OLPC: The Best ROI for Indian Children


Yesterday I had an interesting talk with Satish Jha of OLPC India. Overall he had an compelling theme - India has the ability to finance One Laptop Per Child for all 25 million children in India, and it should do this now - for if children are not studying on a screen today, they (and India) will not reach full potential in the future.

Satish Jha of OLPC India

OLPC is affordable to state governments

Education in India is a province of the state governments, not the national one, and Satish has visited many of them to bring the one laptop per child to their attention. Through OLPC, Satish sees this goal as attainable, since he figures they're really looking at $1 per student per week. How? By financing the $220 cost of the XO laptop and the taxes and other costs of $80 over 5 years, which even with India's mortgage interest rate, would be about $1 per week.

State governments are buying OLPC

Just this week, the state of Manipur decided to buy 75,000 XO laptops, but wisely, put down payment for 1,000 and will procure at a pace that can be effectively deployed. In this way, both Satish and the state government can manage implementation. There are three more states, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Himachal, that are also committed to OLPC. Four more are interested and going through the paraphernalia and Satish expects all of them to join once they realize the benefits to their children.

States get OLPC how they want it

Satish did mention that if a state government wanted Microsoft Windows XP on the XO laptop, he would provide it to them. He feels they will be both impressed and satisfied by the Sugar Learning Platform, but if they wanted it, why should OLPC deny them? We have to move past Microsoft vs. Open Source - this is not a religious war, its educating children.

OLPC India is about the children

I enjoyed the conversation with Satish, he's quite the talker, and he kept coming back to a central phrase, famous in the USA: a mind is a terrible thing to waste. It was clear that he's not in OLPC India to make money, or a name for himself - he's done both already. He really has high hopes for the XO to empower learning and advancement of India's children.

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Talking to him one wonders where he gets this passion for olpc from?

He has been volunteering for olpc leaving his executive role without remuneration and maintaining a two country senior executive lifestyle for more than a year.

he took up an almost impossible task of getting the government of india to move from a "no" to yes in favour of olpc.

when the central government was not ready, he focused on the state governments.

he managed to create an entirely volunteer team and financed all their expenses with little support from olpc.

however we wish olpc stepped up to support india the way india knows. microsoft and intel and every foreing company coming to india had an entry budget. olpc had none.

typically most companies took a couple of years to break into the market despite having budgeted at least an average of $5 million marketing budget.

olpc india has achieved a lot more than any comparable entrant to india for zero budget.

regardless of the pace and size of olpc deployment in india, its quite a feat already. one wonders whether olpc understands that. but i bet microsoft and intel do.

Sorry, Wayan, that's about 160 million children in India. Your figure of 25 million is about right for the largest state in India, Uttar Pradesh.

Otherwise, excellent.

With a little imagination, that fancy OLPC tablet has existed for a few years now, and retails for about $200 in the US. It’s called the iPod touch..

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