Any day, at any of the 22 locations of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore you will see hundreds of people tapping away on our computers. Across the nation, 60% of people who visit public libraries come to use computers and access the internet. In Baltimore City alone, 40% of households have no internet access at all. For most of them, the only way for them to go online is to use the more than 500 free public computers at all Pratt Libraries.
President Obama stated that “literacy is the highway to success” and that libraries represent “a window to a larger world.” And earlier this year, Obama advisor David Axelrod said libraries will be part of the proposed stimulus package, “refurbishing the nation’s classrooms and labs and libraries so our kids can compete.”
On this idea, I thought of this wonderful international program called “One Laptop per Child.” This non-profit organization’s mission is to create and provide educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing low-cost, solar-powered laptops. From a small Polynesian island to the Gaza Strip more than 750,000 children are tapping away on these computers. The hope is children will engage in education and open their eyes to the opportunities around them.
A laptop for every child has endless possibilities not only for themselves but to their community and the world. There are no limits what a child can learn and access. It can open their passion and hunger for music, literature, technology, math and science. These are opportunities wouldn’t normally be available since many of them don’t even have electricity at home.
So far the “One Laptop per Child” has been very successful in Rwanda, Iran and at a school in Birmingham, Alabama where the poverty rate is 82%. The goal of the founders of this group is to provide laptops to the more than 1.2 billion children around the world. This will connect their ideas allowing them to share and collaborate on a brighter future.
Imagine the possibilities here at home in Baltimore? The Pratt Library’s mission is to provide equal access to information and services that empower and enrich education and the lives of our patrons. Maybe an audacious but yet attainable idea like “One Laptop per Child” can once again open new doors to knowledge and help us change the world.