The Longest Now


Introducing Afghan families to Wikipedia

OLPC Afghanistan currently works with school in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, and Kandahar.   This is one of our most politically complex and interesting deployments.  The initial schools involved tend to be on the wealthy side, but are still often in areas with poor power and connectivity.

Jalalabad also houses Afghanistan’s only FabLab – which set up the first “FabFi” mesh network to serve the surrounding community.  After the deployment of OLPC laptops to a local school there, families began to have access to the Internet, and to Wikipedia, for the first time.  Here are three generations of one family, outside on their roof, browsing Wikipedia together:

Afghan family browsing Wikipedia together outside

An Afghan family browses Wikipedia together outside

(As it happens, one of the university students who helped localize the software into Dari and Pashto is also a Wikipedian.)

Over a year after that deployment finished, I am working with FabLab folk to figure out what a similar lab and community wifi setup might look like in Herat, where we also have an OLPC school and may add another.  They’re refreshingly fun and competent people to work with, and full of great stories about young Afghans taking interesting ideas and running with them, turning them into amazing art projects or montages or startups.   Any city trying out cool new technical innovations should have a fablab to amplify the joys of being on the cutting edge.

Today we have 4,000 families connected to eachother and to the Internet in Afghanistan through OLPC; we hope to have thousands more by the end of the year.  And now I’m wondering if we can get fablabs started in the US cities where there are significant OLPC projects.


7 Comments so far
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One question: can girls use the machines?

Comment by Tom Morris 06.12.11 @ 5:47 pm

Of the 6 schools where the students have OLPCs, half have both boys and girls classes. all students and teachers have the machines, so girls have and use them; but don’t study in the same classrooms as boys.

Comment by metasj 06.16.11 @ 2:13 am

[...] their FabFi network, many children with XOs and their families have access to the Internet (and Wikipedia) for the first time. Fast Company wrote up a good story on this, following the New York [...]

Pingback by OLPC and FabFi mesh networks bring Internet to Afghanistan | One Laptop per Child 06.23.11 @ 11:15 pm

Don’t worry or apologize if the schools or families are “wealthy” or not, I am sure it is all relative. Besides, I would think that really, really poor people would not benefit from Wikipedia since their focus would be on getting better food, clothing, shelter, jobs, etc. You have to make a difference where and when you can, IMO.

Comment by Ria from MMO Worlds 07.18.11 @ 9:13 am

@Tom: yes, in the schools where girls study (over half of them) they either have equal #s of machines, or (in the girls-only schools) all machines are given to girls.

Comment by metasj 08.29.11 @ 8:32 pm

if the girls also have access to internet and wikipedia they are on the good path .. maybe at some point girls will teach together with boys

Comment by dan atson 09.09.11 @ 2:18 pm

[...] à Jalalabad, à Kabul, à Herat et à Kandahar. Samuel Klein de l’OLPC, remarquant que les habitants étaient confrontés à Wikipédia pour la première fois, a réalisé cette superbe photo d’une famille Afghane regardant Wikipédia sur des portables [...]

Pingback by L’incroyable internet bricolé d’Afghanistan | Club Linux Atomic 01.20.12 @ 9:12 am



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