One Laptop Per Child in Nagorno-Karabakh

STEPANAKERT—The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will provide one laptop per child as part of a new private-public effort to promote education in information technology.

As part of a deal signed Thursday between Karabakh Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan and Argentinian Armenian businessman Eduardo Eurnekian, every elementary school student in Karabakh will receive one laptop computer loaded with educational software.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston (MIT), will furnish Karabakh’s elementary schools with laptop computers and connect them to the Internet through wireless networks to be installed in their facilities.

Karabakh’s government welcomed the initiative, spearheaded by Eurnekian, and pledged to make telecommunications interconnection available in all schools to enhance the educational impact of the OLPC program.

To realize the project, Eurnekian asked the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) to assist in the implementation by undertaking the responsibility of providing the necessary on-the-ground support to ensure its success.

“The world community sees Nagorno Karabagh within the context of war and regional conflict. People fail to take note of the children who are born and live there,” said Eurnekian, whos company manages Armenia’s national postal service, Haypost, and the Zvartnots airport in Yerevan. “These children are entitled to the universal right of education and access to information.”

“Through OLPC, I intend to bridge the gap and give the children of Karabakh the opportunity to receive the best education the world has to offer” Eurnekian said.

“The education of [Karabakh’s] school age children is a priority for the Government and a significant part of the State’s resources is directed towards building and renovating schools,” Prime Minister Harutyunyan said.

“The people of NKR thank Mr. Eurnekian for introducing and financing a powerful educational tool to the school system” he added. “This is a capital investment in our future and its positive impact will be enjoyed in the decades to come” Mr. Harutyunyan continued.

Before signing the agreement, Eurnekian emphasized that it “is the obligation of the world community to make sure that all children in the world have access to education and information.”

He emphasized that “Armenians around the world, individually or through organizations, must contribute to the cause of educating the future generations of the nation,” he added. “Today, I intend to plant the seeds of an international effort to integrate the children of Karabakh in the world community. They deserve receiving proper education and access to the world of information.”

At the conclusion of his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Eurnekian agreed to support several other development programs in Karabakh, including the provision of financing to small farms, making modern agricultural equipment available to farming enterprises, helping develop bioenergy resources and enhancing the meat and dairy production in the territory.

“I am certain, that today, we laid the foundation for a long term cooperation between Mr. Eurnekian and the Government of Karabakh, which will evolve over time to incorporate our compatriots in the Diaspora and Armenia in the effort to provide a dignified life to the citizens of NKR, young and old,” Harutyunyan said.

Eurnekian, for his part, said he believed the “children of Karabakh deserve what I am trying to extend to them.”

He also thanked the AGBU for accepting the invitation to join the project. “I hope that together, we will be able to achieve success in NKR and expand the project to Armenia with the support of the organization’s global network,” Eurnekian added.

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14 Comments

  1. Arto T. said:

    I am incredibly happy about this news. The only opportunity for advancement for Armenia and NK is to be connected to the world via internet. I just hope that some changes are coming soon to providing faster and much much cheaper connections. Bravo Eurnekian.

  2. Pahakazor Hayrenyats said:

    Honestly, I don’t think OLPC is a good idea at all. I have had experience with the OLPC and I have done extensive research as to whether they are a good match for Armenia. The OLPC laptop (that costs anywhere between $200 to $400) is a very limited system. The software is very basic and limited. It uses a proprietary operating system that can’t be used on any other computer in the world. On top of this, this “laptop” is very unreliable. It is way too expensive for even $200 and way too “third-world” for Armenia. Mr. Eurnekian could have spent the same money and provide children with regular netbooks (that if bought wholesale is around $160). There is a U.S. non-profit organization behind the OLPC that is pushing it around the world obviously to make money. You won’t be able to get the OLPC anywhere else but through the OLPC non-profit organization. This is a classic case of how a foreign non-profit makes a buck on Armenia — just like those countless “trainings” that a sleuth of foreign non-profits have been conducting in Armenia with zero result. I wish the AGBU did it’s research before jumping on the bandwagon. Charity is not about getting an article in the newspaper and getting a picture with the President, but about providing the less fortunate with something that they really need and can use. A oversimplified, expensive and unreliable dummy of a laptop is something that our schoolchildren definitely don’t need in Armenia.

    • ghazaros said:

      Bahakazor enger! To knock other’s work and opinion down, unfortunately, is somewhat engraved in our psyc. If you are expert in OS’s and global education systems, please enlighten us. Make your proposal. OLPC is far bigger than thiny Karabagh, and has spread globally. India recently developed a $100 laptop. The cheapest ever. We are investgating all angles and possibilities. If you have the background and expertese, please join us. We will plan a joint session with AGBU and the Computer center of YSU, to explore new concepts, like mini-cloud computing, using Eurekian’s and Indian solution. Hopefully in May or June. If such things fall within the sphere of your expertese, pleae let us know.

      • Pahakazor Hayrenyats said:

        Dear ghazaros,

        You don’t need to be a genius to do simple analysis: OLPC (a limited proprietory platform pushed by a foreign non-profit) for $200 vs. let’s say a regular netbook for $160 or even the same $200 that is a full scale mini laptop that works with the majority of software and hardware commonly used in the world. I vote for the netbook. My problem is not so much with the price of the OLPC but with its extremely limited capabilities. Assistance by a foreign NGO should not be junk.

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  4. Tamar Chahinian said:

    Bravo Mr Eurnekian for his wonderful vision. Once this project is complete, every Armenian school in the diaspora should establish a bridge and get in touch with those children, show them their support in every aspect, come up with ideas to extend a hand to their brothers and sisters, make them feel that they belong to the same family. Those children have suffered enough, and they still are. I believe that Mr Eurnekian’s initiative will be a great educational tool to the children on both sides of the world.

  5. Cristina said:

    Mr. Eurnekian,
    You should be informed that the majority of these students will sooner or later sell the laptops that you so noble heartedly offered them. A too small part will actually keep it and use it, unfortunately…

    • ghazaros said:

      Christina, besides composing a sentence or two in English, would you please inform us what other qualifications you possess. If you do not have anything constructive to contribute, may be better to stay out and watch. Let us do our own thing. Please……..!!

  6. Hye-phenated said:

    I wonder how Cristina knows for sure to badmouth Arstakh children? From Azeri Propaganda Agency perhaps? These laptops are hard to sell actually – they are designed for kids and who would want them besides kids? And since EVERY child in Artsakh will have them, where would they find customers? So, according to Cristina, Artsakh kids would go on eBay and market them to kids in America (who can afford a $200 used laptop;) and charge their folks’ credit cards?

    Rubbish, Cristina – think before you post next time!

    And to Pahakazor Hayrenyats – you probably don’t have kids in elementary school – my kids and their friends have these OLPCs and they each have a regular laptop (PCs and Macs) – guess what? They PREFER OLPCs and play with them all the time!!

  7. ShirleyC said:

    Interesting discussion below. I agree with Hye-phenated. It sounds like a learning device, more than a laptop, really. Something my children had as a toy when they were young. They absolutely loved it and all fought over time to use it. It had spelling, math and other games. It gets children used to working on a keyboard and using icons, etc. I think it’s a great idea.

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  9. Karina D said:

    I’m super glad this is finally happening not because OLPC is the best possible option for a laptop, but because it sounds like it’s going to be a massive campaign to engage everyone. Not just a pilot in one school, but a large scale project. One thing for sure is that it’s a learning tool for kids (I have one at home) not just a laptop and like someone noted above it should be pretty immune to black market. I pitched this idea to a certain big Armenian non-profit a few years ago and the ridiculous answer I received about how Karabagh kids don’t need OLPC because we’re just too advanced for it got me awfully disappointed in the author of that statement. From what I know there’s a new model either coming out or already available that’s more like a tablet in design, but support is definitely a serious logistical operation as translating programs and keyboard, as well as subsequent training for people to teach kids after is quitea process requiring a vast collaboration effort. With that said, however, I know there’s a ton of young Armenians students who travel to Armenia every year to volunteer – they alone is a huge workforce to get this done and I’m sure they will make this project work. The main thing is that kids will own these tools, they’ll take them home, they’ll explore on their own time, they’ll get to the nitty-gritty details of how things work and will really learn a ton as opposed to computer classes where kids go to a classroom and share 5 computers for a class of 25 where the best they can do is to repeat some task after teacher or engage in a very limited exploration until the next kid needs to use it. I think the other big issue just a couple of years ago was internet connection – there were some restrictions for licenses or prohoibitice costs to enter into competition in Armenia that weren’t allowing some providers enter the market, but I think it’s getting resolved, though this is not something I ever understood fully, but I know at least one person who does and I’m guessing the efforts his company has done are coming to fruition. VERY EXCITED about this!

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