One Laptop per Child Study

This is the main website of my study of ICT in development (sometimes called ICT4D). In practice, that means I am doing a multi-sited, qualitative study of an One Laptop per Child (OLPC) deployment in West Africa, and I am relating that study to theories of technology and society such as Actor-Network Theory (ANT). The project is funded by Aarhus University and facilitated by the Centre for Science, Technology and Society studies. The project is also affiliated with the Centre for Glocal Media Studies.

Annan helps Negroponte unveil the $100 laptopIn 2005 former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan helped unveil a small device to an international audience in Tunis. It was a little green laptop with a bright yellow crank sticking out the side. This device, Annan told the audience, held promises of major advances in social and economic development. Delegates had come from all over the world. They were politicians, academics, journalists, lobbyists, and businessmen. And they had come to debate how to achieve a better and more equal future for mankind. A few years later Akila, a Nigerian primary 5 student, was made to change school by his parents because at this new school, they had acquired 100 small green laptops for their students.

How are laptops to create a better world, how did they end up in Africa, and how did Akila find his new school? These are some of the questions that motivated me to do this project.

Scheduled to terminate September 2013 the project has the following themes which will be elaborated in associated publications.

It is a qualitative study

This is first and foremost a qualitative study using ethnographic methods such as fieldwork, participant observation, interviews, and normal everyday engagements. It is my belief that ethnographic/anthropological studies of Development have provided key insights pivotal for discussing what development is in practice, in thinking, etc (here is one famous example). The question, then, is what a qualitative study of an IT-based project can contribute to the debate.

Development is not (only) in Africa

If you want to study development, a poor country is not the only (or necessarily best) place to go. On the empirical level, development has just as much to do with politics, NGOs, conferences, reports, social theories, religion, researchers, and so on. That is why I have made my empirical study multi-sited. Meaning that I am not only doing fieldwork in Africa, but also in Denmark, at conferences, over the Internet, and so forth. I am using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and Bruno Latour to guide me in this endeavour.

Science, Technology, Society studies

Over the past decades a great variety of research has been done about science and technology within “developed” societies. I am thinking here of the interdisciplinary field known as Science, Technology, Society studies (STS). Although some work has already been done within STS about the condition of poor people, it has traditionally been a field focusing on “hard science” and other phenomena of developed regions. In this project, I am trying to let laptops in Africa partner with STS to see if they have something to contribute to one another.

If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact me.