
which you have to do anyway.
05:09
So we're once again doing "Give One, Get One."
05:11
Last year, we ran a "Give One, Get One" program,
05:14
and it generated over 100,000 laptops
05:16
that we were then able to give free.
05:20
And by being a zero-dollar laptop,
05:23
we can go to countries that can't afford it at all.
05:25
And that's what we did. We went to Haiti,
05:28
we went to Rwanda, Afghanistan,
05:31
Ethiopia, Mongolia.
05:33
Places that are not markets,
05:36
seeding it with the principles of
05:38
saturation, connectivity, low ages, etc.
05:41
And then we can actually roll out large numbers.
05:44
So think of it this way:
05:48
think of it as inoculating children
05:50
against ignorance.
05:53
And think of the laptop as a vaccine.
05:56
You don't vaccinate a few children.
05:58
You vaccinate all the children in an area.
06:00

▲Back to top

About the Speaker:

Nicholas Negroponte - Tech visionary
The founder of the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte pushed the edge of the information revolution as an inventor, thinker and angel investor. He's the driving force behind One Laptop per Child, building computers for children in the developing world.

Why you should listen

A pioneer in the field of computer-aided design, Negroponte founded (and was the first director of) MIT's Media Lab, which helped drive the multimedia revolution and now houses more than 500 researchers and staff across a broad range of disciplines. An original investor in Wired (and the magazine's "patron saint"), for five years he penned a column exploring the frontiers of technology -- ideas that he expanded into his 1995 best-selling book Being Digital. An angel investor extraordinaire, he's funded more than 40 startups, and served on the boards of companies such as Motorola and Ambient Devices.

But his latest effort, the One Laptop per Child project, may prove his most ambitious. The organization is designing, manufacturing and distributing low-cost, wireless Internet-enabled computers costing roughly $100 and aimed at children. Negroponte hopes to put millions of these devices in the hands of children in the developing world.

More profile about the speaker
Nicholas Negroponte | Speaker | TED.com