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Sugata Mitra and 'outdoctrination'

Posted on Wed, Dec 06, 2006 at 5:59 PM by Andrew Chadwick

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a talk by Sugata Mitra at an event organised by the ICT for Development Collective at Royal Holloway (where I work). The ICT4D Collective is a body of researchers, doctoral students and people working in NGOs and development agencies that are all interested in trying to understand the role played by information and communication technologies in the developing world. I am a member of the Collective but have what can really only be described as an 'amateur' interest in ICT4D issues. The chapter of my book on the digital divide deals with these issues but in nothing like the depth that Tim Unwin and his colleagues at Royal Holloway can do.

Mitra is well-known for so-called 'hole in the wall' computers - Internet-wired kiosks that were established in poor urban and rural areas of India in a series of experiments during the early 2000s. He spoke about the history and results of the project in incredibly positive and optimistic terms, but, overall, I was left wondering about the real long-term benefits of establishing hole in the wall style computers without plugging them into real world educational institutions and behaviour.

A webcast of the talk, including the Powerpoint slides, is available at the Cisco website (Thanks to Cisco's corporate responsbility section for sponsoring the event and doing such an excellent job of the webcast).

Update: The 100 dollar laptop project, now gathering pace, is in the same vein, though there are some significant developments in terms of the hardware and software.

Edited on: Wed, Jan 03, 2007 12:19 PM

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