ITWire has a rant disguised as an opinion piece titled OLPC: one bad idea per child by Sam Varghese.
I should let it be known I have written on the OLPC XO before. All of my articles have showered it with praise. My kid wants one, I wouldn't mind tinkering a bit with it myself. So it should come as no surprise how I feel about Sam's article. Although no real point was made, I will do my best to address his comments.
For instance, we have personal computers and poorer denizens of this earth do not. Development agencies are very good at exploiting this sense of guilt - which is fairly common in the West. These agencies have do-good agendas, well-meaning no doubt, but more focused on their own survival than anything else. One thing common to practically all these agencies is that they actually believe that Western technology can alleviate any and all problems in the Third World.As proven time and again, technology from whatever part of the world can and does alleviate SOME problems in the Third World. Desalination, Purification, Solar Ovens, Solar panels, Cellular Phones, are all great examples.
Similarly, with these agencies, ads of poor children drinking water from a filthy stream are a good way to bring in a stream of donations, which in turn help to keep said agency running. It pays wages for a number of people who can then salve their consciences by convincing themselves that they are doing "good". Helps them to sleep at night, I guess.Any actual good done, I suppose is irrelevant to your rant, I mean narrative.
And so we come to the One Laptop Per Child project. Not exactly built on the same lines as a project aimed at development in a poorer country, but exploiting many of the same feelings. The initial stated goal was to supply laptops that would cost $US100 to children in underdeveloped countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, and Pakistan were those which initially signed up to participate.An actual fact, Bravo.
Associating the project with the idea of "open source" was a wonderful way to get people involved - Red Hat supplies a customised GNU/Linux distribution for the XO - but that idea has now been diluted to some extent by the intrusion of Microsoft which is developing a version of Windows XP to run on the little laptop.These are the stated principles of the OLPC project.
XO is built from free and open-source software. Our commitment to software freedom gives children the opportunity to use their laptops on their own terms.That part of "on their own terms" requires the XO to be able to run whatever software the child prefers and is capable of running. Microsoft is working as hard as it can to get the XO to run a stripped and gutted version of XP on it. The XO will ship with its own software and the purchasing country can choose to install whatever it likes. For OLPC's official stance on free software please refer to http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_on_open_source_software
That's 2 facts, Kudos.
Microsoft knows that catching them young is key to creating a whole new generation of Windows users - people who have no choice but to accept whatever the company dishes out.
As the OLPC's Ivan Krstic wrote,"To claim we should prohibit XO customers from running XP in the interest of freedom is to claim everyone should be free to make a choice - as long as it's a choice we agree with."Yeah, what he said.
I don't know about the robustness - when I asked whether my son could drop the laptop from a height of five feet (it is supposed to be able to withstand such a shock), the man who had the laptop on display said "no" very fast.It wasn't yours? You expected to be able to throw down the display model (possibly the only one) at a conference? I'm shocked they didn't let you hit it with a hammer. For demonstration of its robustness, see David Pogue with his demo unit. Note what happens at 1:25.
The OLPC appears to be on the defensive when approached by the media. I asked Jim Gettys, the vice-president of software, whether he was willing to spend some time talking about it recently while he was in Melbourne. His answer was "maybe." I gave him a time and place but though he showed up, he told me that he had to speak to a number of other people first. I waited for what I considered a reasonable amount of time and then went about my own business.What you considered to be a reasonable amount of time. You mean as a blogger who wasn't giving a talk at the conference involved in a worldwide organization who had appointments with actual press and possibly people who would help the cause. In other words he had a job to do, and if he could fit you in he would.
Gettys's talk at the Linux conference in Melbourne in January is one of the few for which video is not available on the web. I wonder why. There are slides - with the standard heart-rending pictures of poor children from various countries who apparently will be the beneficiaries of this munificence.Actually it is 60 pages with a few pictures of children who did receive the XO laptop and a few pictures showing the environment in which they are used. All but one of the pictures of children show well dress schoolchildren working happily on their laptop. In between those pictures is a wealth of information that you dismiss without a word. You can and should download the presentation , actually read it instead of just looking at the pictures and decide for yourself.
I can hardly wait to read the incredible story you will write based on a talk you actually attended.
(His talk clashed with one delivered by Dirk Hohndel of Intel and I attended the latter).
Not every country which has been approached to join the project has looked favourably on Negroponte's advances. Way back in 2006, India categorically rejected the project. The Times of India quoted the ministry of human resources development as saying it was intrigued that no developed country had been chosen to be part of the project "given the fact that most of the developed world is far from universalising the possession and use of laptops among children of 6-12 age group".Guess you have not seen this then. http://olpc.tv/2008/02/20/khairat-village-kids-show-off-their-xo-laptops/ The Indian government was under the same false impressions you are. Mainly
Technology can only do so much to eradicate deep-rooted cultural and social problems in developing and under-developed countries. You need political action to solve these problems, a laptop will do nothing to help. It may actually do more damage than good by creating wants which people then seek to satisfy by stealing.If the village has ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD, who is going to steal them?
Try looking at this in a different way. We are not talking about whether we should be supplying these people with food, clean water, electricity, etc OR a laptop. We are talking about spending money on supplying books which are expensive, heavy and easily damaged or an XO for a child. Which does more good? Which is more utilitarian? Which is a better investment? Better yet which is the child more likely to learn from?
Not for nothing is this called a ground-breaking project. They'll have to break a lot of ground in a great many countries to bury all the waste that is left behind as the project's legacy.Oh, sorry, I thought you were a reasonable person, I see now I was mistaken. You really think this is all being done for a nefarious profit based motivation don't you? It is easy to believe that OLPC is a selfish organization if you are unfamiliar with empathy and selfless acts of human decency. Shame on you sir.