A 60-page report (PDF), done by a private organisation ILC Africa, was published by USAID last week about an 18-month pilot project in Ghana which began in 2010. Three hundred students were involved - but there were as many as 600 Kindles used due to the degree of breakage. That's $US60,000 for Amazon, not a sum to be sneezed at a time when American unemployment is still hovering around the 9 per cent mark. And it's probably just the beginning of an income stream...
(The OLPC laptop too suffers from the breakage malady; I was once told back in 2008 that it could be dropped from the arms of a person of average height and would not break. When I asked if I could test this out, the speaker hurriedly took the gadget away from me.)
After 18 months of this noble experiment in Ghana, sadly, there is nothing but anecdotal evidence to show for the claims that the Kindles will help in educating children. Had Worldreader waited for that wonderful report about Peru - which has unmasked the OLPC in no uncertain manner - it could have spared those children.
But hey, computer and device makers in the US need to sell their products, don't they? We can't have inventory building up and taking up valuable store space, now, can we?
Is there any statistic to show from subjecting poor Ghanaian students to this experiment and taking away some of their best years for learning? No, it merely appears to be the new form of colonialism, judging from the number of companies who are trying, desperately, to sell computers for "education" to poorer countries.
Let me quote from Farivar's excellent report: "The study found 'consistent improvement' in primary school students who were given e-readers..., but 'the evaluation team was unable to attribute growth at the junior and senior levels to the e-reader because the control groups also grew at the same rate'."
If you, gentle reader, are interested in a lot of verbiage which masks this one inescapable fact, here is a link. 'Twould be far better to read Farivar's report - more of his kind of journos are desperately needed.
But the Ghana project did yield some income for Amazon so it is probably worth it after all. USAID and Worldreader have plans to continue the project into 2015. Maybe Joseph Kony can be lured out of hiding by using a Kindle... one never knows.
Ghana has a population of 24.3 million and some 10.7 million children. Uganda has 33 million people and around half that number are below 15. And Kenya has an estimated 41 million within its borders with around 16 million being below 14. Multiply even half that number of kids in each country at $US100 a pop and you get the idea. Mouth-watering stats for the accountants at Amazon headquarters. But remember, it's all about "education"...