On the 12th November, the One Laptop Per Child initiative will begin a limited “give one get one” programme. For $399, people in the USA can buy an XO1 laptop for themselves, and at the same time have one donated for use in a developing country.
This seems to be because OLPC isn’t going to sell nearly as many units as expected to governments of developing countries. There was lots of nodding and smiling when Nicholas Negroponte talked to the world’s education ministers and heads of state, but not much signing on the dotted line.
A good while back the Indian Ministry Of Human Resource Development rejected the XO1 as “pedagogically suspect.” China also rejected it. For both countries, reasons are more likely to be political than pedagogical – but whatever the reasons, they are big markets to lose.
The Libyan government’s promised order is not materialising.
“I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the nonprofit project. “And, yes, it has been a disappointment.”
The competition aren’t hanging around.
Intel’s Classmate is making headway, and the pricepoint is not far from that of OLPC. Intel doesn’t want to see the global educational computing market dominated by the OLPC’s AMD chips. There are allegations of Nigeria switching allegiance to Intel after some shady dealings.
Microsoft have similar concerns to Intel. They’re working on a version of windows that will install on the XO hardware.
Not that there is much XO hardware yet. Manufacturing has got off to a slow start. There are not going to be enough machines to satisfy Paraguay’s order by Christmas. (Paraguay loves OLPC – and they are putting their money where mouth is).
OLPC supporters called for a change of sales tactics and a new initiative to “get them out in the market.” The belief is that the XO1 laptops will prove themselves once people can see them in action. Hence the “Give 1 Get 1” idea.
I still love this project
I’m a big fan of this project – even though everyone tells me I’m an idealistic fool.
I personally want and XO1. I’m pondering whether to ask my friend in the states to get me one. Why?
- They are wonderful objects, well designed by committed, talented people
- They represent a vision for kid-powered education that transcends politics, propaganda, race, class, poverty and geography. There’s power in networks that delivers unexpected, astonishing results. Look at Google, Facebook or the blogsphere. I want to see that happen again. (I think I may be a constructivist).
- In spite of all the controversy no one is saying that the user experience of the machine itself is anything other than wonderful.
A report from research in India…
“Even when English and Marathi are so different, even when the keyboard is in English, even when the interface is in English, even when we don’t speak each other’s language, and even when they are so new to computers, the XO is so user-friendly that I can manage to get across to them, to show them how to do something with it. And in little time, and having lots of fun, the children of a completely different language are doing this or that on their XOs.”
A headmistress in Nigeria…
“You know education is not static. Education changes, and as it changes the world it self changes. The way I passed through education is not to compare with nowadays education. Also children themselves today are more curious than before.”
Well, the debate rages on. And I mean rages!
It looks like a very rocky road ahead for the XO1. All the designers I know in Africa say the XO1 doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Life out here is just too tough, they say.
A sobering example: XO1s can run on Solar power. But the networks that support them can’t. They need generators.
“From the Nigeria Chapter of the Club of Rome, we learn that the generator has to be stored in the principal’s office to prevent theft, requires costly gasoline, and servicing that can take days. Worst of all, the generator broke down, burning out the UPS for the Internet, and its still insufficient for all the power needs of the school.”
Ah well. A man can dream, can’t he?