Ethiopian Kids Hack OLPC Tablets In 5 Months With No Help

Give a thousand Ethiopian kids — who have never seen a printed word let alone played around with expensive consumer technology — a tablet, and what happens? They hack it. Obviously.

The amazing One Laptop Per Child scheme has been offering up Motorola Xoom tablets to kids in developing countries for a while. OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte explained how they’re rolled out, and the impact they have, while he was at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference last week:

We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organisation or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.

That is just sensational. To go from never having seen a written word — remember, the towns these kids grow up in have no street signs, no newspapers, no food packaging — to hacking an Android tablet in five months shows how inquisitive and adaptable the human brain is. And it makes me so very, very happy. [Technology Review via Dvice]

Image: OLPC