back to article African kids learn to read, hack Android on OLPC fondleslab

One Laptop Per Child founder Nicholas Negroponte has said children are not only teaching themselves to read without teachers by using fondleslabs he provided, but they are learning how to hack Android as well. In an experiment, the OLPC dropped off Motorola Xoom tablets with solar chargers in two Ethiopian villages and trained …


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  1. Oninoshiko

    Little hackers

    Don't tell the FBI....

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Clearly, nobody told the kids they were not supposed to be able to hack the machines, so they just went ahead and did it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What would you expect

      when nobody bothered to put some decent DRM and add DMCA as a deterrent like other software vendors do these days. Secure boot anyone ?

  3. Thorne

    Ethiopians the other cheap meat

    Ethiopians, for when Indians become too expensive. Hopefully they speak english better than the Indians when we ring Microsoft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ethiopians the other cheap meat

      Live by the Shotel, die by the Shotel!

  4. Rombizio

    3 Lessons

    1 - Technological tools are wonderful and can be used for noble purposes, like education.

    2 - Some kids are still kids (not miniature of adults), even though their tools are different nowadays.

    3 - We can improve the lives of everyone in this planet with some good will, technology and guidance.

    Of course politicians are not interested in any of this. Anywhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3 Lessons

      The same can be said about the big corpo, they're not interested in any of this.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've seen the lecture on how curiosity can lead to learning and that I can believe. However, this article gives the impression that the kids rooted the device and dropped their own app on the system after downloading a dev system programming it and installing is that really what happened - now that would be amazing!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many years ago a friend who worked in a junior school (what is that - 6 -11 years old??) showed me what some kid(s) had done. Delete all icons on the windows desktop after screen grabbing the desktop and setting the screen grab as the background so no icons were clickable - pure genius or psycopath mother \ father. Yep I know they shouldn't have been able to do that, blah blah but way back and nothing to do with me guv! If I had met the kid that did that then definitely recommend to Microsoft Software engineers as a child prodigy - some technical knowledge + understanding of innate human belief system ;)

  7. Caltharian

    Most likely they didnt lock the systems down properly

    reminds me of when i was at college and the library computers ran windows 3.11 which had 3rd party software installed to keep them secure including locking down the run command, of course it didnt take long to figure out that all that you needed to do was to alt-tab to the security software and press alt-f4 to shut it down!!

  8. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Brings back memories

    Oh the first time I got to use a Mac GUI back in the days when hdds needed to be parked and other fun things. The professor had said to drag the floppy to the trash to unmount it so naturally I assumed you performed the same action for umounting and parking the hard drive. When the screen went black I thought it was terribly convenient Apple had assumed I wanted to shut down at the same time and automatically did it. Needless to say it took the a while to figure out why it wouldn't start for the morning class. Ah the good old days when computers were, oh what's the word they bandy about for GUIs nowadays? Oh yes, intuitive that's it.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Brings back memories

      I had an acquaintance who did essentially the same thing the first time he saw a Mac. It was at a computer store, and a sales rep said "Play with it - it's intuitive and you won't break anything!" A minute later something important was in the trash and the system was woefully confused.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the mean time

    rich (compared to their African counterparts) North-American children are busily facebooking each other.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should try with windows 8

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. M7S

    I'm sure there are more cautionary tales such as this

  13. Nuke

    They can Open Boxes? Whatever Next?

    FTFA :- "I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch ... powered it up," Negroponte told MIT Review.

    Sound patronisingly racist to me, as are many third world do-gooders. Did he assume that black kids were incapable of opening a box?

    I bet those kids will do even better than open boxes and change wallpaper -- stand by for an avalanche of Nigerian^H^H^H^H^H^H Ethiopian scams in 10 years time, or sooner.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: They can Open Boxes? Whatever Next?

      Not necessarily (or even probably) racist. Haven't you ever been bemused by how a simple box can entertain yound kids? Who implied anything about that not being universal across the human race?

      1. Chris Parsons

        Re: They can Open Boxes? Whatever Next?

        Spot on!

        And we must all know of small children who have preferred playing with the box to the content? I certainly do. How rapidly we like to jump on the 'I'm more right-on than you' bandwagon.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They can Open Boxes? Whatever Next?

        Using Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes may not be the best example, but it does remind me of bits of my childhood. A big enough box can be anything.

  14. Charlie 5

    Sugata Mitra's work is awesome

    I was very lucky to attend one of his personal lectures (a truncated version is on TED) and he is an inspiration. A great scientist and a very nice man too.

    His observations about how humans learn will twist your melon. Recommended.

  15. Jamie Kitson

    You mean to say...

    THEY ARE HUMAN?!?!?!!!???

  16. Graham Marsden

    What's the Ethiopian equivalent...

    ... of a 419 Scam...?

  17. Terry Cloth

    Why not Ethiopian?

    ...I wondered. Until I got to Wikipedia's article (, and found there's no such language as ``Ethiopian''. The official language, Amharic, is spoken by about 30% of the citizens. Oromo is the most widely spoken, at around 34% and there are some 75 (90?) others in use. English is the language of secondary education, and the most-used foreign language.

    I guess English was a reasonable choice.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village..."

    Did anyone else get a mental image of a massed chorus of African children belting out "The Look of Love" at that point?

    ... just me then.

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