However, none of the counter-revolutionary efforts would ever happen if OLPC doesn't reach the 3 million orders. So let's be clear about that: The maximum priority for all the OLPC fans (including the CORFEGA forces)should be to get governments committed with the project. Now.
Both the changing production target and size orders bring an opportunity that must be seized. Let me explain you how I see the current scenario. I am Luis Ramirez, a member of the committee in charge of the citizen-led campaign One Computer Per Child (Chile).
In my short experience showing around the computer to government officers and politicians in Chile I've learnt that the Children's Machine XO is attractive enough as such. Everybody asks me the same question: Wow, this is amazing! When is going to be ready, and how can we buy it? Until now, the second part of the answer (a 1 million order) was the end of the conversation.
But if that restriction is no longer the case (now governments can buy 250,000 OLPC XO's), then a new wave of government talks should be initiated right now. All the people around the world that really believes in this project should be working hard on the political side of the campaign: lobbying, making press releases, signing petitions, and so forth. This is the most urgent task right now.
The success of the whole OLPC endeavour -at least at this stage- is not about software or hardware. It is about politics. With the 250k unit order a new economics emerges.
250,000 XO's optimistically can be delivered to most of the Latin American region at a price of $200 dollars (depending of many local factors, including trade agreements and their tax policies), which means a total amount of around $50 million dollars for the package.
Small or middle size countries now are going to be more willing to consider OLPC as an option. Let's take just one example: Peru, mentioned by Negroponte as a new potential candidate, has around 4 million students in primary education distributed in the order of 35,000 schools (official Census data).
In the year 2004 (latest statistics I found) Peru spent over 110 million dollars in goods and services for schools, including educational equipment such as computers. In the previous OLPC scenario, 1 million XO meant simply spending more than the whole budget for goods and services in just one item!
Still, $200 per XO is far away from many nations unless you split that expenditure up to four or five years (hopefully more). I believe this may be the case for the Latin American region following a Memorandum of Understanding between OLPC and the Inter-American Development Bank .
To have a wider picture, let's compare some data. The following graph (source) shows the average expenditure per student in several developing nations. For example, Peru spends $317 dollars per student per year in the primary education.
That includes from teachers salaries to chalk. With the new 250K unit order it is actually more realistic to, say (use your best Negropontian accent here): 'How about you increase in $40 dollars per year your expenditure per student over a period of five years and we give you 250k revolutionary green machines.
You can have them spread all over your nation in computer labs, say 20 per schools or, even better, cover whole schools and towns with this fantastic technology'. That's a good starting point, isn't?
Truth, most of these nations may need several years to get the whole educational system covered with OLPC, but surely they can start targeting the poorest schools in rural areas. In the meantime, Negroponte gets his 3 million production order, and so the whole project becomes something -finally- real. If that's the case, then by 2008 millions of kids will be playing around with XO's, hopefully Sugar-powered.