An Indian physicist puts a PC with a high speed internet connection in a wall in the slums and watches what happens. Based on the results, he talks about issues of digital divide, computer education and kids, the dynamics of the third world getting online.
New Delhi physicist Sugata Mitra has a radical proposal for bringing his country's next generation into the Info Age.
To test his ideas, Mitra 13 months ago launched something he calls "the hole in the wall experiment." He took a PC connected to a high-speed data connection and imbedded it in a concrete wall next to NIIT's headquarters in the south end of New Delhi. The wall separates the company's grounds from a garbage-strewn empty lot used by the poor as a public bathroom. Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it. He monitored activity on the PC using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree.
What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. Some of the other things they learned, Mitra says, astonished him.
The physicist has since installed a computer in a rural neighborhood with similar results. He's convinced that 500 million children could achieve basic computer literacy over the next five years, if the Indian government put 100,000 Net-connected PCs in schools and trained teachers in some basic "noninvasive" teaching techniques for guiding children in using them. Total investment required, he figures: Around $2 billion.
Read the entire interview here