Push back on my take: Gates…:
I got the support issues the first time. Yes. But it#039s not as though those are issues for and only for the $100-laptop crowd. Those are issues for bringing most of the world into network society — or allowing for the creation of network societies for most of the world (since the process need not be one of assimilation or hegemony). Anyone who thinks it would be good for very many kids in the developing world to have access to computing technology, and anyone who thinks it would be good for very many kids in the developing world to have access to the Net, faces those support issues.
So, if the support issues counter-argue, as it were, it can#039t be that they counter-argue just the $100-laptop project. The thrust of the objection might be one of these:
it#039s a mistake to design hardware; the $100-laptop crowd should design support, or education, or
kids in the developing world shouldn#039t have computing devices, or
kids in the developing world shouldn#039t have a place in the Net.
But does TMTTLT advocate any of those? Surely not the latter two. Maybe the first? But that you need both hardware and education doesn#039t argue for the priority of the two or any particular division of labor.
Hence, my take: it may be both a publicity stunt and a good idea.
it isn#039t a mistake to design the hardware… but it might be. it depends on many factors, what is the political economy behind the model here? is it that each child will benefit? how? and what will ensure that? would it be better to take the same money and say, pay for a generation of teachers, that would then teach another generation of teachers? is the design of a technology always a good decision in the contexts in which it serves? When i look at the laptop, i try to think of it as something that dropped from the sky that i have no access to beyond say a 20 minute class. think of it as alien technology, you have no cultural access to it. is the laptop what you would design? does it make sense? what about the builders honest evaluation that they need to have two or three design break throughs before it becomes a reality, in short… we can#039t build a $100 laptop now…? so is it a mistake to invest in this development? when resources are perhaps better spent on something that would build and sustain a people#039s capacity? perhaps. I see this laptop as a cultured object, it makes sense to the west and people educated in the west. Every bit of research that I#039ve seen though indicates that this development model does not work.
Should kids have access to technology? the data that I#039ve seen is inconclusive on this subject. that data is primarily in the developed world where students are immersed in educational institutions. so i don#039t know. access to technology is not a universal good in my book. technology is but one of many ways of gaining elements of a good life, but it doesn#039t provide for a good life and it doesn#039t guarantee anything. I don#039t think that there is any real reason to suspect that that anyone would necessarily be in a better position after the $100 laptop, but… since there is no tracking studies, there is no way to know. I#039m much happier say with the ideas behind Atoms and Bits http://fab.cba.mit.edu/ where you teach kids how to build things with advanced manufacturing technology, so they could build what they need, than i am with the #039give them a laptop#039 idea.
as for a place on the net… i think that the net should be opt in. if there becomes a point in your life where you need the net, then yes you should be able to use it. but there are probably many people in the world that will never need or use it. the net or net access isn#039t a necessary good either, many people assume it is, that is a popular ideological position, but alas, the net could go away and be replaced with other technologies with different purposes, perhaps more focused and less generalized. it is not that i do not think they should have access, it is that i think that access to the net comes somewhere after you teach someone to read in its current stage.
I do not really see what#039s wrong with the latter two positions that you state above. do you give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or do you teach the man to fish? do you give a person a laptop that is already outdated and hard to use, or do you teach them how to make their own things.
the political economy that i see driving this is economic dependence and thus paternalism. we think we know what is right for someone and thus we are going to give them that thing, but that thing is not necessarily what they need, nor is it even necessarily valued. what happens if the people do not place value in the $100 laptop? what happens if they do not see it as a good or productive device?
the counter argument is if the laptop reaches the next einstein that would be a great thing right? to what end, to give that einstein the cultural tools to participate in whose culture? ours, so the laptop is cultural imperialism? or isn#039t it? is this thing a way of training and detecting the best and the brightest so that the MIT#039s of the world then have access to them, braindrain wise?
like i said,i like the fab central idea much more, teach them how to build their own laptops and give them the capacity to do that. in short, build capacities in the world, don#039t build things.
so my basic take is:
*there are better ways to spend money
*the outcomes are indeterminate with no plans of determination
*the purpose behind the laptop is unclear
*the idea of a laptop in its cultural context might not translate and if it does translate is it appropriate?
*what is the political economy of this? who does it govern, benefit?
*is it appropriate design, what are the values in the design?
*are the norms of a laptop the right norms? for whom?