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Australia Looking at Laptops for Aborigines

tn-nigeria-e-book.jpgThe Sydney Morning Herald has test-driven one of the $100 laptops from The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project that aims to put low-cost laptops into the hands of impoverished children in the developing world.

Australia is thinking of trialling them amongst the poor bloody aboriginals. Maybe they'll offer a free Stubbie-holder and a can of petrol at the same time. (Alcoholism and petrol sniffing is devastating some Australian Aboriginal communities – with some kids starting to inhale petrol fumes as young as 6 years old).

The simple laptop is the brainchild of MIT Media Lab and Nicholas Negroponte, who billed it as being revolutionary for children's education.

Allowing poor children access to modern technologies, MIT says, would give those who don't have access to teachers and schools the ability teach themselves.

Sound likes a good idea eh? Especially if they provide laptops to remote communities. But maybe they need to address the deplorable state of Aboriginal health - a national shame. Without even going into the substance abuse issues maybe the Australian Government needs to do something about the serious Eye Health Problems amongst the aboriginal population. Cheap laptops aren't going to be much use to kids if they can't see the screen and keyboard properly. There's plenty of facts and figures on the Net. Here's just a snippet from one fairly recent survey -

"Eye conditions that affect the Indigenous population include refractive error (requiring glasses for correction), cataract (clouding of the lens), trachoma (a bacterial infection that can lead to blindness if untreated) and diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina, at the back of the eye, caused by diabetes). There has been progress in the eye health of Indigenous people, but many people are still more likely than non-Indigenous people to suffer from preventable conditions [20]. The frequency and severity of trachoma, for example, have decreased generally, but the infection is still quite common among Indigenous children living in some remote parts of the country. The eye health of many Indigenous people is limited also by their difficulty in accessing specialised ophthalmological or optometrist services (because they are not available where they live, or are not culturally appropriate, or they are too expensive).

Three out of ten Indigenous participants in the 2001 National Health Survey reported eye or vision problems. Eye health deteriorated with age, with nearly nine out of ten Indigenous participants aged over 54 years reporting a problem." *

According to the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Survey, about 8% of Indigenous children aged 4-17 years did not have normal vision in both eyes (compared to 14% of children in the general population). But of the 4-17 year-old Aboriginal children without normal vision in both eyes, only half used prescribed glasses or contact lenses. That's shameful.

Diabetes is also a major health problem in Aboriginal communities, with related eye diseases causing blindness in remote indigenous populations.

A University of Adelaide study, conducted over a five-year period between 1999 and 2004, revealed that diabetic retinopathy (diabetic disease of the retina) is endemic in many Aboriginal communities, up to four times higher than the general population.optic.jpg

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