One Laptop per Child Lands in India
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The Indian government wasn’t interested, so OLPC partners with Reliance ADA Group to bring computers to India’s primary school kids.
By Nandini Lakshman
Nicholas Negroponte has found it tough going in India. For years as the head of MIT’s Media Lab, the famed computer scientist promoted radical ways to use technology to transform society. His best-known idea is the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program (BusinessWeek, 6/5/08), a plan to make a simple, $100 laptop that would create a digitally literate generation in the hardscrabble classrooms of emerging-market nations. The laptop, now dubbed the XO, is finally being mass-produced in China.
In 2001, the computer scientist came to India to promote the Media Lab, but failed to impress New Delhi. Negroponte clearly fell off the India map, when then-Information Technology Minister Arun Shourie dismissed his efforts as “pedagogically suspect” and wanted more accountability. When Negroponte’s nonprofit One Laptop per Child foundation approached the Indian government in 2006, his project was again rebuffed by India’s then-Education Secretary, Sudeep Banerjee (BusinessWeek.com, 8/16/06).
Two years later, Negroponte is back to open a new office in New Delhi and launch the OLPC program in India on Aug. 4. Despite all the rebuffs, Negroponte’s urge to sell in India is stronger than ever. “India is the largest market for us, and I had to be here,” he says. More important, Negroponte has a new partner-one of India’s politically influential private-sector conglomerates. The Digital Bridge Foundation, part of Reliance ADA Group, owned by Indian billionaire Anil Ambani, is providing the technology backbone and logistics for the installation of OLPC’s white and green XO laptops in primary schools.