Why are Child Soldiers & Prostitution in OLPC Videos?!


Joanna Stern at Laptop Mag asks "Has OLPC gone too far" with their latest promotional video, one that starts with child soldiers training to fight and child prostitutes soliciting for sex, before promoting XO's for children:

While Joanna is polite in her opinion, giving the video the option of promoting the XO laptop as a way to end youth violence, gang warfare, and human trafficking I am of a much stronger position:

OLPC: What the hell are you thinking?!!

This video links a child loading a machine gun magazine with bullets, another shooting an AK-47 in target practice for war, and the glimpse of a way-underage girl hooking in a Red Light district, with schoolchildren toting XO laptops on the way to school.

Yes, children are fast learners. So are adults. And now OLPC has given both the right tools to think of OLPC-enabled youth gangs terrorizing the developing world with XO-coordinated, child-centric terrorism.

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G1G1 2008 is now over. No more retail sales of XO laptops through Amazon.com. I am saddened that OLPC has topped sales, and I wonder - what's the impact of so short a G1G1? [more]


On the contrary, I think it makes a powerful statement toward its intended audience, and shows the results of lack of education and communication.

After having been in Iraq, I can tell you that this is exactly what is needed--education, a fun way to spend time, and connection with the outside world beyond the madrassa.

To me what makes it even more powerful is how it can break down caste barriers...you really have no idea what tribe, religion, socio-economic status, etc. the person on the other end holds unless they share it with you.

wow, that's a great advertisement for OLPC. I'm serious. Of course, it's very controversial, but it will get a lot of attention. I think you exaggerate, Wayan.

As I also wrote over at laptopmag: "I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of this video and in my humble opinion OLPC shouldn’t have made it, yet alone published it."

Yes, it very obviously is controversial and will therefore grab attention. And that in turn might result in some additional sales in G1G1 but I doubt it will make much of a difference.

The risk I see here is that many people whose support One Laptop per Child badly needs (e.g. with an international development background) will dismiss this as being a over-simplified and one-dimensional statement, therefore badly reflecting on the whole project.

And I hate to say it but when watching the video the expression "development porn" came to mind... :-/

The commercial makes perfect sense to me. Isn't the vision of OLPC to reach children in these situations and give them a way out?

I have no problem with the Advertisements.

What exactly is your point? Putting together big words with exclamation points is not helping.

This is not an article, it merely looks like a quick rant...

This video is completely unusable on my EeePC at 630Mhz, and still runs poorly at 900Mhz. This machine is able to show normal Youtube videos, and DivX videos without issue. I would hazard a guess that it also won't probably run on the XO's anemic Geode processor.

This promotional video won't even run on the machines they're promoting!

Wayan, how you could see this video as promoting terrorism is beyond me. It is more in-your-face than many people like, sure, but it simply depicts sad and cruel reality. To suggest it would be better to keep those kids uneducated so they can't do America much harm ... that deeply worries me.

@john, if you have troubles with your EeePC at 630MHz or even 900MHz, maybe you can use your XO at 433MHz to watch it:

Thank-you Sebastien, the OGG feed ran well on my Eee at 630Mhz (using ~25% CPU). Too bad this website promotes the XO, and open standards for the XO, but doesn't promote the open OGG standard over Flash for its own material, or by default make the content accessible to users of all levels of hardware (new and old, fast and slow).

I dislike that video, I think it dangerously flirts with stupid stereotypes and it is possibly offending for people in the countries OLPC is targetting. But for sure it does not promote terrorism.


i'm speechless. i understand the point...but is there such a thing as doing something TOO well? or do i really mean to say that there is such a thing as going too far? i dont really know.

education will put a big dent in the ideas mentioned but honestly...i think that inserting a disturbing version of "twinkle twinkle little star" in it gives it a whooole different spin. one that is not nessecarily positive.

its kinda along the lines of...buy this non fur jacket to save the life of a cute little kitten...dont buy one and we'll kill the cat.

i'd honestly love to hear a speech by the maker(s) of this video...explaining the whole thoughts behind it.

in my opinion though i think in general this is a bad commercial. commercials make it so that you want something be it through sadness (give a dollar so that a 3rd world kid can eat) or happiness (hey look at how young and happy we are...buy our product!). fear, and a depressing and a disturbing view on how the world really is...isn't a way to win new customers.

i honestly think that after seeing this commercial...people would wanna walk away from this...they dont want any association with such images.

This is an interesting debate, and something that has similar sides to the video that War Child Canada recently launched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7uW5m_tAGk (also a campaign I've been working on)

Respecting both arguments on this site and the comments for War Child-- I think you have to agree that it's great to see the discussion taking place and hopefully it will lead to more awareness of the circumstances of these children.

It seems to me that this ad is inappropriate largely because the children the XO targets are

*rarely living in countries where their daily lives include labour, prostitution and soldiering.

* already enrolled in school. Under the current XO model of working with government/national education systems, it is *really unlikely* that even where the XO is in a country where there are lots of kids working, trafficked and/or fighting, children living these particular lives are not in school and therefore will not have access to the XO.


@CG: fully agreed.

@Sharon: the difference between OLPC's ad and that of the War Child Canada campaign is that, in the latter case, there is a sense of irony and distance. No such thing in OLPC's ad, which makes it either too "close to the bones" or just irrelevant.

@CG: actually. OLPC is targetting children in every country around the world. So far they are sending the laptops in places where there are schools, but eventually they are hoping for all children to have access to this laptop. Also, the whole point of this laptop is that the kids dont only use the laptops in schools. they take them home and further their learning there.

@John: doesnt matter if the XO cant run this ad. this ad is not meant for them. its meant for us.

I think that it is a very powerful commercial and that it has become important for people to see whats really going on. If people walk away from this, then they didnt get the point. Many of the ads targeted at helping third world countries are highly sugar coated and this new ad really helps make people face what's truly out there.