In what became known as the Hole in the Wall project, Mitra simply knocked through a wall in his Delhi office and installed a computer with an internet connection for the local slum children to discover. To his delight he found that they soon became fully fledged autodidacts, teaching themselves English, maths and other subjects.
"It became obvious that children were capable of working by themselves, without help from teachers," Mitra says. More to the point, the children wanted to learn, not just play computer games.
Sometimes a teacher is there but for Mitra the presence of a teacher can be a problem not a solution. "If children know there is someone standing over them who knows all the answers, they are less inclined to find the answers for themselves. It would be better, in a way, if any adults present were completely uneducated. There is nothing children like more than passing on information they have just discovered to people who may not already have it – an elderly grandmother, for instance."