Your tax dollars at work:

Nigerian schoolchildren who received laptops from a U.S. aid organization have used them to explore pornographic sites on the Internet, the official News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported Thursday.

Surprise, surprise. A similar free-laptop program in Marin County, written up last month, suggested that such technology would result in “more hands-on learning“. It also noted that the federal government didn’t think too much of their use in schools:

But a study in March by the U.S. Department of Education found no demonstrable link between educational software and higher test scores, putting laptop advocates on the defensive. A stream of news articles focused on school districts in New York and Florida that dumped laptop programs, citing high costs, misuse by students and the unfavorable results raised in the federal study.

So if the feds aren’t so sure about the educational advantages of free laptops, why are we sending them to Nigeria? Is it just a goodwill gesture? I’m not necessarily opposed to extravagant goodwill gestures in diplomacy–the Statue of Liberty is nice, after all–but if the object here is to develop basic education within an allied nation, this might not be the best way to reach the objective.

And while I’m all for teaching computer literacy, my inbox suggests that a large portion of the Nigerian population already understands the basics of e-mail, as well as complex international financial transactions. It’s like…providing Palestinian children with chemistry sets.