DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Computers for Children

By Gary Garriott

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Everyone knows that technology is very important. More and more people make their living by working with computers. Modern businesses use computers to keep information about sales, costs, workers and the people who buy products. And the Internet is becoming more valuable as a way to market products to the whole world.

But educators around the world have a big problem. How are they going to teach millions of school children to use computers? Teachers must be trained and have experience with computers. But many older people, including some teachers, are not interested in computers or are afraid to learn how to use them.

Now a researcher in India has developed a possible solution to the problem. His name is Sugata Mitra. His idea is that children can teach themselves how to use computers. Mr. Mitra and engineers from a company called N-I-I-T in New Delhi invented a new kind of computer. It does not use a keyboard.

They put the computer in a wall that surrounds an area where poor people live. The computer was connected to the Internet. Mr. Mitra wanted to see if people would use the computer. He placed a video camera near the computer so he could watch people as they looked at or played with the computer.

He discovered that adults were not interested in the computer in the wall. But children, especially young boys, were very interested. They learned how to play games and find music on the Internet without any adult to teach them. Then they shared what they had learned with other children. These children did not speak or read English, only Hindi. However, they were able to use computer programs in English to find interesting games on the Internet. And they were able to make the games work.

Mr. Mitra thinks India and other countries can solve the problem of not having enough teachers to teach technology if children can teach themselves how to use computers. He says, "We can use teachers to teach three-hundred-thousand children about computers. But in India, we need to teach three-hundred-million children if we are going fight against the digital divide."

You can get more information about the computer-in-the-wall project at its Internet address, www. niitholeinthewall. com.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Gary Garriott.

Voice of America Special English