[Sugar-devel] [IAEP] Planning for the future (Samuel, Greenfeld)

Sean DALY sdaly.be at gmail.com
Thu Mar 19 04:43:02 EDT 2015

Hi Tony,

I for one certainly don't feel Sugar is only for children in developed
countries. I believe Sugar offers benefits for all children. I do think
that widespread use of Sugar in developed countries would encourage its use
in the developing world, for several reasons. One of these is the
opportunity for major donors, journalists, and influential educators - who
could make a difference in developing world projects - to experience Sugar
directly, something they have never been able to do without difficulty. I
remember a testy exchange with a journalist who described the XO (which he
had never seen) in his article as "a laptop running Linux". I told him that
was reductionist, like calling an iPhone "a FreeBSD terminal", and
explained that Sugar is an environment specifically designed for children.
His position was that the XO was challenging the market position of Windows
- childrens' learning or the digital divide weren't the angles.

In the past few years we've seen enormous changes, in particular the rise
of handheld tactile devices (smartphones/tablets/"phablets"), which seem to
offer advantages for schools (rugged, light, many fewer moving parts,
software keyboard easy to localize) but which are better suited to
consuming content rather than creating it. And in the developing world, the
incredible rise of mobile, a large percentage of which are
Internet-connected smartphones (see the Pew report of a year ago:

I have been astonished at learnings from the Nosy Komba (Madagascar)
"micro-deployment" managed by the OLPC France association (not affiliated
with OLPC). There was no Internet on the island, but highspeed xDSL was
available in the port on the mainland a few kilometers over open water.
OLPC France volunteers designed and installed a wifi link (this involved
climbing the island's volcano to set up an antenna) after initial
resistance from the local telco provider. When the island's villages
learned that the school had not only computers for the children, but
limited Internet access, the school's attendance jumped (a dormitory had to
be built as a result). And the island's fishermen wanted to learn how to
obtain weather and tides information. My point is that even in remote
areas, people know that the Internet exists and that children need
computers and connectivity to develop opportunities - there will be fewer
and fewer schools which are completely off-grid. I agree that the children
in those schools need help the most, that with no connectivity a local
device (or device+server) is all-important, and that the XO is best-suited
as that device. However Sugar offers the possibility of using a different
device if XOs become unavailable. It's not farfetched to imagine a
hardware/Sugar education project based on a RPi or other Single Board
Computer (SBC), perhaps with an internal battery, used for example with
shared keyboards and screens at school connected to a school server, maybe
with satellite tablet screen for outside school...

To me, the goal of Sugar Labs is to offer its benefits to all children, not
just those lucky enough to have access to an XO. This can certainly include
children in developing countries - witness Sugar's support for indigenous
languages, always a step ahead of commercial offerings, yet of only limited
interest in developed countries.


On Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 1:40 AM, Tony Anderson <tony_anderson at usa.net>

> Sean,
> I think you are getting at what I consider the heart of the problem.
> SugarLabs sees Sugar as an alternative GUI for any computing device with
> primary efficacy in the developed, internet-connected world. This goal is
> understandable since the XOs have a limited life and so Sugar must be
> operable on currently marketed devices.
> The project I signed up for is to place computers in the hands of every
> child at a community school in the developing world where electricity is an
> issue, the internet is unavailable, and teachers as well as students have
> no prior experience with computing. The goal of the project is to enhance
> the educational opportunities of these students through the use of Sugar as
> well as access to information others on the right side of the digital
> divide get from the internet.
> Tony
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