Yesterday I attended a meeting of minds regarding an ambitious South Carolina plan to provide statewide broadband internet deployment and a statewide laptop computer deployment.
This dramatic video started off the presentation. Most of the statistics are skewed in this YouTube video ... so I was skeptical from the start, because I've seen this presentation before:
The video is called "Shift Happens"
Many executives from telecommunications companies were present at this luncheon. The speaker was South Carolina District 13 Senator; Jim Ritchie.
Here's a bio:
Senator James H. “Jim” Ritchie, Jr. (Republican), Majority Whip, introduced a joint resolution in the South Carolina Senate to create the nation’s first statewide universal wireless network and to establish the South Carolina Wireless Technology & Communications Commission - to develop a public-private partnership aimed at creating the nation’s first “Wi-Fi” covered state.
Senator Ritchie and Senator Gerald Malloy (D- 29) also introduced S.464. in an effort to create the iAm laptop program for all eighth graders in South Carolina
iAM stands for:
I am responsible for the education of students in South Carolina
I am responsible for the future of South Carolina
I am responsible for a laptop if given one by the state of South Carolina
There were geeky giggles from around the room when detailing what iAM meant.
I went solely to see if this were a plan to pitch to my state the "scam written all over it" OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program and to see if this "laptop rollout" included the possibility of using Apple as a source, or at the least; as a choice.
Currently we have no Official Apple Retail Stores in South Carolina. One benefit to such a program from Apple would be that Apple would most likely build and plan to build several Apple Retail Store locations here. This would also be a revenue benefit to my state that NO OTHER MANUFACTURER of computers could offer. The Apple Stores mean jobs, tax revenue, and great support. This is one of the greatest benefits Apple can offer.
The most interesting thing to me that was said during this meeting was Senator Ritchie speaking of his visit to Apple within the last few weeks. He mentioned oddly that Apple called the current generation of children, "the thumb generation" - which I suspect means text messaging. Odd that Apple would say this and not have a phone that one can really text message on with their thumbs. I haven't seen anyone using their thumbs to text message on an iPhone. I can text a lot quicker than with any other device I have had on my iPhone ... but unlike other smartphones I've had ... I do not use my thumbs.
Regarding the "statewide Wi-Fi deployment" ... this is not a plan to cover our state with WiFi. It is a plan to use the state's 700 & 800 Mhz spectrum (currently being used to transmit analog TV for our public television system) as a means to transmit high speed internet. No mention of modem costs or service costs were mentioned at the meeting - eventhough this seemed like a meeting to tell everyone MY state is already going to deploy this with or without willing business partnerships.
While I am all for children having laptops ... more times than not it seems educators want a solution that appears inexpensive to support, but in the long run is not. I don't think the OLPC has any chance of succeeding in the US. The OLPC runs Linux which would require an uncalculatable amount of "re-training" teachers and "re-education" of IT and support staff. Linux is also unsupported in the retail world. If you think finding Apple support in your area is difficult, just try finding someone that could or would work on a Linux system. CompUSA will refuse to work on most Linux based computers.
No amount of technology will educate more children without a return to discipline in our schools. This is the school system's NUMBER 1 problem. Anyone saying it's a lack of funding is trying to selfishly hoodwink the taxpayer.
As far as Dell making offers to supply our state with laptops ... I think it's obvious that there are MANY MANY support issues regarding viruses, spyware, and adware. It's no myth that controlling these "Nasties" on a Windows computer is an annual $75+ dollar tax. I also feel that the MacBook is a much higher quality laptop than a comparable Dell.
* Dell currently holds a statewide contract to supply computers to school districts & government.
I was quite surprised that no Apple representative was in the meeting hall which contained approximately 150 people. It can't be understated that Windows is always well represented in ANY meeting like this - as the majority of technophiles in the room use, support, and are employed in the Windows support and service market.
If any one reading this lives in South Carolina and would like to help me get Apple laptops for this program, please contact me by leaving a message on this BLOG post. You can leave your email and WILL NOT be published!
* GSATC website (Greenville Spartanburg Anderson Technology Council)
* Greenville, Spartanburg, and Anderson are the 3 most populous cities in the region called Upstate South Carolina
* Greenville is South Carolina's most populous city & has the highest per capita income
* Greenville SC has the highest penetration of cellphones per capita for residents over 16 years old
* Greenville SC is 30 miles east of Clemson University
* Here's something interesting that came out the day AFTER this conference