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Cargo cult for tablet PCs, One Laptop Per Child Visionary Nicholas Negroponte

Cloud platforms, information wars, e-commerce, are all part of the world's most famedtelecom event, the Open Mobile Summit, which just opened in San Francisco. But the strangest news was a proposal by Nicholas Negroponte, leader of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Negroponte proposes to drop solar poweredtablet laptops to illiterate villagersin remote 3rd worldareas, usinghelicopters, then see what happens. His concept drew immediate parallels to the cargo cults of mid-20th century PacificMicronesiaislanders, who received air-drops that prompted a religious fervor and cult fascination with airplanes.

Negroponte described his helicopter drop plan to PC Magazine, where he compared his vision to the impact of cultural contrasts from theclassic 1980 film, The Gods Must Be Crazy network security. The film conveys an isolated tribe in the African desert discovering a Coca-Cola bottle that fell from an airplane.

Well take tablets and drop them out of helicopters into villages that have no electricity and school, then go back a year later and see if the kids can read, Negroponte . Hereportedly was inspired byProfessor Sugata Mitras experiment in India, where childrenused a PC left in a wall and were able to access the internet within hours. He has concluded that dropping the tablets will encourage self-directed literacy.

OLPC projects have not beennoted for planning items like howteachers, hardware support, and educational material would be supplied. Instead, the stealthy cargo drop approach advocated by Negroponte presumes a seamless, instant-on technology that is intuitive and visual.

Negroponte's concept seems strangely out of touch with the current economic climate in the US, where children in some areas don't have ready access to computers, let alone personal laptops.

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