OLPC Paraguay: an overdue introduction
As I mentioned briefly before, I’m helping out with the One Laptop per Child implementation in Paraguay for 3 months. I’ve been here for a few weeks and have decided it’s time to properly introduce the project!
A dedicated new organization known as ParaguayEduca is heading up the operation. It’s mostly young people, full of energy and ideas. Within the organization there are people working on the educational side of things, there is a skilled technical team, and also there are people handling the many logistical/administrative/political aspects that surround such a project. They have all aspects covered and have been extremely helpful in helping me to settle, adjust to the extreme climate, and visit different parts of this lesser-known country.
The goal of the organization does not need explanation: to improve education by implementing One Laptop per Child for every child in Paraguay.
The launch of the project was made possible thanks to a donation of 4000 laptops from SWIFT. These laptops will be deployed in the city of Caacupé, the capital of the Cordillera department. Caacupé is usually a tranquil city but is well known for its church (Basilica de Caacupé) and livens up for some religious festivals.
We are working in 10 schools in Caacupé, approximately 3600 children and 150 teachers. This covers over 50% of the city. As is typical for OLPC deployments, the children get to take the laptops home and share with their family. The government supports the project and has installed electrical infrastructure at all the schools, and good relationships with Personal, a major telecommunications company, has resulted in full internet connectivity in all 10 schools. The organization also has great links with media, frequently appearing on the front page of national newspapers, and on national TV.
The teachers are a major strength to the project here; they are very excited about the laptops, and even gave up 4 weeks of their vacations to attend laptop training sessions. The training featured a lot of internet-based activities, and was carried out by 20 “formadores,” local people recruited by ParaguayEduca in order to train the teachers.
So far, I have been mostly working on technical aspects – preparing the software image, networking, and harnessing the very latest OLPC technology to ease the deployment. I also worked on bundling up 300+ stories from local culture for distribution on the laptops.
The laptops have arrived in port, and we are currently preparing the warehouse for the mass installation of software. Laptops will be handed out to children in the next few weeks, and I’ll be sure to write more about the upcoming events as they happen!