The One Laptop Per Child Association, Inc. (OLPC) is an U.S. non-profit organization set up to oversee the creation of a cheap, affordable educational device for use in the developing world. Its current focus is on the development, construction and deployment of the XO-1 laptop to promote children's education in developing nations. OLPC has generated a great deal of interest in the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) and One to one computing fields of research. One Laptop Per Child is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in Delaware, USA.
OLPC is funded by member organizations, including AMD, Brightstar Corporation, eBay, Google, Marvell, News Corporation, SES, Nortel Networks, and Red Hat. Each company has donated two million dollars. While OLPC is 'not for profit', the XO-1 manufacturers including many members are expected to receive 5-10% profit from sales of the unit.
The goal of the foundation is to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves. To that end, OLPC is designing a laptop, educational software, manufacturing base, and distribution system to provide children outside of the first-world with otherwise unavailable technological learning opportunities.
OLPC lists five core principles:
OLPC is based on constructionist learning theories pioneered by Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, and also on the principles expressed in Nicholas Negroponte’s book Being Digital. These three individuals plus the several sponsor organizations are active participants in OLPC.
Many concepts preceding the OLPC project were discussed and explored at a number of conferences. The 2B1 Conference, held in 1997 at the Media Lab brought together educators from developing countries around the world to "break down world barriers of race, age, gender, language, class, economics and geography." The most immediate outcome of that conference was the establishment of the Nation1 project and the Junior Summit, held the following year, although many of the sessions at 2B1 helped inform OLPC.
Both the project and the organization were announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2005 and were created by faculty members of the MIT Media Lab. The OLPC project gained much more attention when Nicholas Negroponte and Kofi Annan unveiled a working prototype of the Children's Machine 1 (CM1) on November 16 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia. Negroponte showed two prototypes of the CM1 laptop at the second phase of the World Summit: a non working physical model and a tethered version using an external board and separate keyboard. The device shown was a rough prototype using a standard development board. Negroponte estimated that the screen alone required three more months of development. The first working prototype was demonstrated at the project's Country Task Force Meeting on May 23 2006. The production version is expected to have a larger display screen in the same size package. The laptops were originally scheduled to be available by early 2007, but production actually began in November, 2007.
At the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced it would back the laptop. UNDP released a statement saying they would work with OLPC to deliver “technology and resources to targeted schools in the least developed countries”.
The project originally aimed for a price of 100 United States dollars. In May 2006, Negroponte told the Red Hat's annual user summit: “It is a floating price. We are a nonprofit organization. We have a target of $100 by 2008, but probably it will be $135, maybe $140. That is a start price, but what we have to do is with every release make it cheaper and cheaper— we are promising that the price will go down.”
The OLPC project had stated that a consumer version of the XO laptop was not planned. However, the project has established the xogiving.org website for outright donations and for a "Give 1 Get 1" offer valid from November 12, 2007 for two weeks, but this was extended through December 31, 2007. The "Give 1 Get 1" offer's required donation of $399 has a tax-deductible portion of $200. The fair market value of the XO laptop is placed at $199 by the OLPC Foundation.
Intel was a member of the association for a brief period in 2007. It resigned its membership on 3 January 2008, citing disagreements with requests from OLPC's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, for Intel to stop dumping their Classmate PCs.
Ivan Krstić (former OLPC Director of Security Architecture) resigned in late February, 2008 because, he said, learning wasn’t what the OLPC was about even for Nicholas Negroponte (see quote below).
On April 22, 2008, Walter Bender, who was the former President of Software and Content for the OLPC project, stepped down from his post and left OLPC to found Sugar Labs Bender reportedly had a disagreement with Nicholas Negroponte, the pioneer of the project itself, about the future of the OLPC and their future partnerships. Nicholas Negroponte also showed some doubt about the exclusive use of open source software for the project and made suggestions supporting a move towards adding Windows XP which Microsoft was in the process of porting over to the XO hardware. Microsoft's Windows XP, however, is not seen by some as a sustainable operating system. Microsoft announced on May 16, 2008 that Windows XP would be offered as an option on XO-1 laptops and possibly be able to dual boot alongside Linux.
The XO-1, previously known as the "$100 Laptop" or "Children's Machine", is an inexpensive laptop computer designed to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world, to provide them with access to knowledge, and opportunities to "explore, experiment and express themselves" (constructionist learning). The laptop is developed by the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization, and manufactured by the Taiwanese computer company, Quanta Computer.
The rugged, low-power computers use flash memory instead of a hard drive, run the GNU/Linux operating system and use the Sugar user interface. Mobile ad-hoc networking based on the 802.11s wireless mesh network protocol allows students to collaborate on Activities and to share Internet access from one connection. The wireless networking has much greater range than typical consumer laptops. The XO-1 has also been designed to be lower cost and much longer lived than typical laptops.
Rumors about an XO-1 laptop running a modified version of Windows XP circulated, and it was revealed in May of 2008 that Windows XP will be available for an additional cost of 10 dollars per laptop.
Lee Felsenstein criticized the centralized, top-down, design and distribution of the OLPC, calling it "imperialistic”.
Pricing in 2007 started at US$188 with a goal of reaching the $100 mark in 2008. Approximately 500 developer boards (Alpha-1) were distributed in mid-2006; 875 working prototypes (Beta 1) were delivered in late 2006; 2400 Beta-2 machines were distributed at the end of February 2007; full-scale production started November 6, 2007. Quanta Computer, the project's contract manufacturer, said in February 2007 that it had confirmed orders for one million units. They indicated they could ship 5 million to 10 million units in 2007 because seven nations had committed to buy the XO-1 for their schoolchildren: Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Thailand, and Uruguay. Quanta plans to offer machines very similar to the XO machine on the open market.
|Year||Confirmed number (approximate)||Date confirmed||Purchaser|
|15,000||November 14 2007||Birmingham, Alabama, United States|
|270,000||December 1 2007||Peru|
|50,000||December 1 2007||Mexico, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim|
|50,000||November 3 2007||Ethiopia by Romano Prodi|
|167,000 (half to be distributed to developing world)||January 5 2008||"Give One, Get One" program|
|2008||65,000||May 29 2008||Colombia|
The following countries are currently participating in the project, or are receiving laptops from the Give One Get One program.
In addition to the participating countries listed above, small-scale pilot projects took place or are currently taking place in the following countries (see Google map of OLPC pilot projects):
Lagos Analysis Corp., also called Lancor, a Lagos, Nigeria-based company, sued OLPC in the end of 2007 for $20 million, claiming that the computer's keyboard design was stolen from a Lancor patented device. The amount of damages is based upon an order by the Nigerian government for one million of the laptops. Lancor decided that, since their keyboards retail for $19.95, the $20 million is the price for one million keyboards. Lancor obtained a temporary injunction against the Nigerian sale in December of 2007, and the country's government announced that it is now reviewing its order. OLPC responded by claiming that they had not sold any multi-lingual keyboards in the design claimed by Lancor, and that Lancor had misrepresented and concealed material facts before the court. These claims by the OLPC, in an attempt to dismiss the Nigerian lawsuit, were rejected by the Federal High Court. OLPC is now appealing the order of the court.
In 2007, XO laptops in Nigeria were reported to contain pornographic material belonging to children partaking in the OLPC Program. In response, OLPC made plans for adding content filters. The OLPC foundation maintained the position that such issues were societal, not laptop related. Similar responses have led some to suggest the OLPC takes an indifferent stance concerning this issue. According to Wayan Vota Senior Director at Inveneo and founder of the OLPC News (unaffiliated with OLPC), "The use of computers to look at porn is [a] social problem, not a hardware one.... Children have to be taught what's good and what's bad, based on the cultural context.
India's Ministry of Human Resource Development rejected the initiative, saying “it would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents” and later stated plans to make laptops at $10 each for schoolchildren. Two designs submitted to the ministry from a final year engineering student of Vellore Institute of Technology and a researcher from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore reportedly describe a laptop that could be produced for "$47 per laptop" for even small volumes. No technical specifications or development timelines for the $10 laptop have been released.
Thailand under prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had committed to the project. After the 2006 coup d'état the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology said that the laptop will be evaluated with pilot projects before proceeding cautiously.
OLPC's dedication to "Free and open source" was questioned with their May 15, 2008 announcement that large scale purchasers would be offered the choice to add an extra cost, special version of the proprietary Windows XP OS developed by Microsoft alongside the regular, free and open Linux/Sugar OS. James Utzschneider, from Microsoft, said that initially only one operating system could be chosen. OLPC, however, said that future OLPC work would enable XO-1 laptops to dual boot either the free and open Linux/Sugar OS or the proprietary Microsoft Windows XP. Mr. Negroponte further said that "OLPC will sell Linux-only and dual-boot, and will not sell Windows-only [XO-1 laptops]". OLPC released the first test firmware enabling XO-1 dual-boot on July 3, 2008.
OLPC's stated ethos that "It's an education project, not a laptop project" was contradicted according to OLPC's former Director of Security Architecture Ivan Krstić who said on May 13, 2008 "I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission. The mission was, in his (Negroponte's) mind, always getting as many laptops as possible out there; to say anything about learning would be presumptuous, and so he doesn’t want OLPC to have a software team, a hardware team, or a deployment team going forward." See Other viewpoints for additional statements from Negroponte and Kane on this topic.
Other discussions question whether OLPC laptops should be designed to promote anonymity or to facilitate government tracking of the laptop. A recent New Scientist article criticized Bitfrost's P_THEFT security option, which allows each laptop to be configured to transmit an individualized, non-repudiable digital signature to a central server at most once each day to remain functioning.
Mr. Negroponte, when asked by an interviewer about this statement, responded saying:
Around the same time, Nicholas Negroponte and Charles Kane made statements explaining OLPC's decision to enable XO-1 laptops to dual-boot either open source Fedora or proprietary Microsoft Windows XP:
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