Brazil has been talking about it for years but never delivered. The little and often considered poor Brazilian neighbor Uruguay recently became the first country in the world to give all elementary school children in public schools one Internet-connected laptop each, which is their own property and they can take home.
The massive delivery of free laptops for schoolchildren begun on an experimental basis nearly three years ago in Uruguay is booming throughout Latin America, with the exception of Brazil
Chile’s former President Michelle Bachelet late last year began limited delivery of free laptops to rural students and on March 17, Peru signed a deal for 260,000 laptops from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, a non-profit venture that is selling laptops for US$ 188 each.
Peru’ new order will bring to 590,000 the number of laptops delivered to Peru’s elementary school children under a program that provides most of the machines to one-teacher schools in poverty-stricken rural areas.
And on March 18, Argentina’s government delivered the first of 250,000 Intel Classmate laptops for students of technical high schools, only hours after the mayor of Buenos Aires, an opposition leader, announced that his city will order 190,000 laptops for elementary school children.
“Latin America is way ahead of Asia, Africa and other regions of the world in one-to-one computer penetration in elementary schools,” says Rodrigo Arboleda, the MIT program’s worldwide operations chief, who added that 85% of the program’s laptops are going to the region. “Countries have realized that it works, and they are rushing not to be left behind.”
The Inter-American Development Bank reports that the number of Latin American and Caribbean schoolchildren covered by these programs will soar from today’s 1.5 million to 30 million by 2015.
Last month, Brazil announced a bid to buy 1.5 million laptops for elementary school children. But these announcements in Brazil are nothing new.
On December 2007 the site OLPC News published that Brazil had opened a bid for 150,000 laptops for its program One Computer per Student (UCA). More than two years later not much has happened. Only a few days ago the first machines were delivered and they went to the teachers and not the students.
OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Brazil seems to have learned from its auction losses that local production does matter in Brazil. Without the promise of some sort of local assembly of technology, companies will not be considered for a government tender.
The delivery of the first notebooks of the Brazilian project finally happened March 19. The CCE company, responsible for manufacturing the equipment, delivered the first 3,000 laptops to the Ministry of Education (MEC).
The program focuses on the digital inclusion of students in public schools but the first units went to the training of teachers. The CCE says the first batch for students will be delivered on April 15, with 37,000 machines.
Laptops are the Classmate PC model with Intel processors. It is expected that 300 schools will benefit from the program and an additional 110,000 computers, which cost 550 reais (US$ 308) each, are promised to be delivered before the end of this semester.