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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Introduce Kids In Rural India To Computers? 218

asto21 writes: A friend of mine wants to introduce school kids in rural India to computers and could use some advice. Key questions: What learning material to use and how to source? What programming language to start with? What software to introduce them to? What games to introduce them to? Key constraints: The kids don't know much English and speak a local language called Odiya. There aren't any technical publications/resources in Odiya. Poor internet connectivity. No computer experts on the school staff. Any other advice/help would also be appreciated.
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Introduce Kids In Rural India To Computers?

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  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:23PM (#50526137)

    FreeBSD, vim and python.

    Man pages are full of helpful stuff. You can set up a local ports/pkg jail. Setup a local Usenet and IRC server for Chat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They don't need anything like that, they just need someone to help them get H1-B visas and they can learn on the job.

    • I really like how you ignored the problem's constraints and just recommended your favorite stuff most people in developed nations reject as educational tools.
      • The only constraint I see is waking up in India, tomorrow morning.
        • The constraints in TFS include poor knowledge of English, no technical literature in the language the kids speak fluently, no technical advisers on staff, poor internet connectivity. Under those constraints, I'd suggest that BSD and vim are unlikely to be really useful. (I wouldn't want to start someone on vim as a first editor anyway.) Python is a good choice

          • The national language is engrish, and the locals can't speak it? Sounds to me like a computer, also englesh based, ain't gonna add much more. Why wouldn't it be a good idea to get a english-stan tutor, first? Now that I think of it, one could bribe the tutor, a cultural trait in that part of the planet. Let the student bribe the computer, that, I would watch on youtube.
    • I thought the basics would be:

      Poor young Indian child, this is a computer.
      Computer, this is Srimadaddankithirumalavaraahavenkatathaa.

    • How to introduce an Indian kid to computers? Here's how:

      See this here box? It's going to allow you to steal jobs from whiny yet wealthy Americans. Learn to use it and you've got it made.

    • in my wife's day care, before babies are out of diapers and into complete sentences, they are already cognizant about the basics... swipe, point, scroll, point, point, point... and OMFG it's Amazon or eBay and they are buying a used BMW!

      you are perhaps saying citizens of India are behind babies that can barely walk?

      really, all you have to do is put a tablet on the projector, run one app, and hand the things out. like all of us in 1983/4, we'll learn the rest.

    • FreeBSD, vim and python

      Not remotely basic enough. Teach 'em calc (thank you, Newton and Leibniz) and how to use a goddamn slide rule. Hell, teach 'em how to use an abacus... but make sure they learn analog logic (including hydraulic and pneumatic circuits aka fluid logic) and then move 'em on to analog PLC's. Only when they've mastered all that shit (which they should have by the time they're in middle school, if you've started early enough) do you move 'em onto digital.

      They'll be unstoppable (unlike, sadly, most of you guys). ;)

  • Hmmm ... why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:24PM (#50526151) Homepage

    Is this better than literacy? Sex ed? Things which they can use? Like even English or math?

    Or is this the growing trend of "ZOMG ... teh children must use teh computers"?

    Coding? Games? Maybe your friend is missing the damned point and doing this as a vanity project?

    Everyone is so damned excited to ensure every child on the planet is being taught "teh computers", and nobody seems to be stopping to ask if that's what they need most (or at all).

    • A bigger impact (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @02:20PM (#50526621)

      Is this better than literacy? Sex ed? Things which they can use? Like even English or math?

      Or is this the growing trend of "ZOMG ... teh children must use teh computers"?

      Coding? Games? Maybe your friend is missing the damned point and doing this as a vanity project?

      Everyone is so damned excited to ensure every child on the planet is being taught "teh computers", and nobody seems to be stopping to ask if that's what they need most (or at all).

      Exactly. Take the money you were going to spend on computers, and invest that into helping to pay off the loans that farmers across India have had to take to keep their farms going. You know, the loans causing thousands of farmers to commit suicide every year leaving their families further in debt. Having a computer isn't worth bearing the brunt of your dead father's insurmountable debt for the rest of your life. And for the love of God, stop skipping over the basic, ugly things like running water, access to real medical care, and reliable electricity for the "cool" things like giving a poor, malnourished school kid a barebones PC kit and teaching them how to program Minecraft in a language based on their local dialect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm CTO of a US company who employs 40+ people in India. I'll be taking my 5th trip to India this Fall.

      Teaching rural kids programming is NOT going to improve their lives. They are not going to get jobs in IT. I can hire developers who attended IIT for $3k/month. I need quality, not lower labor rates.

      If you want to improve the lives of rural kids, work toward skills they need for jobs they could get: waiter, store worker, laborer, farmer, driver, hotel worker, etc. They need basic math and language ski

      • If you need quality, why are you hunting for programmers in India? Too many of Indian programmers were formerly students of other disciplines, like Chemical or Mechanical Engineering, Biology and so on. Scour Eastern Europe, and you'll get better results.

        But I agree w/ your other statement - programming is not gonna improve their lives. They could start in something like logistics, which is needed in the agricultural sector, and then they could use that experience to get into other areas that coul

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          Why from India? Because they do have lots of very talented developers, regardless of your preconceived notions tell you.
          • The AC said he can hire IIT grads for $3K/month, which does not look like bottom-feeding to me. India is not a developed country, but it's working on it, and there's a lot of differences between one place and another. India has some very good people. It also has some very cheap people. So far, I haven't seen an overlap.

    • Maybe they already have classes for reading, sex ed, and math. Just because they don't have much in the way of computers yet doesn't mean they have neglected everything else. And maybe computer skills is more marketable in their region (perhaps a relatively short bus ride to a major city) than being able to speak English.

    • You're essentially engaging in a false dichotomy. I think there's a better, more precise term for exactly what you're saying but that's good enough.

      Who said teaching them about computing in any way detracts from those other subjects?

      This comes up in charity all the time. "You shouldn't care about that/those people because this is worse/these people have it worse!" Follow the link. Ten computers were donated, so they're being used. Maybe they should use them to teach the subjects you mention, but the two are

  • Computer gaming. If they take an interest to it, the rest will come naturally.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They'll just end up working for "Microsoft Support" and scamming Grandma again.

  • Windows 10. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They won't have to worry about passwords, they can log in with their smile. Let them grow up on Windows 10. A more human way to do.

    • Actually, this is a good place to start. Since the submitter's question is about one of the more backward states in India, not your Bangalore or Pune or Noida or Chennai.

      A good place to start would be w/ either Windows Phones or touchscreen laptops/tablets, like an Asus Transformer. Show them the basic Windows apps that they're more likely to find useful. Like Mail, Maps, Edge, Weather,... Also, in the keyboard preferences area, add a keyboard and select 'Odia', which is the language in question. I

  • by ZeroPly ( 881915 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:33PM (#50526225)
    Your friend might not grasp this fully, but there are quite a few qualified teachers in India, who actually know how to use computers. A good first step might be to contact them, and see what they think, rather than asking a bunch of people on the Internet who haven't actually been to rural India. It's entirely possible that the teachers think kids should focus on basic subjects rather than learn Excel.

    Barring that, ask your friend to get a copy of a book called "The Ugly American" by Burdick and Lederer. I'm about 95% sure that he hasn't read it.
  • by stongef ( 1149711 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:35PM (#50526239)
    This guy has a few clues on what can help, and he has done what your friend wants to do: []. He might already have some project going on in India on which you can latch on to avoid re-inventing the wheel ...
    • I was just about to post this very link when I saw you already had. Well done.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's clear from the submission that this is a vanity project, and that improving quality of life is a tertiary concern, at best.

  • Solar power embedded programming. Start with programming toys. Then on to useful stuff.

  • What they really need is scientific and strategic thinking on how to take their life ahead, manage the village life, their farms more modern and productive, etc. in a smart way, etc. Simply throwing computers and computer education around without first giving them the fundamentals does not help at all. It just adds to the problem.

    That said there are many ideas:

    Write or install software where they can create friendly quiz for each other on various topics.
    Teach them how to draw graphs and interpret them.
    How t

  • Start with computer games. Things like Solitaire are notoriously good in teaching mouse control. Keyboarding skills are also important, so I would recommend a typing game such as typing racers etc. Once you have those basic skills and you want to progress to programming, keep the fun going by introducing them to Scratch.
    • Also just because there is no Internet, does not mean you can't introduce them to networking. Setting up a LAN and running a HTTP server (for example) is not that difficult. You can set up a Wiki with educational resources, IRS server, etc, etc.You can bring the Internet to them (as limited as it might be).
  • Offer them H1B's.

    • ...and help them overthrow the Hindu caste system that discriminates against them getting computer-based jobs.

  • I'd teach them UI design. I'd start by beating into their heads that when you click on a story title you expect to open the story so you can post on it, not toggle the description's visibility.

    • I'd teach them UI design. I'd start by beating into their heads that when you click on a story title you expect to open the story so you can post on it, not toggle the description's visibility.

      Now that's just crazy talk! ;)

    • I middle click on the story title, works fine for me every time. You can also left click on the number on the right hand side that depicts the number of comments on a story, but that doesn't allow FP!!!

  • First, get an infrastructure of some sort in place so that computers work in rural India.

    Second, get usable computers to rural India.

    Third, step back and let it happen.


    If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

    -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • Given that USAID partnered with DigitalGREEN to teach them to wash hands before feeding children (but after handling cow pies) by showing videos on a lappy with small digital projector, you may want to talk to someone at DigitalGREEN. []
  • Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, don't do it!

    I'm so fucking tired of being connected to India when I call for support... between the language barrier and them just not giving a shit about your problem I'd like to kick their teeth in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:50PM (#50526385)

    Get them some clean running water, clean sanitation, and basic human rights before you go worrying about computers...

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @01:54PM (#50526417) Homepage Journal

    As One Laptop Per child demonstrated, they'll learn on their own if given a chance.

    "Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “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. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”"

    Note these are children who had never seen writing before, working with computers that did not include their local language.

    • That much is true, but imagine the possibilities if they had someone knowledgeable to teach them?
      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        It's a question of cost vs benefits. Would you rather help 50 kids with computers and a teacher, or 500 with just the computer, who will get 75% of the benefits? And that can be a tough question. The cost of a teacher can be considerable, compared to a box of Raspberry Pi kits.


    Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils' performance, says a global study from the OECD.

    The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.

  • teach them how to dig wells and apply condoms.
  • Why teach them to code? If they've mastered copy and paste they are ready to take on coding jobs. Teach them to mine bitcoins instead.

  • A curious person will want to learn; without curiosity, anything is rote memorization and won't go far.

    Don't assume good electricity and don't assume internet connectivity; it may not exist. Don't assume basics like keyboarding skills and mouse movements. In fact, don't assume much. Learn from knowledge gaps observed elsewhere: A friend who tries to bring science to rural communities in Maharashtra starts by teaching kids about the difference between an analog watch & a compass. It may seem silly, bu
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @02:20PM (#50526615) Journal
    Before we teach these kids anything, we need to teach the local politicians to stop renaming everything in sight. This state used to be called Orissa and the language Oriya. Now they call themselves Odisha and Odiya. Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai, Calcutta became Kolkotta, Bangalore became Bengaluru. And these politicians with straight face list this name change as a great achievement in campaign speeches.

    They rename streets too. Streets named after British civil service officers ages ago get renamed after Indian dignitaries. These narrow short streets in the middle of town totally overwhelmed by population growth get renamed. At the same time in the suburbs roads named imaginatively 120 feet road, 80 feet road, 18th main road, 14th cross road, HAL Third Stage etc retain their difficult to remember names. A guy named A Brito used to write letters to the editor in Indian Express, Bangalore edition a lot when I was there. He got really fed up when they renamed yet another tiny street. He proposed to rename the Queen Victoria statue as Mayor Butte Gowda statue.

    • There are reasons for some of this - partly the difference between what the locals call a city/place, and what the people that the Europeans first talked to called it, usually in a different language or dialect. Thus, it's not about "changing the name" so much as "getting other people to call it what we've actually always called it." Now, I'm less familiar with India specifically, but I know this was the case in China for instance (and particularly the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese readings of
  • by XB-70 ( 812342 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @02:26PM (#50526655)
    Here's how: stop writing over-analytical articles like this and just give kids a computer. They will quickly teach each other how to use it.
  • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @03:07PM (#50527033) Homepage

    This [] appears to be the Odia language Wikipedia. But I know you said there's limited Internet. So I suggest you get Kiwix [] with the entire Odia Wikipedia [] (.torrent link to a complete package for Windows), and burn it to CD-ROM. (Odia isn't a popular language, so it all fits easily.) You can also look at other language Wikipedias, both because they are more comprehensive, and because they could help the children learn those languages.

  • Read this: [] A very interesting read - Sugata Mishra left a computer with internet access in a hole in the wall near a slum. Kids flocked to it, and taught themselves how to use it, even surf the internet.
  • The kids don't know much English and speak a local language called Odiya. There aren't any technical publications/resources in Odiya. Poor internet connectivity. No computer experts on the school staff.

    Before you go anywhere near trying to find a technical solution, it is imperative you write a single sentence to say what direct, measurable, benefit will arise from this venture. Preferably a benefit to the children taking part, rather than imparting a nice warm feeling of having "helped" to the educators.

    If that turns out to be a stumper, you really need to stand back and think of a different question - one that you CAN answer, before talking about languages, OS's, games and all that technical gibberish

  • from TFA: "I read somewhere, Technology is tool, and not a learning outcome."
    Yes. A Means to an End.

    Define the End and then consider whether the computer is the best way to achieve it. If the End is a better crop yield, computer programming or Excel or Powerpoint would come later than the need for English language and Wikipedia (internet access). English language learning software will get the process started and doesn't require internet access.

    If the End is a lower birth rate or a lower infant mortality ra

  • On the assembly line, of course. Like China and Apple products.

  • I first read the headline as "How Would You Introduce Kids in Rural Indiana to Computers" and my first thought was, "Don't bother. Introduce them to a toothbrush first".

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @04:03PM (#50527391)

    Computer: Raspberry Pi
    OS: Inferno
    Programming Language: LISP
    Editor: Emacs
    Game: Leather Godesses of Phobos

    For the more artsy kids Tex can replace LISP.

  • I remember that they tried it that already in India with little Logo turtle programming decades ago, didn't it work? []

  • As the ever accurate Wikipedia points out: "English is the lingua franca of India and is the language of their cultural and political elites, offering significant economic and social advantage to fluent speakers" Then tech them how to use a web browser....
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @09:11PM (#50528993)

    Suppose the project was successful, how would the kids make any practical use of their skills or improve them further on their own? Learning English or another common language opens a huge window into outside world and access to knowledge in all subjects, including computers. Personally I grew up in Soviet Union and studying English rather than any less common foreign language in school opened up tremendous options later in life.

  • Food growing, animal husbandry, water management and construction.

    For fuck's sake, they're kids in a third world country, not the Lost Tribe of Silicon Valley.

  • The British Empire learned this long long long ago. Read your Kipling and quit wasting our time.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.