OLPC Training in Papua New Guinea

By Emmanuel Narokobi

Also while in Wewak I was invited to attend my nieces Graduation Dinner at the Divine Word University’s, St. Benedict’s Campus. My niece, who is appropriately named Emmanuella, was explaining to me her courses in her Teaching Diploma and then she mentioned that she was taught a 2 week course on the OLPC. That’s when my ears pricked up. ‘You mean the One Laptop Per Child Program?’ I asked. “Yes Liklik Papa, why?”

Well turns out that, this was the first year the course was taught and that next year it will develop into a year long course which you can get a certificate for. The course she did involved basics of the XO laptops and how to upload educational programs. But I’m dying to find out more about this course. I was also in a rush too after the dinner so I didn’t have time to see her course material, which she said was just a little booklet.

https://i0.wp.com/www.olpc.org.pg/images/stories/week1_02.gif

So far only 2 schools in PNG have been running the OLPC program. One in Gaire and One in Drekkir. But as Solo has pointed out looks like the government wants to roll it out in a big way to at least 10,000 children by next year and a quarter of a million by 2015. DWU, as always, seems to be on the ball here and have formed the OLPC PNG. This is a commendable step by DWU as training the trainers must go hand in hand with the XO’s or else they will be just bright and shiny toys which will be left alone after a couple of weeks.

Allot of material is now surfacing on the net as the OLPC program is taking hold in PNG and I can see that allot of work will need to come into play for internet access besides training the trainers. Hopefully with DWU also leading the way with PNGARNet they will have covered all their bases in making this not only a worthwhile exercise but an effective one.

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15 thoughts on “OLPC Training in Papua New Guinea

  1. I just want to point out that PNGARNet is owned by the Vice-Chancellors Committee and its main members are in fact the 6 main universities (UPNG, Unitech, UOG, UOV, PAU, DWU) and 3 main Research Institutes (IMR, NRI and NARI). So in fact all of these institutions are a part of this network, not DWU alone.

    PNGARNet is slowly gathering pace and one of the projects it will be looking at supporting is the OLPC project. A decision will be made on that in the future. Actually a workshop was conducted last week (26/11/08 – 28/11/08) looking at some of the issues that have been faced or are going to be faced and discussed some solutions on how each of the members could move forward. Since this was the first meet a Technical Advisory Board was appointed and a PNGARNet Board elected. Recommendations have been made to the Vice-Chancellors Committee, but nothing has been decided yet on how PNGARNet will move forward. Hopefully that will be discussed in our next meet.

  2. Thanks Gordon, in fact I was just on the phone to Amy Nombo today who was very helpful in giving me a run down on the latest with the OLPC and PNGARNet.

    RICS is the current internet provider for the OLPC program but we need a sustainable model for PNGARNet and OLPC in PNG. Something that’s not tied down to one off donor funding but somehow being a user paid system like perhaps an Easy Pay type access for a big number of individuals. In that way we can push development faster and we can move at the pace of demand and not when funding is available, because from what I hear the EU funding is the only thing delaying further expansion.

    So for example if throughout the entire PNGARNet ecosystem we can get all up 500,000 users comprised of students, educators and researchers using the network across PNG. And if all these people who are online each day pay just .20 a day to get online, thats potentially K100,000.00 a day. Or K3 Million a month to maintain and expand PNGARNet and the OLPC program.

    How practical it is I don’t know but just an idea.

  3. Hi Manu,
    A very interesting post and I like your comments about charging .20t per day 😀 😀

    I was at a meeting last week with PNG Sustainable Program and from what I hear, they are funding the ‘one laptop per child” also. Speak to Ginia Siaguru of the Social Services department for more information. I think they plan on “rolling in” the project as oppose to “rolling out”.

    Now coming back to the concept of the “One Laptop per Child” policy… on the face… to me it seems like an incredible and great approach to educating children about the technology world.

    However, I am very reserved about the approach that Papua New Guinea wants to embrace such concepts and how they are trying to work it into the system. Papua New Guinea needs to evaluate themselves before they accept another concept that will affect its economy for decades.

    There is one thing that Papua New Guinea needs to remember and that is that its economy is largely based on agricultural and some minerals. We are now trying to move to a technology world toooo fast for our own good.

    We are teaching children about technology (I don’t say its bad…just be careful in it) and we forgetting that we need to build a link between the agricultural world and the technological world.

    Its like we on one side of a river and trying to jump to the other side without building a bridge first. I am skeptic that if we are not careful, we will be swept away by the tides of development. Papua New Guinea needs an industrial base to support the transition from agriculture to technology world. So far, we have not done much about the local industry yet. We have not made enough to export overseas…. we are still importing allot more… the industrialised world, the missing link for a solid economy is missing in Papua New Guinea.

    Lets not jump to fast on the OLPC policy just because someone will make allot of money if every child in every school owns a laptop. Its a business gimmic to sell laptops…. we in Papua New Guinea need to reassess our strengths in development before we make a huge jump from the agricultural world to the technological world.

    Having said that, I do like the idea of “one laptop per child” but I am concerned that it will leave a huge gap in Papua New Guineas ability to strengthened its economy through an industrial base…. that is a basis for solid economies in all the world around us…

    Rex

  4. HI Rex, great to hear from you. The way I see it and my interest with the OLPC lies in 3 factors:

    1) It is an affordable piece of technology
    2) It can be a catalyst for driving infrastructure development related to internet access in rural PNG.
    3) Every PNG’ean needs access to the internet.

    1. The XO is not the best and cheapest small laptop out there. But for what it was intended for in terms of education and with the way it has been tied in with development funding and schemes it becomes the easiest and cheapest way for a piece of technology to get into the hands of an ordinary Papua New Guinea child regardless of where they live in PNG.

    Yes it is a gimmick in a way for sales, but it is no more evil than Digicel and their marketing concepts and free giveaways and prizes. The fact is we all have to pay for things somehow and the trade off is acceptable when what is being sold to you is actually useful to you in your daily life.

    2. You are absolutely correct in that we have a huge gap between our agricultural based society and todays information based society. Yes we are trying to take that leap without going through the bridging stage of an industrial based society. Which ultimately means that the infrastructure to make such a project accessible and sustainable does not exist at the moment.

    Therefore I see the OLPC as being a catalyst for PNGARNet to expand its network to reach rural PNG. And if it can be done in a sustainable way as per my suggestion than it can be self funding to be an economic entity of its own because people are willing to pay for the service. The reason we do not have internet in the villages now is because the current ISPs have not been able to find a business model that will support such an investment.

    So we do not need the industrialized world to bring us internet we just need a better business model to start us off. This means that the OLPC is in fact the bridge that you are talking about for us to get to the other side of the river. The OLPC program is in fact one of the ways in which we can kick start the development of that bridge to get us to an industrialsed economy. If we do not do this now, then yes we will be swept away.

    In the end its simply about the best business model to effectively educate, inform and entertain PNG’eans across a challenging geography such as ours.

    3. Being an informed individual allows us to make better decisions in life. Unfortunately in PNG, our media content is not diverse enough to do that effectively. For example my cousins in Wewak besides planting the usual kaukaus and kumu listen to a DPI program on NBC every week. The program suggested to them once that they could try planting pepper. So with that information they caught a PMV into town and asked around at government agencies and were able to get seeds. They planted it, it grew but then no one could tell them where they could sell the pepper too. So all in all it was a waste of their time because they did not have the information to help them.

    What the OLPC can do to help, is to educate children from an early age on how to use this new medium or information tool. So that once they are adults the internet will no longer be a foreign concept to anyone, be they in rural or urban PNG.

    So if when they are adults and no one in PNG can tell them where to sell their Pepper than they have the tools to find the answers for themselves.

  5. Ah Rex, I see, that’s the academia part of you talking. Whilst I agree that industry is a neglected sector that needs to be bridged with agriculture, OLPC is still critical in this age…

    Manu, you hit the nail on the head.

    I agree, regardless of our developmental stage we need to go into the information age – from stone age to digital age – let’s skip the industrial bit, albeit a fundamental part of our economy. I believe information is critical to development as when anyone is capable of using and accessing information tools such as a computer and internet, they can be able to improve their standard of living whilst the government still doesn’t provide the incentive for our industries to employ the surplus labour.

  6. @Solo and Manu,

    I guess my fear is that we may produce 3 decades of computer genius.. and not enough builders, architects, teachers, lawyers…etc..

    It would tip the balance of our economy as I know how much one gets addicted with computers.. 😀 😀 😀

    I do believe OLPC is a great initiative but it needs to be harnessed in such away that leaves room for the next generation to be equally or fairly distributed to all sectors of the economy….

    As the saying goes “too many chefs spoils the soup”!!

    Rex

  7. Or to look at it in another way OLPC may be the impetus to producing more capable human resources such as builders, architects, teachers, lawyers etc. who could also be more innovative and resourceful when they have information at their finger tips and know a great deal about the world outside (via internet) apart from comic books and standard text books.

    Let’s not see OLPC as producing only IT personnel or computer freaks since the concept is associated with those small lap tops that are connected to the internet. I believe it is a holistic concept that aims to produce human resources capable of utilising information and understanding their world better in an information age.

  8. 2 major criticisms of the OLPC project I have heard repeated times.

    1. The screen is entirely too small to facilitate a reasonable form of learning. Some text might be ok, but unfortunately most electronic media is formatted for devices that have a larger viewing area. Concern of children developing eyestrain even surfaced.

    2. OLPC has repeatedly failed to spur infrastructure development. It takes a backwards approach. Getting computers into the hands of children is fine but what happens when their school is composed of four stilts and a thatch roof? Programs that start with bringing the infrastructure first have more success.

    I might be a bit of a fan boy because I am helping with the project, but the Inclusive Education project being endorsed by PM Somare is starting to gain a lot of momentum. Take a look at the newly launched site.

    http://www.ite.org.pg/

  9. Forgot to mention that the first community college built by the Inclusive Education Trust was at Marienberg. No roads or electricty. They now have 2 new school units with 60 computer terminals, and satellite internet access.

    ITE is also currently on PNGARNET as well through association with Divine Word Uni.

  10. @Solo,

    You correct…. and I do agree with the use of technology as an impetus for producing capable human resources.

    Yet, I do believe we can put up a quota (thats more non-democratic) so as a safety catch not to get an influx of computer wizards….but encouraging people to use the technology for development in other specialised areas.

    Rex

  11. Hi Guys,

    Great discussion. I was curious about PNGARNet case we have our access cut due to non payments.

    Then I ran across this discussion of OLPC.

    Thus I’m inviting anyone of yous to make a presentation on this subject in our next Huon Seminar with the theme “Networking of University-Industry-Government Cooperation for Shaping Innovation in Science and Technology for Development.”

    The date is set for August 12 to 15 2009. More infor http://www.unitech.ac.pg/HuonSeminar

    Cheers,
    Herman

  12. Hi All,

    A very interesting discussion. Of course I have a bias to OLPC as I am running the Oceania program from an SPC perspective.
    One thing I think most posts have not mentioned is that the laptop is just a tool. It happens to be very good at improving education, both for teachers (who can access much better educational resources) and students (who can develop skills necessary in an Information Age).

    We have seen evidence that OLPC is a strong agent of change. It is up to you to decide what to use it for.
    One thing I am very firm about is that this is NOT a laptop or technology project. It is about improving things.

    My passion is to educate our children much better than we are currently doing. OLPC is a perhaps the best available tool to do that today.

    Ian

  13. Hi Ian,

    Would you say then that the OLPC is an intermediary solution for educating teachers and students? In that later down the track they will want full blown full featured PC’s and Laptops?

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