Can One Laptop per Child Reduce the Digital Divide and Educational Gap? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Migrant Schools in Beijing

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World Development

Forthcoming 2013

world development

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is one of the high profile initiatives to try to narrow the inequality of access to ICT (digital divide). However, despite the fact that OLPC currently has distributed more than two million laptops in more than 40 countries, there is little empirical evidence that is available to help us understand the impacts of the program. The goal of our study is to assess the effectiveness of OLPC in narrowing the digital divide between poor and rich children in China and in increasing the human capital of disadvantaged children. In order to do so, we conducted a randomized experiment involving 300 third-grade students in 13 migrant schools in Beijing. Our results show that, the OLPC program improved student computer skill scales by 0.33 standard deviations and standardized math scores by 0.17 standard deviations after 6 months of intervention. Less-skilled students improved more in computer skills after the program. Moreover, the OLPC program also significantly increased student learning activity using computer software and decreased the time students spent watching TV. Students’ self-esteem also improved with the program.

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