The One Laptop School: Equipping Rural Elementary Schools in South India through Public Private Partnerships


  • Erik Jon Byker University of North Carolina at Charlotte


elementary schooling, educational technology, Public Private Partnerships, rural India, sociotechnical narratives


This article’s purpose is to report on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) program in South India that provides information and communication technology (ICT) to rural elementary schools. The article examines the current status of rural, government-run elementary schools in India by reviewing reports like the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) in India. Challenges like teacher absences, student drop-outs, lack of electricity, lack of separate toilets for genders, and a lack of teaching resources will be discussed. To meet these challenges, the article will describe the rise in popularity of India’s PPPs. Then the article moves to a case study investigation of a PPP, called the SSA Foundation, which implements a “one laptop per school” program in rural areas in the Indian States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Using ethnographic data from field research, the case study includes a description of how the students in a rural Karnataka elementary school use their school’s laptop. The school is situated in a small village where most travel is non-motorized.  Walking, usually without shoes, is the main form of transportation.  A bicycle is considered a luxury.  Most villagers work in the surrounding ragi and millet fields; laboring, often with only simple tool blades. Wood fires are the main source of fuel for cooking.  In this village, the school’s laptop has become a prized possession. The case study offers a “thick description” (Geertz, 1973) of how the village school’s students use the laptop for learning basic computing skills and for learning English.


Keywords: elementary schooling; educational technology, Public Private Partnerships, rural India, sociotechnical narratives


Author Biography

Erik Jon Byker, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Erik Byker is an assistant professor in the Department of Reading and Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  He has taught courses in elementary and middle level social studies methods, culturally responsive teaching, instructional design, and global education. Erik has a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy from Michigan State University. Erik's research is international and comparative in scope as he has conducted ethnographic field studies in England, Cuba, India, South Korea, and across the United States on how elementary school students use and construct meaning for computer technology. Over the 2010-2011 academic year, he lived in Bangalore, India, and collected dissertation data on how an economic cross-section of Bangalore's elementary schools were using computer technology in their schools.