Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab and One Laptop Per Child, recently presented the U.S. Senate with a brilliantly simple way to help resolve the conflict in Afghanistan — educate the population! Giving all 5 million children in Afghanistan ages 6 through 12 an OLPC XO-1 laptop would cost around US$750 million. Given the river of money flowing to Afghanistan, this is a only a small amount of the budgetary bucket. It would, however, be an tidal change in the perception of the US military.
One Laptop Per Child already has the lesson plans, software and the laptops as well as active pilot projects up and running in Afghanistan. These laptops are expertly designed specifically to deliver elementary education in remote areas; while the XO-1 laptops cost under $200 each, they include technology not yet available in any other laptop at any price. Their rugged design, low power consumption, battery longevity, wireless capabilities and ease-of-use surpass all other laptops on the market. Children teach themselves to use the XO-1 on their own using the built-in collaboration tools and intuitive software. The laptop teaches the children how to teach themselves.
The US military has the supply infrastructure throughout Afghanistan to deliver the laptops, provide them power and supply the data communication backhaul to connect to the rest of the world. The US Census Int’l Database shows there are 5 million children ages 6-12 (1st through 6th grade) in Afghanistan; giving each of them a laptop would cost $750 million and would do more to advance the US desire for a peaceful, stable nation than all of the other military spending combined.
Write your congressional delegation and ask them to budget the funds. Educate Afghanistan and empower them to help us all end the turmoil plaguing the region.
[Update: Donations to Greg Mortenson’s non-profit Central Asia Institute also promote an excellent educational opportunity in Afghanistan.]