Peru: Just Say No! to the OLPC

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.

8 comments

  • Corruption of certain bloggers by Intel or Microsoft is also hard to prove.. could there be such?

    Seriously now, watch the latest videos about the OLPC project at http://olpc.tv

  • Eduardo Villanueva is also a contributor to OLPC News and his post around OLPC Peru has brought out several interesting arguments and revelations: http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/peru/olpc_peru_xo_mystery.html

  • Cesar

    Chile esta comprando laptops mucho mas caras con el mismo fin (repartir en colegios). Al inicio se unieron al proyecto OLPC pero los lobbies los convencieron de gastar 3 a 5 veces mas por laptop. No sera que esos mismos lobbies quieren torpedear el proyecto OLPC en Peru?
    Mas corruptos que los del gobierno son quienes quieren vender sus propias computadoras al gobierno y se valen de bloggers baratos para petardear desde varios lados al projecto. La iniciativa OLPC es mundial, la laptop se ha estado desarrollando durante ya varios anhos y ha firmado cartas de intencion de compra con muchos paises del tercer mundo.

  • Jose

    Let me add that Intal has just “donated” 200 laptops to the peruvian ministry of education for the use of children. Trying to bombard the OLPC project and making the government to start buying theirs 400 dollars laptops instead of buying the 100 dollars (and hugely more sofisticated) laptops from the OLPC project. Shame on you guys!!!

  • Freddy

    I have just seen a special show of $100 OLPC in 60 minutes. They show the competence between Intel and Negroponte (AMD). Negroponte said he will not receive any dollar in this business. And the start price will be near $200 per laptop. Intel will loose market if his project succeeds. Negroponte don’t have any formal purchasing order to start production. Let’s give them time to see what their real interests are.

  • Martin Auqui

    Max Ugaz comes from the private sector and he is looking to do a good business. But the minister Mr. Chang must remenber that he is not intendede business with their employee. Yes, Minister Garrido is involved in the process and he has been previously indicted with the case of a friend that stay as Viceminister less than 48 hours and he put him again in the salary roll… and the friend was fired 48 hours later… then Minister Garrido hired national papernews to publish and reinforce his own image. He got free of jail because he offer (under the table) free publicity to some congressmen in every water system that Minister Garrido has to inaugurate….

    The key on this game is the relationship between Garrido-Ugaz-Chang. None of them has a clean image: and President Garcia was help by Chang when he was without work: a whole institute was created to help the personal finance of Garcia (in wich he work as a Director)… so the circle is closer and closer…

    Martin

  • Martin Auqui

    oh… and Max Ugaz is a close friend of Jose Soriano… the one who attributed himself the creation of more 500 internet cafes in Peru and Yuri Rojas, the one that has try to join all the peruvian Internet cafes for his own economical benefit… Just for the records. You will see this 2 names “related” to the “US$100 computer” affair very soon… no doubt.

  • Tfunk

    Uruguay already started distributing their computers…
    The reason why governements are required to buy so many units up front is to reduce the risk of blackmarkets and thefts by making them so common that there would be no value/incentive to steal and resell. While i understand the need to prod politicians pork projects, these self-designated reporters could have found all their answers online. There are whole online communities devoted to making the case for OLPC. Its all very thought out, and has committees dedicated to overcoming the obvious threats of its success. Disapointing to see these crusaders of justice not use their enery more positively for their country.

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