Thailand Launches Program to Put Cheap Android Tablets in Kids' Hands

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 19, 2012

For years, Nicholas Negroponte and the folks behind One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) sought to deliver the $100 computer that could make it into the hands of poor children all over the globe. That didn't happen exactly, and one of the reasons was that the OLPC team never really cracked the $100 price point for a functional computer.

Now, there is a new spin on the idea: OLTC, or One Tablet Per Child, which Negroponte has reportedly been involved with. It's behind a government-backed effort in Thailand that has just helped put 55,000 of an estimated 800,000 new Android-based tablet computers into the hands of Thai students.

Prathom 1 students in eight provinces, roughly seventh graders, are receiving the tablets, which reportedly cost $80 per device to make, run Android ICS, and are manufactured in China.  The provinces are Krabi, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Kalasin, Khamphaeng Phet, Khon Kaen, Chanthaburi and Chachoengsao.

The Bangkok Post reports that the effort will scale up to a total of 800,000 tablets distributed:

 ""The students who will receive the tablets will be able to take them home, if parents and teachers allow them. The children will have ownership of the tablets after three years," Mr Suchart [the education minister] said. He said all 800,000 tablets will be delivered to Prathom 1 students this year."

It's actually a big deal whether some of the poorer kids can take their devices home, and what form factor the devices have. Some critics of efforts like OLTC and OLPC have argued that put expensive, desirable devices in the hands of very poor children will only result in stealing. 

This is, though--along with the effort to put Linux-based Raspberry Pi computers in kids hands--one of the largest efforts yet to take open source-based, inexpensive technology and deliver it to kids who might not otherwise be able to use advanced technology.