The Nigerian One Laptop Per Child Model

   
   
   
   
   

I am Anders Mogensen, co-founder of Seismonaut - a Danish idea and innovation consultancy. At Seismonaut we map emerging technologies, new media and user trends in the changing global landscape.

A few weeks ago I was in Nigeria taking a closer look at the OLPNC (One Laptop Per Nigerian Child) initiative. During my five day visit I had the opportunity to meet with the key stakeholders in Abuja, and pay a couple of visits to L.E.A School Galadima.

Over three days, I am sharing some of my findings in short write-ups. One Laptop Per XO'ing Child with OLPNC was the first one, OLPNC Galadima School Headmaster Interview was the second, and this is the third installment:

The Nigerian One Laptop Per Child Model


ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

Yes, Olusegun Obasanjo the former Nigerian president did have influence on the OLPC XO-1 color scheme, so I am told by a reliable source in Abuja. And according to the same source Obasanjo was and still is very committed to the OLPNC project. But what about the 1 million laptops which apparently were ordered by the former Nigerian president?

It's a sensitive topic, and all the people I ask are wisely enough not replying directly to my question. The closest I get is: "There will soon be an announcement". A good Nigerian friend reminds me that Obasanjo's "Yes" in Nigeria means "Yes... I am very positive about your idea" and not necessarily equals yes we have concluded an agreement. A deal is not a deal until money is paid and the goods are delivered.

As Obasanjo stepped down and a new president and government administration took over, priorities changed, and visions, ideas and good intentions suffered. So what do you do? Well you start all over again, work your way to the new president and on your way you try to involve even more people in the vision. This is exactly what the key actors in Nigeria presently are doing, and one interesting aspect of their new strategy is to involve the private sector directly in the renewed effort towards getting 1 million laptops to Nigeria, an approach we could maybe label "the Nigerian model".

Private sector involvement

olpc real video
A future cell phone user

Nigeria is soon to be Africa's largest mobile phone market, this happens when Nigeria overtakes South Africa which it is set to do either this year or by latest in 2008. The mobile carriers are doing well in the Nigerian market. They have approached the market with a C. K. Prahalad (author of: "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid") mindset, and have followed his understanding which can be summed up this way:

"If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value concisios consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up."
I had the chance to talk to some high ranking officials from MTN and Globacom, the two biggest operators, and both confirmed that they are very happy operating in the Nigerian market.

With triple-digit growth rates for five years in a row one understands them, and as anybody who has been in Nigeria must surely have noticed Nigerians make use of their phones more than they watch television, listen to radio, browse the internet or read newspapers. So even though the growth curve has now started to flatten, the industry has plenty of money to spend on Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

Another sector doing well is the financial sector. Banks are merging and the big players are making good money, and seem to be ready to commit money into initiatives like OLPNC. These two sectors are for sure going to be involved in OLPNC, and even though no names have yet been released I'm sure we will soon here information about their involvement. They might be able to help make the dream of (One Laptop Per (25) Nigerian (School) Children) a reality.

Finally there is the Nigerian oil and gas industry which ought to pitch in with support as well – if not for anything else then just as a small pay back token for all the terrible things they have done to the environment in the oil rich Niger delta region.

The key actors

Nigeria OLPC
A key OLPNC actor in action

Turning to the key actors, I must say that I see these people as a team of highly established and visionary persons. Their vision is in light of the Galadima School experience to provide thought-out solutions to the foreseeable eventual process of distributing laptops nationwide.

The key actors are: The Nigerian Communication Commission – this is the independent National Regulatory Authority for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria. The Commission is responsible for creating an enabling environment for competition among operators in the industry as well as ensuring the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunications services throughout the country.

I had a quick talk with Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien the Director, Strategy & Monitoring, a passionate and skilled lady who has great visions for seeing the OLPNC project become reality. Then there is Alteq ICT, a Nigerian company offering both project management, business and IT consulting. They handle IT implementation in a lot of Nigerian projects, both national financed but also EU and World Bank sponsored projects in government and non-governmental settings.

I had a great talk with their COO Tomi Davies, a highly skilled professional with a background in leading positions at both Ernst & Young and Marks & Spencer – and a good friend of Nicholas Negroponte. The OLPNC project coordinator Asabe Yabani who was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing the project also comes from ALTEQ ICT.

Besides ALTEQ and NCC, there are other more loosely connected support organizations which include: UNICEF, Google, Education Data Bank and the British Council and of course the ministry of education who's role was a bit unclear to me. All these organizations have through different initiatives played a role in the Galadima project.

On the political stage there is an advisory board set up which consists of highly profiled government, cultural and business profiles who all play important roles in promoting the idea of having XO's in Nigerian educational system.

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11 Comments

The first thing that comes to mind from this post, is of course the ICT story posted yesterday (though the TLA here refers to a company actually driven by profit as opposed to questionable government/UN mandates)..

The second is the potential involvement of the mobile carriers which could quickly solve one of the outstanding problems of OLPCN, internet connectivity. While the world really wants GSM to be the standard it appears their is plenty of CDMA deployed in Nigeria. Either way the mobile carriers could easily provide 3G links over either platform to the remote schools. Looking over the School server specs the lack of a mobile networking technology inclusion could be a very good thing here as this way which ever network standard wins out in Nigeria the School server can be usb connected into either via dedicated wireless modems. In the case of non-3g networks a very minor code modification to the school server's Linux could allow for the support of multi-link networks. For those too young to remember multi linking, its a throwback to the days of ISDN which allows bridging multiple connections to increase over all bandwidth.

so with such a commercial inclusion in the project suddenly gains a very low cost COTS i.e. easy to implement on all levels, solution that could bring a very quick, very maintainable potential solution to the WAN issues associated with linking school servers back to the greater internet. Additionally the power requirements of such a solution would be significantly lower than a VSAT option as detailed in the Galadima School implementation. The ease of replacement of GSM/CDMA networking gear also will most likley be easier to source replacements of when they do eventually fail as all hardware does. Lastly one would hope and most likely expect the air time of such connectivity to be lower than VSAT as it would be a very very easy way for a mobile carrier to "donate" to such a project, but that is just that, hope.

Ned

I don't know the exact numbers of the Nigerian economy, and I don't know real numbers of any economy for that matter, but I would think it would make very much sence for booming sectors of a country's overall national revenue to see an interest in re-investing a part of their revenue in education. Especially in a country that would have millions of children in urgent need of better education. This would be non other then a semi long term investment in the brain-power of a country to launch and support such an educationnal initiative.

I guess Nigeria as a country, combining all private and national income from exporting such as oil and gas, and the booming internal economy such mobile telephony, all those combined provide more then enough to cover costs of equiping 25 million children with laptops, the overall cost in question is 1-2 billion dollars for Nigeria for One Laptop Per Child, the potential return if that creates 25 million better educated children is much greater then that investment.

The Nigerian economic numbers & OLPC's impact: http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nigeria/olpc_in_nigeria_budget.html

OLPNC woul dbe 73% of the government's entire income.

"OLPNC woul dbe 73% of the government's entire income."

This is only true if the entire payment is made in one year which is not expected to be the case.

"OLPNC woul dbe 73% of the government's entire income."

Wayan, but if you scroll down to the comments section you will see the statistics on education. Even with the OLPNC fully funded would the Nigerian government spend 1.2% of GDP on education, far less than the world average:

Examples (all education combined, 2003):
Germany 4.7%
USA 5.7
Poland 5.8%
Finland 6.5%
All OECD 5.5%

Brazil 4.7%
Chile 3.7%
Israel 7.0%
Russia 3.7%

So Nigeria should in principle be able to get the money together to spend more than 1% of GDP on education.

Winter

Anders, thanks again for all the information, I really enjoyed reading your 3 reports! I especially like your mention of all the relevant stakeholders in Nigeria, even though I would have liked to learn more about exactly they or the entity they work for contribute to OLPNC.

Ned, very interesting comments... I don't know why but up to now I had never thought of 3G access when it comes to OLPC implementation. It would of course make a lot of sense and be definitely more convenient and cheaper than satellite uplinks. Definitely something to think about!

Ned, your thoughts of the mobile carriers involvement donating "traffic" is interesting however costs are still very high for both data and voice, sadly enough much higher that what I am paying here in Denmark. I think that v-sat will be the solution in Nigeria, as this once setup (properly) is "almost" maintenence free. There is however one area of concern, and that is how to provide power for the vsat connection. My knowledge of solar cells is not very high, but it didn't work in Nigeria.

Christoph. Your question regarding how the stakeholders are involved is very relevant. I feel that the project in Nigeria still only draws the attention of individuals and not of whole organisations/businesses/government bodies. I have seen the same happen here in Denmark, (descisions are taken by high ranking individuals and not as a whole organisation/business/government body), but in a voilatile business environment like the Nigerian thinks go up and down very fast, and people come and go much faster than elsewhere.

I heard somebody say that there had been 3-4 government contacts within the The Federal Ministry of Education just in the past couple of years. This shows the kind of challenges facing a wider implementation.

Anders,

One point of consideration, the VSAT already deployed has been questioned more than once. A quick search of OLPCnews can find such articles. Power is defiantly a point where COTS mobile gear might make a lot of sense when we start to look at the approximate 3-4V requirements of most EDGE or 3G GSM gear mobile gear (or 9 to 12 for ruggedized industrial applications) as opposed to the 12V of commercial mobile VSAT gear. Non-mobile VSAT of course is looking for 120V or 220V and since most solar cells put out 12V this potentially means inverters which means additional hardware complexity and cost.

In either case a bank of "deep well" marine 12v batteries might make either solution perform better on site, but at the risk of environmental, weight and size costs.


Much like the ears of the OLPC design changes are inevitable...flexibility in the support infrastructure of the OLPC may save time and money in such cases.

As for the cost of mobile carriers' services since its their infrastructure their "donating", would that not become a point of negotiation and with more than one mobile carrier, dare I suggest competition? All of which would benefit OLPC and the kids trying to use it?

Ned

OLPC is not financially realistic for Nigeria on so many levels. On aggregate, its 73% of the national budget, but even spread over 5 or 10 years, it would still consume more than the current educational budget.

Should Nigeria spend more on education and less on....? Yes, of course, say you and I but we are not the decision makers in Nigeria. For those that are, the reality of political priorities will keep Nigerian educational budgets low, especially budgets for computers, no matter how much other countries might spend on education as a whole.

In addition, do not think of Nigeria as one monolithic country. Like American states, Nigerian regions often have more power in certain areas, like education or budgets, than the national government. So even if the Nigerian President loves little green and white laptops, that doesn't mean purchasing ministers in its states will want to allocate resources to computer buys.

In the end, OLPNC could happen, but on a local, maybe regional scale, and over a long, long time. Not OLPC Nigeria in Negroponte's hurry-up-and-buy timeframe.

I agree with you Wayan. We will not see a national roll out program but a number of smaller scale initiatives, state by state. Despite the lower numbers probably in tens of thousands instead of millions I still believe this project will change many things - also in Nigeria...

i need laptop for my education

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