OLPC XO: Design Environment for 10 Million New Web Users

   
   
   
   
   

Right now, the estimated 550 million North American and European Internet users dominate the online world. The 96 million Latin American, 33 million African, and 19 million Middle Eastern Internet users? All together, they are only 13% of the global world wide web adventurers. As Web 2.0 participants, they are most likely even less a percentage, removed by language and culture from the hyper-participatory "developed" world antics.

Now image the African, South American, and Middle Eastern numbers doubling, tripling, quadrupling over the next year as millions of students come online via the Children's Machine XO due to One Laptop Per Child's efforts.

With 5-10 million laptops set to be distributed in the next 12-18 months (the single largest computer monoculture ever shipped), children in the developing world will be consuming and producing educational content on a grand scale.

What will the Internet look like? What should it look like? How will OLPC impact web design, content generation, information consumption, the entire "average user experience" online? Sugar is just the beginning of the revolution.

What happens when Brazilian kids design their own Second Life? Or crowd sourced CNN? Or adults find OLPC-enabled love? Will we all start looking to the stars if there is a online content overload?

I wonder these questions on a daily basis and you read some of it here. But how can one once-a-day blog really capture the full dynamic of the OLPC influence? It takes more that writers, contributors, and commenters. It takes a whole community of concerned collaborators - just what will be at the Washington DC headquarters of The Motley Fool (map) | (metro) Thursday night.

There, I will be speaking about OLPC XO: The Design Environment for 10 Million New Web Users at Refresh DC, a community of new media professionals working together to refresh online trades in Washington, DC. If you are in the Metro DC area, do stop by. The party starts at 6ish, I start yapping at 7pm, and this should be one lively discussion!

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5 Comments

Your point is well taken....it may be the real answer to our clumsy "WAR ON TERROR" whose underlying problem is maleable young and idle minds so readily molded by religious fanatics. Right now those minds have little alternative in their searching for a way ahead and answers. Hopefully you see things this way and can promote such a broadening; I fear our war will not go away by any other means than education of the young.

from article:

"What will the Internet look like? What should it look like? How will OLPC impact web design, content generation, information consumption, the entire "average user experience" online?"

comment:
um.. multilingual

plug:
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/WiXi will be a useful tool kids can use to learn each other's language.. a great computer science student can earn $4500 to develop WiXi for OLPC this summer.. the deadline for proposals is MONDAY 26 MARCH 6PM PST
http://code.google.com/soc

This predicted revolution will be rather loacal and affect the rest of the world not that much. At least not before about 5-10 years. First of all the new users cannot read English and would have to learn it first which takes time. Maybe they will even prefer to learn Chinese over English because of the more promising economy there. Then a much larger increase in web user numbers is already now taking place in India and China without OLPC. But this has still not caused remarkable changes in our web spheres because they publish mostly in their local languages which WE cannot read.

I think the most important change in the western world will be that rather more westerners will learn Chinese than Chinese people will learn English just in order not to be left behind by their economy. It is already happening because many schools in Europe offer Chinese courses which was not the case 10 years ago.
The impact on the web even by OLPC - however successful - will be dwarfed in comparison to the future development in India and China.

One effect that could grow faster caused by OLPC in the next 10 years is that more 3rd world countries might grab an increasing portion of the SW development market. As it requires low investments but intelligent, eager and educated people the only missing ingredient is education which could be boosted by OLPC. India has done it the last 20 years but is now starting to loose its cost attractiveness due to the increasing local standard of living at least of the educated IT specialists. So more jobs in IT and other sectors of the 1st (and 2nd) world are going to be transferred faster to the 3rd world increasing their standard of living (and possibly decreasing ours?).

All this is going to happen sooner or later with or without OLPC. However, OLPC probably will have an accelerating effect.

If you want to relive my OLPC presentation, or missed it altogether, I've uploaded the slides here: http://www.olpcnews.com/olpc_xo_design_impact.pdf

Not that they'll do justice to the great crowd feedback present that night.

There will probably be two more areas where OLPC might have a more direct design impact.

Spread of built in innovations into commerce:
The instant mesh network connection is probably going to spread fast into commercial computers. Also the spectacular display technology will be adopted fast if the patents and licence policies allow it. Probably also some ideas in Sugar and the Journal will find its way into mainstream software.

Also the minimalistic design concept might create a new class of cheap commercial computers which can be put to good office use without the highest, fastest, newest CPU's, GPU's, disks etc. and even save energy - a argument which is already now getting more and more important for servers.

Influence on educational computers in India and China:
I suspect that India and China did turn down OLPC not because they find it a bad idea but because they are too proud to accept it from foreign developers.

They want to develop and build their own national designs. China has even built up their own processor production. So they want to use that instead of AMD. Probably OLPC will act here as a functional role model for their national designs.

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