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Designing for development: Understanding One Laptop Per Child in its historical context

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2 Author(s)
Ananny, M. ; Dept. of Commun., Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA ; Winters, N.

We argue that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) can be better understood by examining the general history of development communication and, specifically, through a historical debate between communication scholars Ithiel de Sola Pool and Herbert Schiller. Although originally conducted around broadcast media, the Pool-Schiller conversation identifies questions still relevant to contemporary information and communication for development (ICT4D) projects like the OLPC. Our analysis of their debate identifies five key questions we can apply to the OLPC or any given ICTD4D project: where does change happen? How does change happen? What obligations do designers and researchers have as change agents? What is the role of technology in change? What is the relationship between change, technology and international development? Equipped with this framework, we argue that one place to see OLPC's answers to these Pool-Schiller questions - and, thus, an understanding of OLPC development ideologies - can be found in a textual analysis of the OLPC software design guidelines. This preliminary analysis suggests that OLPC sees the child as the agent of change and the network as the mechanism of change.

Published in:

Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2007. ICTD 2007. International Conference on

Date of Conference:

15-16 Dec. 2007