Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) has announced its collaboration with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation, a global alliance to promote e-learning for children. As per this initiative, Reliance ADAG’s flagship company Reliance Communications (RCOM) would provide Internet connectivity, network backbone, logistics and support to the OLPC initiative in India, using its state-of-the-art network that would cover over 25,000 towns and 600,000 Indian villages by March 2008.
Announcing the collaboration, Tina Anil Ambani said, “Children are the future of the nation, and shaping the future of millions of school children through New Age learning systems is of prime importance in today’s digital era. The IT and ITES revolution over the last decade has brought India at the forefront of leading emerging economies. The next leap forward necessitates that the existing digital divide between urban and rural India is bridged at the earliest.”
Ambani also announced the launch of OLPC’s pilot project in India under which school children in a tribal village at Khairat near Karjat, Maharashtra, have been provided with OLPC XO laptops, and teachers have been trained for incorporating the new way of imparting education. RCOM is providing the connectivity to these Internet learning devices. OLPC has already provided laptops to 5 million school children across the world and aims to cover 150 million schoolchildren by 2008. Leading global corporates like AMD, Google, News Corp, Nortel, eBay, Citigroup, Seagate, Adobe, etc., have partnered in setting up the OLPC Foundation, which is backed by the United Nations.
“RCOM endeavours to provide robust and reliable telecommunications and information services across the country, including the remotest locations yet uncovered by any other telecom network. Our data network would enable information access to countless schools and children across 25,000 towns and 600,000 villages,” said Sumit Chowdhury, CIO, RCOM.
This project is aimed at helping address critical educational issues faced by schools in remote and rural places of the country. RCOM and OLPC will be working with government agencies, NGOs, content developers, translators, the teaching community and project managers to create successful ecosystems.
“Most of the children in the school at Khairat have never seen a computer before, and each of them has got an OLPC laptop. After a couple of weeks with them, it was impressive to see the ease and receptiveness of children to have fun while learning on the laptops, as well as the teacher’s adaptability and creativity to execute the school curriculum, by implementing the OLPC educational approach and furthering the learning experiences of children through the laptop’s software activities,” said Carla Gomez Monroy, Learning Consultant, OLPC.
Dr Nicholas Negroponte, Former Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, and Founder, OLPC Foundation, added, “The way to harness this energy is to leverage children themselves, inviting them to more actively participate in their own education, to learn learning itself and to keep the natural passion provided by childhood’s curiosity and play. India needs to take a role of world leadership in the concept of one laptop per child, even if it is seemingly daunting. OLPC is proudly partnering with Reliance to do just that.”
“The programme has a lot of synergies with AMD’s 50x15 initiative, including its emphasis on partnering with industry leaders, government and NGOs to bridge the digital divide, and empower people. The benefits of the technology will be nowhere as visible as in a country like ours, where the solution to deliver technology to the far corners depends on the various challenges like power, affordability and simplicity,” said Alok Ohrie, Managing Director, AMD India.
“By taking a complete ecosystem approach, AMD and its partners, such as the current relationship with RCOM, can create self-sustaining, commercially viable and localised business models that can provide citizens with affordable Internet access and computing capabilities,” he added.