Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bender strikes back: reassurance about the OLPC

Some recent comments from Walter Bender (source: BBC news) are reassuring with regard to some of the worries generated by the negative WSJ article The first block quote is reassuring because he frankly identifies the main problem. The other two indicate that the project is making sensible adaptations to challenges and that real progress is being made:

... he said the main problem for OLPC was dealing with conservative politicians.

"Change equals risk especially for politicians. And we are certainly advocating change because the [education] system is failing these children," he said.

"It has not been that processor versus that processor or that operating system versus that operating system - it's been small thinking versus big thinking. That's really the issue," he said.

Originally, the laptops were to be sold to governments in lots of one million for $100 apiece.

Over time, however, the project has dropped the minimum number of machines that can be ordered, leading some to speculate that governments were not buying into the scheme.

The project also recently launched an initiative to allow citizens of North America to buy two machines at a time; one for themselves and one for a child in a developing country.

But Mr Bender said the shift was because of a better understanding of how to distribute smaller numbers cheaply and effectively, rather than a lack of orders.

"Part of it was our understanding of how the supply chain was going to work and having enough flexibility in the supply chain to make it work with a small number," he said.

"The big numbers were really about how you get this thing started not how you make it work in the long term.

"That was always going to be about supporting any good idea that comes along. And we've been able to get it started without the big top down numbers so we are off and running."

recently, OLPC revealed it had just taken its first order for 100,000 of the machines, placed by the government of Uruguay.

"Uruguay is first then it will be Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia then we are going to be doing stuff in Haiti, Rwanda and Mongolia," said Mr Bender.

In addition, he said, OLPC had done a deal with Birmingham, Alabama, in the US, to provide the laptop for schools in the city.

"The numbers of countries where we have trials set up is also increasing," he said.

Tests were also going on in the Solomon Islands, Nepal and India, a country that had previously shunned the scheme

1 comment:

Bill Kerr said...

More optimism and some nice pics from Ivan Kristic, now it's real :

"It's been a bit stunning to see the deployments and hand out the
first machine. I'm not an optimist, and while the OLPC team put all
their blood, sweat and code into this project over the last couple of years because of the unshaken belief that it's the right thing to do, it was only while standing in Escuela No. 109 [a school] that I had my "holy shit" moment. A week in summary, if you will: "now it's real.""

thanks joel