@prabhakar_deosthali - You are absolutely correct in saying this is a shared effort involving more than one group. It can only be successful if government, book publishers, content providers, education experts, international aid organizations, manufacturers, and the local community are involved from the get-go. While I don't know how other programs would or could work in other places, I know Worldreader is actively engaged with all of these entities on the exact issues you raise. Here's what they're doing in Kenya, for instance: http://blog.worldreader.org/2011/01/13/exploring-opportunities-in-kenya/
@hawk - I don't completely disagree with you. It would be naive to say ruggedized e-readers would, in and of, themselves change learning in the developing world where there are many other issues in play. What e-readers do, however, is put a new learning tool into the hands of educators and school children who otherwise would have severely limited teaching options available to them. Fundamentally, it's a way to open a door to different opportunities that may not have been possible without the technology. We don't have to look far to see how technology, in general, has already impacted social, economic, educational, and political interactions in all parts of the world, but in particular in the developing world. Take Egypt. Would we be as tuned in to this important stand for democracy if SMS, Twitter, Facebook, and other tech platforms were out of reach for people in Tahrir Square? You can also look at the impact cell phone availability has had on women and small business owners all over the developing world. All sorts of successful entrepreneurial activities have begun and helped numerous families (think of the women who got a cell phone and a microloan, and now can afford to send her children to college), in part, because OEMs and telecom operators chose to make and sell low-cost handsets with pay-as-you-go usage models. And, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the potential mobile apps and devices, like tablets, could have in the medical or emergency management sectors, other areas where stripped down technology platforms could have life-saving value.
This ties into the profit issue you raised. I don't expect OEMs to give away their earnings, nor do I believe they have to. There is a way to make money in this if innovative, solutions-oriented people from different industries put their heads together. Most consumer electronics manufacturers - whether they sell phones, laptops, DVDs, cameras, etc - know, from the moment their products hit the market, that value is constantly being lost. Each iteration drives that point home. Better, faster, cheaper is a long-standing tech profit model. OEMs know full well that they can't escape low-profit margins. The question, then, is how do they maximize revenue and lower operating costs. The way they largely have dealt with that is by selling more plain Jane, mass-produced units to more geographies or emerging markets. Additionally as @DennisQ points out, lower price points don't just win traction in low-income countries, they also appeal to many U.S. and Western shoppers as well.
I appreciate the dialog here. It has me thinking of things that hadn't crossed my mind.
I agree with asking local governments for support and involving local software developers and/or translators.
Now, I believe that living in a globalized world pretty much require the students in every single part of the world to be prepared for international education and global markets. This can only happen if every school in the globe offer a bilingual education -local language and English. This means that the e-readers would be almost useless if they offer the information in only the local langauge as so much would be missing in the education and preparation of the generations to come. You can like it or not but this is the reality of today and the future of the next generations.
I find it quite a strong accusation when you say "Forcing the students in Ghana to recite the Nursay rhymes written for the Amecan kids may not be the right way of spreading the education." Do you have a source or evidence about this? Honestly, I don't believe this is the case.
What a wonderful initiative from both you and Worldreader!
This blog certainly has much more in it than triggering a lively discussion about a hot and timely topic today. This is a heartwarming blog that sends some light and joy to our hearts when seeing the faces of teachers and students who are excited about using an e-reader for learning.
The initiative of thinking about how to improve education in the developeing nations, how to help students and teachers around the globe to have access to the endless amount of information available in the online libraries is just fantastic.
Manufacturers of all the different e-readers and tablets should take also the initiative of making e-readers accessible to all.
If e-readers have to become popular in the developing countries , the OEMS manufacturing such e-readers need the support from the local govenrments. Currently the text-books for school children are heavily subsidised by the governments. Another aspect is that the content has to be in the local language of the students- whether it is audio or text. Such content can only be developed by the local companies. The content also has to have the local references. Forcing the students in Ghana to recite the Nursay rhymes written for the Amecan kids may not be the right way of spreading the education. So it has to be collaborative effort between the e-reader manufacturers and the content developers in the individual nations for such effort to become successful.
Jennifer, I wish I could share your optimism that simply giving rudimentary e-readers adapted to rugged conditions would change the dynamics of learning in developing economies. The reality is far different than the video clip you showed demonstrates. Yes, they can use simpler e-readers but the developing world is not populated by simple, developing minds. People in these countries want the same things others in developed economies enjoy.Often, they want these more.
In fact, the reality is that some of the technologies in use in many developed economies nowadays are behind the curve of what is being used in some other so-called developing regions. Then there is the question of profit. OEMs, unlike Jennifer, are in this purely for the money and not for altruism. Even Jennifer will not want to donate all her earnings to anyone. Her best good cause is Jennifer herself. The same applies to equipment manufacturers too.
I think this is a fabulous idea. The impact that these students receive is so great it is hard to imagine the endless educational gains. I also agree that they need to be simplified and built tougher to withstand the rigors of not always being in ideal locations. If they could implement some of the characteristics of Panasonic's Toughbook along with some of Sprint's Nextel phones, these devices would last longer and be used in the typical settings of some of the Third World countries. By reducing the costs and eliminating some of those extras that we take for granted, these next gen e-readers could make a large global impact.
Thanks for promoting (and volunteering) for this cause, Jennifer!
I have written before on here about my opinion that e-Readers will soon drop dramatically in price, down to the $25-$50 and become much more popular in U.S. schools... but being ethnocentric, I suppose I never considered the advantages of e-Reader use in the developing world.
I am sure the current textbook situation in many of these countries is quite dire, so having an e-Reader that could provide enough teaching material for multiple classes across multiple grades in one handy unit would be an invaluable teaching tool. The advantages are so numerous, for example, an advanced student wouldn't have to be limited by a regular textbook and could pursue advanced reading on his or her own very easily, for instance.
However, you are right that there will probably need to be specialized readers for these situations. A lower price point is important of course, but designing e-Readers to survive harsher conditions and increased use (due to sharing e-Readers) are a must, as you mention. This is another area where e-Readers have an advantage over tablets, as the simpler architecture of the e-Reader will likely lead to longer service life.
Anyhow, thanks for your work with this organization, and I hope that within the decade that the Worldreader dream is realized. I think from a technical level and a cost standpoint, it will be possible.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.