Monday, April 30, 2007

The Hole in The Wall

Several years ago, I remember reading about Dr. Sugata Mitra, and this idea he had about computers and poor children in India. Basically, he set up a kiosk in one of the many poor villages in India. The kiosk had a computer with a high-speed internet connection. The computer was set up so that the children could see the screen inside, behind a window, and there were controls, levers of a sort. That's it. He said nothing to the children, they had never seen a computer, knew nothing of the internet. And, as was his hunch, within the afternoon the children were surfing, playing music, watching videos. A tech man inside recorded and told Dr. Mitra what he had observed.

Here's the story in Dr. Mitra's own words...You can click on: The Idea, The Inspiration, and The Afternmath, for a short Windows Media Player clip. Or you can go to his website and view in Quick Time Movie or Real Player format.

The Idea

A revolution in information technology is redefining poverty, as how much you know is becoming just as important as how much you own. "The Hole in the Wall" examines one possible solution to the growing technological gap between rich and poor -- the so-called 'digital divide' -- that threatens to consign millions to an "information underclass."

The Inspiration

When Indian researcher Sugata Mitra embedded a high-speed computer in a wall separating his firm's New Delhi headquarters from an adjacent slum, he discovered that slum children quickly taught themselves how to surf the net, read the news, and download games and music. Mitra then replicated the experiment in other locations. Each time the results were similar: within hours, and without instruction, the children began browsing the Internet.

Can children -- given only access and opportunity -- really teach themselves the rudiments of computer literacy with no instruction? "The Hole in the Wall" experiment, and the documentary film that chronicles it, show the answer to be a "Yes!" Mitra estimates that, given access to one hundred thousand computers, one hundred million Indian children could teach themselves computer literacy within five years.

The Aftermath

The film concludes by noting that the spread of information technology is changing societies around the world, and the implications of Mitra's experiment are profound -- particularly for poor people.
Running Time: 58:30.

That's all I know about this remarkable story. It sure opens the doors to a lot of possibilities and potential in young children. You can buy the film here. I'm not recommending that anyone buy the film, that's up to you. I just wanted to share this remarkable story with you. Children have such incredible spirit. We should help them to let it soar.