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The OLPC team always considered Internet connectivity part of the recipe for success. They also insisted each child be given a laptop and be permitted to take it home.

Uruguay, a small, flat country with a far higher standard of living, has honored those requirements and achieved ubiquitous Internet access in the process.

Peru did not.

Becerra said trade-offs were necessary because it would have cost $1.2 billion to provide all 6 million children in Peru’s elementary schools with laptops. Rural schools, beginning with those where a single teacher manages multiple grades, got priority.

But those schools’ very remoteness complicated matters.

Some parents, mistakenly believing themselves the laptops’ owners, tried to sell the machines, Becerra said.

About a quarter didn’t want the computers coming home, fearing theft, the development bank researchers found. Meanwhile, two in five children didn’t take their computers home because their school wouldn’t let them.

Some schools didn’t have enough electricity to power the machines.

And then there was Internet. Less than 1 percent of the schools studied had it.

Patzer blogged about the frustration he witnessed when children and teachers struggled with the laptops’ old, buggy software and, not understanding how to update to improved versions, “promptly boxed them up and put them back in the corner.”

Marcone questioned whether the IADB study measured the right aptitudes among those who did use the machines.

“What was evaluated was a paper and pencil test,” he said. “What if they had tested 21st-century skills?” he said. Skills such as those developed by the audiovisual tools the laptops possess?

Marcone has already made modifications to the program, including making the XO laptop part of Peru’s university teacher-training curriculum this year.

His office will continue to support the laptops, replacing broken ones as well as distributing 41,000 that were destroyed in a warehouse fire earlier this year. It plans to expand rural Internet penetration and put new support resources online. But it won’t be trying to give out one laptop per child.

“The ministry is not going to do another macro project of this type. It is not going to make multimillion-dollar purchases and distribute (computers) like candy.”

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