John C. Dvorak claims that $200 worth of rice is a better idea than offering OLPC to poor countries. Dvorak feels that it’s better to have food than education. Well, my problem with the situation is that a lot of food was offered to Africa (for free) for over 30 years now, and yet we saw no ending in their hunger. If anything, the spread of AIDS made their situation worse. If we had offered them education instead, many more would have died, but the ones who would have survived would have built a better environment for themselves by now. New businesses, less violence, knowledge about AIDS etc, a new Africa.
I am a humanist, but I always try to see the bigger picture, and this bigger picture is not always compatible with the “humanist approach”. The poorest of all would die, the not-completely-poor would get education to help them rebuild their countries. It is more important for me to look at the future generations and how to eliminate the problem, rather than try to fill up bellies right now, make people happy short term, and potentially see no ending to the bigger problem.
Having said that, Dvorak makes the mistake thinking that all the hunger-striken Africans will get OLPCs, while this is not true. To get an OLPC, you need to be going to school, and the kids who go to school there, are not at the same fate as the ones who need the rice right now. Therefore, the OLPC makes sense, it reaches the right kids, and hopefully these kids will grow up and “fix” most of what is wrong around them.
Now, the real question is not ‘OLPC vs Rice’, but rather ‘OLPC vs recycled books’. If books are cheaper, then they make more sense than the OLPC. In that scenario, OLPCs are indeed a bad, insulting, joke to these people.