East Africa: Children to Get Laptops in a New Deal

Computing

The East African Community (EAC) has signed an agreement with the One Lap per child initiative to avail laptops to children in the region.

Juma Mwapachu, the secretary general of the East Africa Community, signed the deal.

"If you want to build a knowledge economy, you must have a computer literate population, starting from primary and secondary school children, all the way to university.

This is a very ambitious project that we will have to partner with other people and institutions to mobilise the resources required to meet our objectives by 2015."

Matt Keller, the vice-president of the project, said Tanzania had ordered for 30,000 laptops, while Rwanda is looking at 120,000.

"This will help to get children to learn how to think critically and analytically to become problem solvers.

The aim is to change the way children are taught," said Keller at the Speke Resort Munyonyo on the sidelines of the East African Community investment conference last week

The laptops are designed for children aged between six and 12 years. Basic computers skills to enable children use the computers can be learnt in a day.

Keller said all the textbooks in soft form can be uploaded onto the laptop, meaning that the laptops will become mobile libraries.

The laptops cost between $190 and $200.

Eriya Kategaya, the EAC affairs minister, said Uganda already had an ICT policy and that he would contact the relevant ministries to integrate the initiative within the existing national structures.

The technology was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the laptops are connected wirelessly.

The model of learning using the laptop goes against the traditional system where children are taught to memorise things, but never engaging in critical thinking.

The laptops can be charged using solar power, are water resistant and shock proof.

"It is open source and most content can be developed locally and can be used in different languages.

"The laptop last six years and has a 4 giga byte size memory," said Keller.