dual-mode (monochrome for outside,
color for indoors) display, movable rubber WiFi antennas with wireless mesh
networking, and a sealed rubber-mem-brane keyboard that can be customized
for different languages. For low power
consumption and ruggedness, the XO
design intentionally omits all motor-driven moving parts. It was developed
jointly by the MIT Media Lab, OLPC,
and Quanta, a Taiwan-based original
design manufacturer, and is manufactured by Quanta in Songjiang, China.
The software for the XO consists of
a pared-down version of the Fedora Linux operating system and specially designed graphical user interface called
Sugar. It was developed by the project to
explore naturalistic concepts related to
learning, openness, and collaboration.a
High-level officials, including even
prime ministers and education ministers, in some developing countries are
enthusiastic about OLPC, committed
to purchases and/or trial-distribution
projects. OLPC pilots in a half-dozen
countries report positive changes (such
as increased enrollment in schools,
decreased absenteeism, increased
discipline, and more participation in
classrooms), but it is not clear if these
changes are directly related to OLPC,
as many evaluations are neither independent nor systematic. Independent
evaluations in Ethiopia and Uruguay
cite a positive effect on the availability
of learning material via the laptop but
also problems with buggy input devices, connectivity, software functionality,
and teacher training.
8, 12, 13
As of June 2009 the largest ongoing
pilot project is in Peru, which planned
to distribute 140,000 XOs in 2008, even
into rural areas high in the Andes where
electricity is often limited and Internet
connections are not available. There is
enthusiasm among students and teach-
a Chief among them are collaboration and expression (such as Web browsing, email, online chat, word processing, drawing, music
sequencing, and programming); groups and
neighborhoods to signify other users in physical and logical proximity; a view-source-code
key to encourage users to tinker with the code;
replacing files and folders with “journals” that
store activities performed by users; and tagging, clipping, sharing, and searching as sys-temwide features.
expecting a laptop
to cause such
a degree of
naiveté, even for
with the best
ers in the villages and support from the
national education ministry and regional governors who have requested
500,000 more laptops.
9 However, reports from the classroom suggest that
teacher training is limited, and willingness to adopt a new approach to teaching is questionable. Children are excited but somewhat confused about the
use of the machines, and educational
software is lacking or difficult to use.
Also, if a machine fails, it is up to the
family to replace it or the child must do
Despite its considerable innovation, or
perhaps because of it, the OLPC project has been unable to achieve its $100
targeted cost. The current cost of each
unit is listed on the OLPC Website as
$199 ( www.laptop.org/en/participate/
ways-to-give.shtml). However, this does
not include upfront deployment costs,
which are said to add an additional
5%–10% to the cost of each machine
and subsequent IT-management costs.
Nor does it include the cost of teacher
training, additional software, and ongoing maintenance and support. OLPC
initially required governments to purchase a million units, then reduced
the number to 250,000 in April 2007.
Such large purchases are difficult to
justify for governments in developing
countries, and the requirement was ultimately eliminated.
Some countries eventually lost interest due to the higher costs of the XO.
For example, Nigeria failed to honor a
pledge by its former president to purchase a million units, partly because
they no longer cost $100 apiece.
Meanwhile, other countries, including
Libya, have opted for the Intel Classmate, which is priced at approximately
$250 for the PC alone. Officials in Libya,
which had planned to buy up to 1. 2 million XO laptops, became concerned that
the machines lacked Windows, and that
service, teacher training, and future upgrades would not be provided directly
by OLPC. Subsidies from Intel, including donated laptops and teacher training, also helped persuade the Libyan
government to choose the Classmate.
Production, sales, Distribution
OLPC originally estimated that it would