OLPC Niue Just Needs Helicopters!

   
   
   
   
   

I was sad but not surprised to read that OLPC Niue has ended, and with it the world's first full country saturation deployment. Of course, Niue wasn't really a "full country saturation", not with just 500 students. It was a great marketing ploy seeded by 500 free laptops from OLPC.

Nieu girls with XO laptops
We need helicopters!

Reading through the lessons learned by Michael Hutak, OLPC Association's Regional Director for Oceania, I am struck by how many are common sense to those of us who have done ICT deployments in any field (education, healthcare, etc) in any region (Africa, South America, Southeast Asia). In fact, all I could think of while reading his posts was, I told you so.

For 6 years, I pointed out the need for an implementation plan that started with realistic costs and well-thought out support. The need to tie in the technology to existing local educational processes and expectations. The reality that monitoring and evaluation should be integral to every aspect of the program. And the acceptance that presidents loving laptops doesn't mean teachers and students will use them.

But what the hell do I know? Nicholas Negroponte already figured out how to fix Niue's OLPC implementation failures: just use helicopters.

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12 Comments

OLPC has always had project planning tools on the wiki. Since 2009 OLPC Association has used a user friendly model with project sponsors to develop an "implementation plan that started with realistic costs and well-thought out support". Such a model is offered to new sponsors at the first meeting or shortly thereafter.

Bob, are you refering to the Deployment Guide (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Deployment_Guide) or something else?

Christoph

I was referring to a financial model that was developed by OLPCA that is assumption-based and highlights operating costs for a deployment. Connectivity costs, laptop repairs and staffing are particularly detailed.

The latest Deployment Guide is at http://wiki.laptop.org/images/1/1c/OLPC_Deployment_Guide_2011.pdf.

Bob, that sounds interesting, would you be willing to share more information about that model so other projects can also benefit from it?

Wayan,

I am not sure what you know. It is regularly hidden by your abrasive language. Why don't you tell us something about a deployment you are working on?

It is tough to take you seriously when you shout out what is obvious, say noone else sees it, and then say it was your idea. I used to think you were being subtly ironic; apparently not.

The 8+ points Michael posted last week were those underemphasized in the Pacific, drawn from the full set of advice we give to any deployment. He has since posted a fair summary of the situation there.

If you have meaningful criticism of that deployment guide, please share. It involves more than just your "support, local processes, and assessment".


PS - It would be nice to see open collaboration on this type of general implementation advice and knowledge. For instance with relevant bits from Inveneo's ICIP training or sustainability primer. Neither of the latter seems to be under a free-content license, however.

SJ, as for your comment on open collaboration: The PDF of the 2011 Deployment Guide which Bob mentions above has a "(c) 2011 One Laptop Per Child Association, Inc." note on ever page.

Also, the blog entry on http://blog.laptop.org/2011/11/27/olpc-niue-still-active/ doesn't seem to be available anymore.

The deployment guide is copyright OLPCA, it is also released under a CC-BY license like everything else we publish on our wiki (and most everything we publish). I should update the PDF with a CC-BY tag to be clear. (That just involves a frustratingly proprietary toolchain, and is a living document, so the wiki version seems to me more important.)

The post is back -- we were doublechecking with our Niue partners that all were on the same page.

SJ, thanks a lot for the clarification regarding the copyright policy around the Deployment Guide.

And great to see that the Niue post is up again though I do somewhat miss that "dancing on graves" comment... ;-P

SJ,

I am sorry if I come off as abrasive. I am just frustrated that all of our effort (yours, mine, the entire ICT4D community) gets regularly upended by Negropontifications and no one at OLPC seems to be able to get out a better message or educate the messenger.

Wayan,

I appreciate you explaining your frustration. I do see some of the turmoil that you describe, primarily as the result of infighting and exaggerated soundbytes -- which some of your essays contribute to -- not their cause.

We should not hide from provocative ideas. They are things to consider, revise, reject, but not to scorn. Anathematizing an idea is a refuge of mysticism and religion, not science and evaluation.

We will all progress faster towards our own goals if we work with respect, as collaborators in the great challenge of improving society rather than as competitors in an ideology contest.

When you are frustrated by something, please do not lash out (which I rarely know how to respond to). Frame what concerns you in a positive way - as a question to be answered, rather than an accusation to be refuted. You may be surprised at how often those questions have good answers.

One of the objectives of public education in India is to make education available to every child. Public school kids come from a deprived socio-economic milieu where most of them don't even progress to the next rung of education. However, it is hoped that good provisions like mid-day meal or computer at the earliest age can make learning faster.
Aakash, OLPC as means of education
While PCs have been included in the school curriculum, they are not being used as means of education. Innovations like OLPC and Aakash have made this possible. Aakash tablet, launched by HRD ministry, is aimed at realizing an average college goer's dream of owning a tablet. But is it worth it? The OS used in Aakash is actually a mobile phone version of Andriod OS (2.x.x) not the tablet version (3.x.x). The device does not have access to Android apps market. The battery backup is less than three hours. Also the resistive touchscreen is unresponsive. Though Aakash doesn't have much to offer except for the price, if it works, it may help students get engaged in their own education. The hysteria around Aakash, takes us back to a similar but an older initiative called OLPC, which aimed at providing every school child with a specially designed XO laptop.

OLPC, features and challenges
OLPC has a different story, just like it is different from our everyday laptop --right from its design to the user interface. Known as the brainchild of MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC is a movement that believes in providing laptop to school kids in poor countries, and has been a huge success in Latin America. Graced with rugged yet stylish looks and light form, OLPC has been created with kids and their approach to recreation and education in mind and comes with dual OS from Linux Fedora. Both Gnome and Sugar are stripped down versions of Linux Fedora with the latter catering to learning based applications for kids, while the former offers regular PC experience. Made of polycarbonate plastic fibre, which is widely used in laptops as well, OLPC is durable and sturdy and comprise of a screen and keyboard with a touchpad. The cushions and handles of the XO are designed to provide extra cushioning to protect its components, including the 1GB RAM and 4GB flash memory.
For networking, it solely relies on Wi-Fi and is available on both OS with ease. The navigation is designed for children and learning and may seem a little slow to PC users and requires some training as the features and interface aren't easily graspable.

The device comes with a webcam and dual speakers that give average output. Plenty of indicators and buttons have been added around the screen for gaming and easy maneuvering through apps. The screen is swivel based and rotates 360 degree. One of the benefits of OLPC is that it uses some new LCD backlight technology to make the LCD viewable under sunlight. It can be folded into tablet mode and can be browsed via the gamepad on the right, particularly web browsing.

The device comes with a webcam and dual speakers that give average output. Plenty of indicators and buttons have been added around the screen for gaming and easy maneuvering through apps. The screen is swivel based and rotates 360 degree. One of the benefits of OLPC is that it uses some new LCD backlight technology to make the LCD viewable under sunlight. It can be folded into tablet mode and can be browsed via the gamepad on the right, particularly web browsing.

The XO has a very different form of wireless that supports the old-style of connecting to wireless access points. This connectivity is named "mesh networking," and connects through an entire community, sharing an Internet connection. The mesh networking allows people within the community to share resources with each other such as documents, pictures, music, and videos. The battery back-up of OLPC is quite good, even though the battery is not very powerful. The fact that it uses simple tools that helps in lower consumption of power.

OLPC, the future and relevance

OLPC has been designed to engage students to play, learn and produce reports or assignments unlike a tablet. It intends to sell XO laptops to the governments, which would then see that each primary school kid owns an XO laptop.

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