Monday, March 10, 2008

OLPC Thailand

So why choose OLPC Thailand as the target for the health pilot? Due to my relationship with the Thai Physicians Association of America (TPAA), I have a few physician contacts throughout Thailand . Also, Thailand was one of the first countries to vest in OLPC pilot programs so they've established a pretty supportive ecosystem. Currently, there are 3 major working groups:

1. The policy team, led by Dr. Djitt Laowattana, as an advisor to the Minister of ICT, works on the government support system and budgetary provision

2. Lampang Province Non-Formal Education Department let by Dr.Suchin Phetcharak
3. DSIL is another coordinator involved in XO deployment

4. National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, NECTEC is the local tech contact point
5. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, KMUTT is also assisting NECTEC
6. OLPC Cambridge offers basic deployment support

According to DSIL, this is how it all started...

DSIL, Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning ( is a participant in the OLPC Thailand effort. It is a K-12 school, located in southwestern Bangkok on the main campus of a technology-focused university, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). DSIL is based on the constructionist theory of learning (invented by Prof.Seymour Papert of MIT's Media Lab), which focuses on concepts such as learner-centered learning, project-based learning, learning-by-doing, which aim to develop the students into life-long learners. (More info on Constructionism here) There are three multi-age classes that periodically work on projects that extend over 10-week cycles.

The school was established in 2001 through funding by two major foundations: Suksapattana Foundation (started by MIT alums in Thailand) and Thaicom Foundation. Both founders of the school were also MIT alumni. One of the founders, Khun Paron Israsena, was the CEO of the Siam Cement Group and had a close relationship with MIT Media Lab. As a result, he was invited to participate in the OLPC effort by MIT Prof. Negroponte. Khun Paron then introduced Negroponte to ex-PM, Dr. Thaksin. After a few demos, Dr. Thaksin was very impressed and decided to join the effort. Pending the success of the pilot programs, Thaksin made the diplomatic promise that Thailand would buy the first lot of at least 250,000 units. At the time, Negroponte aimed to secure at least 4 million units sold since such volume would allow the XO to be sold at USD $100. Dr. Thanksin also reassured Negroponte that he could convince neighboring countries to buy; however, Thaksin's promises soon materialized after the coup-de-tat in December 2006. After the coup, the project was immediately rejected by the provisional military government due to Thaksin's affiliation despite the merits.

Despite these political barriers, there are 3 pilot programs in progress. DSIL distributed the first 30 units to one of its school-members in the northern part of Bangkok. Reports are occasionally fed back to Cambridge to alert them of any technical issues and to shape further application development.

More details later...

Links to OLPC Thailand:

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