Niue makes History
OPLC Press Statement
Niue makes History – the first country in the world to achieve 100 percent saturation with OLPCs
The small Pacific island country of Niue, with a total school age population of approximately 500 children today made history in being the first country in the world to achieve a 100 percent saturation of OLPCs.
Launching the Niue OLPC initiative at the margins of the 39th Forum Leaders meeting held in Niue on Wednesday 20th August 2008, Dr Barry Vercoe from OLPC Boston that donated 5,000 units of OLPC to the Pacific islands region, said that Niue had set a new milestone for OLPC and for the Pacific Islands region.
In October 2007, Forum Leaders at the 38th Forum meeting called on SPC and PIFS to work with members to pilot the OLPC to assess its utility as an education tool and report back on the findings.
Responding to a request by SPC to procure a small number of OLPCs for a very limited pilot involving very few countries, OLPC HQ agreed to donate 5000 units of OLPC for a more comprehensive pilot involving all SPC members. Niue was allocated 500 of these units to ensure full saturation.
Saturation is one of the five principles underpinning OLPCs. The other four are; (i) child ownership; (ii) low ages [designed for children between 6 – 12 years]; (iii) connection and, (iv) open source. All 5 principles are virtually fulfilled in Niue, Dr. Barry said.
Speaking about the vision behind OLPC, Dr. Vercoe stated that OLPC’s mission is to “create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning”.
The laptops are given to each child, to use in school and at home. The impacts on the child’s learning will be so much greater if they are always immersed in the experience. This also strengthens the position of the school within the community, and the role of parents in school life. The laptops are designed for primary school children aged 6-12. Children do not need to read or write to use them, in fact the laptops help them to read and write. Learning by doing, the children acquire literacy, numeracy and information skills as they use the laptops, as well as sharing and collaboration skills. These impacts will be greatest at an early age. For a truly inclusive learning environment to be established in a school classroom, every child and the teacher must have a laptop.
The laptops connect with each other wirelessly, and the child can share with others in any activity on the laptop, as a learning experience. The laptops can connect to a specially-designed OLPC school server, which provides access to an electronic library and curriculum materials, and Internet access if available. The laptops have been developed in a truly open and collaborative environment based on the Open Source environment.
The OLPC laptops are low cost, robust, relatively waterproof and break-proof, have loner life batteries and has special screen that can be read in bright sunlight. It uses mesh network and has a very powerful intranet with a range up to almost a kilometre making it very useful for children to communicate with each other over such distances without requiring internet connectivity. Where a school has a server, OLPCs can access information from the school server without necessarily requiring internet connection as long as it is less than 1 kilometre from the server.
Referring to the usefulness of OLPCs in Pacific island countries and territories, Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) said that ‘an OLPC is a child’s companion in education’. He went further to say that, ‘the advent of OLPC has the potential to revolutionize education in ways that are difficult to imagine even now’. For countries where the primary school enrolment is less than 60 percent of all primary school age children due to lack of classrooms or teachers or both, OLPCs provide an alternative that would provide them with at least an opportunity to learn using an interactive medium.
Dr. Rodgers congratulated Niue for achieving a milestone that hopefully sets the pace for the Pacific OLPC initiative. He thanked OLPC Boston chief architect for the OLPC global initiative, Mr Nicholas Negroponte and Dr. Barry Vercoe who had been OLPC’s ambassador to the Pacific region over the past few months for their commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of Pacific Island children.
There are many more challenges yet to be addressed as the region goes into full roll-out mode but for now, it is Niue’s historical achievement as the first country to achieve 100 percent saturation with OLPCs that is being celebrated here in Niue at the margins of the 39th Forum leaders meeting.
Ends Wednesday 20th August 2008