Negroponte at Forrester
In November 2006, Nicholas Negroponte spoke at Forrester's Consumer Forum outlining OLPC's progress, the obstacles they've faced, and the promise of connecting children all over the world.
The transcript of Negroponte's speech:
Intro: One Laptop Per Child is the non-profit organization shared by Nicholas Negroponte. Negroponte is on leave of absence from MIT to help the organization redesign the laptop computer and make the machines available to children in impoverished countries around the world. Negroponte spoke to the Forrester Consumer Forum on October 25th about using technology to empower the masses. His speech was followed by a Q&A conducted by Forrester Vice President Josh Bernoff.
Nicholas Negroponte: Thank you very much. Um, I'm going to use about 15 minutes to uh, describe the project and then I gather there's a Q&A session, um, and the Q&A session to me is the most important part. So for these 15 minutes, which is in some sense the entertainment portion of your day because it will not relate directly to what you're doing but it certainly will relate to the lives of your children and your grandchildren.
And if you think of any big problem, think of ones that are so big we don't even do anything except talk about them as individuals and often as organizations, um, whether it's something like peace or something like eliminating poverty or saving the environment or doing those big things. Whatever the solutions, and there's always an "s," may be, they include education, in some cases it can be done just with education, and in no case that I've ever come across can it be done without some element of education. And if you take that as a given, and then you look at the world, there are about 1.2 billion children in what we call primary and secondary schools.
Roughly 50% of them do not have electricity, roughly 50% and not exactly the same ones, but very, very much overlapping um, live in rural remote parts of the world. Uh, it might interest you that almost 50% of them are in China and India alone. Uh there's some startling facts, and if you look at the world and say "Well, what if we could provide to those children what we have enjoyed in Europe, the United States, Japan, Korea, so on, what could we do to make that happen?" Now some people will tell you that the thing to do is to train teachers, to build schools, to make curricula better, to make sort of the current education system better, and in no way, for those of you who are blogging at the moment please underline this, in no way are we saying don't do that, stop doing that, teachers aren't important, schools aren't good.
What we're saying is that that method like building roads, pouring concrete, and doing all of those things is going to take a very long time. It's going to take years and years. So is there something we can do in the meantime, something to, in fact, leverage the children themselves? That doesn't mean every child is an Abraham Lincoln, it doesn't mean that, you know, you just put it on autopilot and you send laptops to kids in the jungle and it happens by itself. But is there a way of thinking not about learning as it comes from teaching, but learning as it comes from the way most of you have learned most of the things you know. In fact, everybody in this room learned how to walk, learned how to talk, and learned a great deal of the common sense you currently have without a walking teacher, without a talking teacher, and without somebody who taught you about common sense.
How did you learn those things? You learned them by interacting with the environment. As a young baby it was a real reward for the investment that you made to learn how to talk because you could get something, learn how to walk because you could stand up and reach it, and that whole very interactive process where you, in fact, get something very immediately by learning and interacting and so on, comes to a more or less abrupt halt at the age of 6. When you're told "Go to school," and for the next 12 years if you're really lucky actually, but for the next 12 years you will be learning by being taught by people like me, standing in front of a room, or books, but the process is teaching. Now, that's ok, and again, please, I'm not saying don't do that, I'm saying that that's one form of learning.