Sun 27 Jul 2008

Nicholas Negroponte - Update on the One Laptop per Child Project

One Laptop Per Child

I’ve recently become a fan of TED Talks which is a repository of “inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers.” Today, I found a 16.5 minute talk by Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, in which he discussed the progress of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. The talk took place in December of 2007 (but was just posted in June of this year), two years into the life of the project.

Here is the video of his talk:

A few points of his talk which especially interested me:

 

  1. One of his hopes is that the One Laptop Per Child project will become an avenue through which kids can stop just using software but begin to program their own applications. I remember distinctly visiting the Livermore Hall of Science when I was young and taking a class in BASIC programming. I never became a programmer but I think I remember that class so vividly because, even though I am not a full-blown programmer, I still enjoy “programming tasks” (html, css, writing Excel macros, etc.) so much.
  2. He is very happy that he chose the nonprofit route for One Laptop Per Child (against the advice of just about everyone) because:
    • OLPC has access to powerful influencers (since he is not selling anything)
    • OLPC can recruit partners effectively (appealing to people’s desire to do something bigger than themselves)
    • OLPC has the opportunity to team up with large organizations such as the United Nations
    • OLPC sees children as a mission rather than as a market
  3. The laptops have a “built-in” network — the computers talk to each other (up to 2 kilometers apart in the desert, and up to 500 meters apart in the jungle). From the 2+ years I lived in a third-world country (Côte d’Ivoire), I find this very intriguing because community and collaboration is very important in the cultures of West Africa.
  4. OLPC changed their strategy from wanting to launch the program initially in six larger, wealthier third-world countries (Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Thailand) which expressed initial interest but did not follow through to launching in seven smaller, poorer third-world countries (Uruguay, Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Cambodia) which stepped up to the plate and enthusiastically worked with OLPC to implement the program. This interests me because I have a friend who runs an elementary school in Timbuktu, Mali. My friend would very much like to provide computers for his students, and I have wanted to help him obtain those computers. I have made some effort in the past to accomplish this, but without success. I think OLPC (and perhaps their Give A Laptop program) may turn out to be a good avenue.
  5. Sometime in 2008, Negroponte hopes to reach a ship rate of 1 million laptops per month (which would represent five percent of worldwide laptop production).

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