The Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry of India has strongly disapproved the idea of ‘one-laptop-per-child’ (OLPC) being aggressively marketed by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Laboratory. HRD contends that spending Rs 450 crore on digital empowerment can be better spent on primary and secondary education.
The ministry stated that India must not allow the idea to be implemented for the experimentation with children. Negroponte had made a presentation on OLPC at Yojna Bhavan on April 7 seeking to sell one million laptops at the rate of $100 per unit for children, the cost to be borne by the government. The ministry said that it is quite obvious that the financial expenditure to be made on the scheme will be out of public funds. Then, It would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents. The ministry said that 6 to 12 is a highly vulnerable age group to cover in an area of human technology interface, which is so new and heavily debated. The ministry said that health problems of Indian rural children are well-known; personalised intensity of computer use could easily exacerbate some problems related to eyesight and the back. HRD ministry also thinks that there is a ‘conceptual vacuum in which the scheme is being propagated’.