The Peruvian Minister of Education, José Antonio Chang, recently announced that Peru would participate in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. With only a model of the XO in hand, he said, “This will permit the children to have access to technology from all parts of the country and improve their learning skills.” However, details were still far from clear, and some Peruvian bloggers took to the task by asking some hard questions. The following two articles were written by Marco Sifuentes on the blog Utero de Marita [ES] (Marita's Womb) Translated by Eduardo Avila.
The Strange Case of the $100 Laptop (link to original article)
…that in reality could cost $175 USD
And for the moment, the only machines that exist are the prototypes, which are the ones that the Ministry of Education showed to the press during the announcement. Regardless, the Peruvian government will purchase these machines (how many? No one knows.)
In addition: the Education Minister (who read all the information from a piece of paper, see the video of the press conference here) said that the agreement will be signed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). False. It will be signed with the private organization OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) founded by ex-members of MIT’s Media Lab. For certain, our conceited Garrido Lecca, who was present at the press conference, is also a graduate of MIT. I say no more.
The first to sound an alarm was Eduardo Villanueva, whose concern reached the point where he created a blog to exclusively follow this case and raise various questions that the Minister has yet to clear up.
During the week, El Comercio and La Ventana were looking for answers from the Ministry, but they went around and around, until the Ministry called a press conference.
El Morsa provides us with a crucial detail: Max Ugaz, the man that acted as “private expert” hired by the Ministry, is nothing more than a salaried employee of Minister Chang at the University of San Martín de Porres, or in other words, he holds no independence and no credibility as an “external consultant.”
As one could see, the press conference of the Private Council for a Digital Agenda was unfortunate. These men received a pair of prototypes on Wednesday and the next day they were capable of giving approval for the purchase, with money from our taxes – and the price could fluctuate between 43-100 million dollars.
Here there is plenty of cloth to cut. It is not in terms of technology, because the XO is wonderful, but in terms of educational, logistical and the expense to the state (read the column written by León Trahtenberg).
One of the many unanswered questions: Do you know how many computers have been stolen from the Lima schools with the Plan Huascarán? Did Chang coordinate some study with the Interior Ministry? What are they going to do to avoid the predictable destiny of these marvelous laptops in the hands of easy victims like primary school children?
OLPC: One Week Later (link to original article)
In revisiting the topic of the $100 laptop that in reality costs twice that amount, this time more information is presented with the opinions of bloggers specialized in technology.
Surprisingly, in spite of the marvelous technology gadgets, the local “geek” community is completely not in favor of the purchase (personal note: it is encouraging that our hackers are able to see this, which is something that is lacking from their Latin American counterparts).
I recommend the posts of two of the authority figures on this tipo: Arturo Goga and Gustavo Picón. The first succinctly details some of the technical repairs that the “independent auditor” and employee of Minister Chang, Max Ugaz failed to mention. On he other hand Picón put to rest any illusion that someone could have regarding the purchase of the OLPC machines: his long post should make the rounds in the Ministry of Education, let's see if someone puts a stop to the nonsense.
The debate continues on the ad hoc blog of Eduardo Villanueva
In the meantime, Franc Canaza raises an alarm for a possible leap into the unknown with the education of Peruvian children: Satellite Education in Peru? (“…shouldn't they develop the content for distance education, if they don't buy content to be seen (television, antenna and decodifier).”
We have yet to escape from the controversy and Minister Chang is getting involved with another empty and expensive project. So much enthusiasm for this project is very suspicious: corruption in the related purchases of technology is one of the hardest to prove. There was a reason why Coqui Toledo was one of the most enthusiastic of Plan Huascarán.