Natural Curiosity: Dr. Mitra and the Hole in the Wall Experiment

Invitation for LJ readers to help interview Dr. Mitra about sustainable development and Linux.

In Issue 95 of Linux Journal, my Linux for Suits editorial visited the subject of the Hole in the Wall experiment by Dr. Sugara Mitra, which put Net-connected computers in the public walls of slums in India. The results suggested that even the least privileged kids could be very self-educating about technology.

We first learned about Dr. Mitra's work from ctrlaltesc, a Slashdot-like Web site in India. Right now ctrlaltesc is asking for questions to submit to Dr. Mitra in an interview to be published later.

Vajra Chandrasekera at ctrlaltesc extends a special invitation for questions from Linux Journal readers:

I'm sure your readers will have plenty of questions they'd like to ask Dr. Mitra. Our general focus is on the use of IT for sustainable development (about as un-geeky as you can get, really), but I think Linux is--as you pointed out in your column--very relevant to that.

So let's prove it.

Doc Searls is senior editor of Linux Journal.

email: doc@ssc.com

______________________

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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Thanks for the interest.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the interest. sikiş I can be contacted at the address above. I must, however, mention that children need really good computers. I have tried putting in slower, used computers and the kids quickly ask for more klip izle memory and power.

Still running?

Anonymous's picture

Hello,

is this experiment still running? I wonder how it worked out.

The hole in the wall

Sugata Mitra's picture

Yes it is. There are over 300 locations in India now and an estimated 100,000 children who use them. It is also there in 6 African countries and in Cambodia.

I am now at the Newcastle University working on a project to expand the scope of what the children learn.

Re: Natural Curiosity: Dr. Mitra and the Hole in the Wall Experi

tompoe's picture

Hello: I have a request, which might be sort of a question, maybe.

I put up a web page in April of 2000, with a reprint of Dr. Mitra's article as it appeared in Businessweek, and posted to the GKD mail list. The purpose was to support the rationale for moving forward with a project that would seemingly place computers in kiosks across a country, one per village. The article remains one of the most inspiring articles I have ever come across. I tried [pathetically, I'm afraid] to reach Dr. Mitra and request that he visit the project, and decide whether the "model" presented might be of some use to his group. At this time, if you speak with him, please request that he visit: http://www.theworldccr.org/kiosks.htm and also http://www.theworldccr.org/kids.htm. If the ideas as presented stir some questions, or ideas for him, I would be happy to discuss the project further. My email address at this time is: tompoe@renonevada.net .

Since 1998, I have followed mail lists which discuss various issues surrounding the "Digital Divide". Without exception, these lists refuse to entertain concrete proposals for moving donated computers from developed nations to developing nations. My impression/belief, in light of the project at kiosks.htm, above, continues to insist that what we have are a whole lot of "consultants" who fear they lose income by solving a problem. When a solution is presented, regardless of the commission involved, it becomes more important to perpetuate a problem and thus, ensure employment, than to move to action.

Dr. Mitra has an opportunity to demonstrate to the world just how easy it is to close the "Digital Divide", given the resources. I think we should give him the resources.

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

http://www.studioforrecording.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/

http://renotahoe.pm.org/

your mail above

Sugata Mitra's picture

Thanks for the interest. I can be contacted at the address above. I must, however, mention that children need really good computers. I have tried putting in slower, used computers and the kids quickly ask for more memory and power.

Sugata Mitra

Re: Natural Curiosity: Dr. Mitra and the Hole in the Wall Experi

dan_linder's picture

What sort of sites were the kids going to? Were they browsing to "expected" sites (local/regional pages, toy/games), or were they going to unexpected sites (finiancial, world news/politics)?

I know if a 100% free internet kiosk were setup in a local mall, you would have kids going to porn sites for the curiosity and/or shock value. Was this a problem with your study group?

I read the original article and was intrigued by the comment of kids "networking" and passing information around to each other -- have they progressed even further since the original article was written? Is the demand for the kiosk great enough that the local government would get involved in putting up more?

If you do need more systems, what is your expected class of computer that you would like to use today? I.e. a Pentium 2 333 with 64MB RAM, or do the kids seem to be needing/wanting more?

Here in the USA, there are lots of child-oriented programs to help with reading, math, spelling, etc. Is this sort of software of interest to your kids? I am unsure of the availability of non-English versions of this software...

To wrap up, I wish you continued success in your experiment and I hope the kiosks are able to be left in place (and upgraded!) as time goes on.

Dan

your mail above

Sugata Mitra's picture

I bumped into this site just now and was pleasantly surprised! Thanks for your interest and kind words!

1. Children go to all kinds of sites - news, sports, studies, games, pictures, sometimes even financial sites. etc....

2. Pornography is (ahem) a subject of some interest to me. I have learnt a lot about it in the last five years. If the screen of a public computer is clearly visible, you will get no porno access, even in a free internet kiosk. This is provided the computer is placed in a location where every passing adult can see clearly what is on the screen. It should also be a place where there are many people most of the time. Pornography is no fun in public, it is also usually absent when groups of children access the computer, not just a clique of friends but strangers as well. Embarassment, and not filters, is the best way to ward off pornographic access. It has not been a problem in any of our 108 rural computers in India.

3. See my comments about used computers in the reply to the previous mail on this site.

4. We can do with as much licence free software as possible. English is not a problem, children seem to be able to teach themselves enough English to handle most applications.

A request, is it possible to find a licence free copy of some old version of SimCity? I would really like to see what happens if this is made available. But I need a version that does not require a CD to be inserted all the time.

Sugata

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