Has OLPC Gone too Far? Or Do they Finally Make the Point?

Yesterday, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) posted its latest commercial. The non-profit has gotten national television advertising time donated by some of the top networks, including CNN. The commercial, which is embedded below, shows kids learning to use guns. “Children are fast learners. Give them the right tools,” it is written over the images as the piano plays “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The clip is nothing short of powerful. Update: OLPC says this commercial will not run on television networks. I have been a long time fan of One Laptop per Child (OLPC). For readers that follow this blog closely, you know that I worked to get LAPTOP Magazine to donate 30 of OLPC’s XO laptops to a village in Mali.  I have seen first hand that laptops, especially the XO, are perfect education tools for the developing world. They give children access to the world’s encyclopedia and to a tool that can further their minds without having to rely on schools or teachers. But the powerful commercial has me confused.  Will it give viewers the impression that giving an XO to a child in need will change the violence in a nation or substitute the guns and child prostitution for learning? The solutions to those serious social problems go beyond distributing small laptops. Laptops are not the answer to guerrilla warfare or child prostitution; if those problems aren’t solved by other means the laptops could be just a tool and an enabler in the fight. On the other hand, XO laptops are a step in the right direction. They give children an escape from the world around them and they can help in self-education. The ad also finally takes on the major criticism of the project, that kids need food and medication. It is clear from the ad that kids need to learn using the right tools. I have been polling the rest of the LAPTOP Magers in the office on their reactions. Some thought it was the best argument OLPC has made yet, others were put off by the sell. What is your feeling on the short ad? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. ChristophD Says:

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of this video and in my humble opinion OLPC shouldn’t have made it, yet alone published it.

  2. sylvia martinez Says:

    I think your first impression is right. This ad is a powerful statement that we can and must do something positive for these children, otherwise the forces of darkness will win.

  3. Aimee Says:

    Dailymotion is running a contest for users to create their own Give One Get One commercials – for a chance to air on television. For those who are interested in competing, there is very little time left! The contest ends December 15.
    Visit http://www.dailymotion.com/group/g1g1 to learn more and submit your commercial

  4. Sali Says:

    I think that the commercial is certainly a powerful and moving one, but disturbing as well. They could have made the point without the guns and prostitution part. I see the XO as a way for children in rural parts of Mali to get an opportunity to learn, collaborate together, and learn about other places in the world while in the middle of nowhere, but it definitely does not offer solutions to their daily struggle of survival. This is a question I am asked many times a day by fellow Malian citizens, some believe that food and building more classrooms is more important than giving laptops to children. My answer to that is we shouldn’t wait until the entire country eats its fill and every village has their own school to give our children a better chance at education, because with corruption as endemic as it is in Africa and exploitation from the developed countries, I don’t think I will live to see every citizen of a country happily fed, perhaps my grandchildren’s generation.

  5. Nova Says:

    I think its a very nice CM. But, maybe the gun shot is too much to make understand what they want to leave like message. Whatever we will say, I think they are right to say that, we better give notebook (netbook in this case?) than guns, brushes, etc, to those kids. But honestly, I don’t think giving laptops will really solve the education/poverty problem. They need people who will help them in education.

  6. Vox Raisin Says:

    That’s a good advertisement. It grabs your attention. It gets the point across that kids will learn whatever is taught to them. Good begets good. Evil begets evil. There are images in the media much worse than a kid shooting bottles with a machine gun, and more often than not those images are not offered in support of anything as well-intentioned as OLPC.

  7. Vince Says:

    They didn’t go too far. It shows the reality of these countries and is Chris doesnt relize how this world is and how it in everywhere except a 1st world country I feel sorry for him being so blind.

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