OLPC: Frightful "Global Cultural Manipulation"? Not Quite.

olpc ututo
Daniel Olivera + OLPC XO Btest-1
Dear Daniel Olivera of UTUTO:

Thank you for your interest in the One Laptop Per Child program. It's wonderful to have another voice in the debate around the worthy goal of improving education using information and communication technologies, such as per-student computers.

And kudos to producing UTUTO, a "GNU/Linux distribution whose name is reminiscent of a small lizard from northern Argentina". I am sure that this operating system is an improvement to the basic Linux distribution and hopefully you've developed a user interface that is localized to your users and application and content useful to them.

But reading your quotes in Computadoras baratas de EEUU son "dominación cultural", dice Proyecto UTUTO, I fear you may have missed the aims and the practicalities of One Laptop Per Child in your zeal to promote UTUTO as an OS option for Children's Machine XO's in Uruguay.

First off, you say (according to Google Translate):

The project "One Laptop to per Child", of cheap computers for the South, is "a frightful system of domination and global cultural manipulation"[...]

According to Olivera, the portable OLPC "have dark things that we do not like", count on "a system of global positioning to locate the equipment, other to block their use when it feels like his creators to them and, in addition, (they predetermine) the contents that are going to use" the users.

Now just where did you get that idea? Because according to Nicholas Negroponte:
"It's not about curriculum or content. It's about leveraging the children themselves."
Luckily for the young students, there will actually be a "starter pack" of content, which OLPC is actively soliciting from multiple sources, but it will be content very much localized to each country & culture, not an imperialistic Ameri-centric mind-dump.

And the Bitfrost security platform does not have GPS capabilities - Global Positioning Systems are not even mentioned in its specification. Bitfrost does allow for remote censure of the laptop, but as an anti-theft measure only, a locally controlled "kill switch" to reduce black market eBay sales of the OLPC XO, not some MIT zap from space.

olpc ututo
OLPC? Its Daniel Olivera of UTUTO...

Next, you accuse MIT of profiting from OLPC sales with this choice quote (according to Google Translate):

"the MIT not only would gain a great percent of the money to sell this machine to the governments, because single it admits that they buy it by amounts nonsmaller of a million, but that, in addition, it would obtain money by the technical service and of repairs of these machines",
I too have wondered about OLPC profit per order, but with new information coming out on OLPC production methods, I am confident that OLPC will not be making much from OLPC sales - its the Taiwan computer industry that will have millions of dollars in revenue.

And I only wish that the OLPC implementation plan included a MIT-backed Children's Machine maintenance plan. Last I heard there wasn't even a spare parts distribution plan!

So while OLPC may have its faults, and it may need much more local buy-in and content to be successful, the criticisms you raise are not accurate. In fact, they have no bearing on your desire to have UTUTO instead of Linux/Sugar OS on the OLPC XO.

If you do have a logical and persuasive argument for your OS, one that is anchored in the "learning learning" goal of OLPC, please do share. I'm always happy to publish guest writers. But be more targeted with your comments. Right now, your quotes just sound like bitter talk from an OS developer spurned.

Related Entries


Sounds like typical leftist nonsense -- capitalism is pure imperialistic evil, and money is being made by olpc, therefore oplc must be pure capitalist imperialistic evil.

I am guessing that's why Daniel Olivera got the facts all wrong. Once he learned that profits were involved, and that olpc was being developed in the capitalist USA, he figured he could determine the facts by logical deduction, and so he didn't bother to do any research.

The link to the UTUTO website is actually https://www.ututo.org/www/ and uses a security certificate. Hows that for paranoia?

What do you think the kickback's in profits to Negroponte and friends/brother in Taiwan will be? I think non for profit just became profit....

Funny thing. If you follow all through the Olivera statements, the final conclusion is "my Linux flavour is the best".

So Olivera will not seem to be completely against "profit, cultural domination, etc" once OLPC had payed attention to his technical argument.

What are we talking about, then?

OLPC is a disguised commercial project of humanitarian project. The technology without an approach humanist increases the inequality social.

Daniel Olivera tiene razón. El objetivo es control comercial y cultural de la educación.

No estoy en contra de la tecnología, estoy en contra de las intenciones de aquellas empresas que la desarrollan.

danieloso and I went back and forth in comments to the Nigroponte brothers conspiracy post.

His last comment was "Capitalism and socialism not, Humanism yes."

Apparently he thinks people can get along without an economic system. And apparently his reasoning is: Capitalism is evil, the oplc project is centered in a capitalistic country and uses hardware produced by capitalistic organizations, therefore oplc is evil.

From the OLPC Open Mailing list: http://mailman.laptop.org/pipermail/olpc-open/2007-February/000141.html

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 11:32:28 -0500
From: "Antonio Ognio"
Subject: [Olpc-open] Attempt to summarize Daniel Olivera's (UTUTO) complaints to OLPC
To: "OLPC Open Discussion List"

Hi there, This is Antonio Ognio, from Lima-Peru. A short interview with Daniel Olivera from the argentinian UTUTO project made by a fellow participant of my LUG's mailing list has been posted (in spanish) here: http://www.linux.org.pe/pipermail/linux-plug/2007-February/008994.html

I've made an attempt to summarize Daniel's complaints that i've posted to my list as well as the argentina@laptop.org list and I'm sharing it here with you for comments:

a) The laptop comes with no manual explaining the hardware in detail and how to re-flash the BIOS to support booting other OSes than the Fedora one shipped with the product.

b) The laptop comes with no documentation aimed at operating system designers

c) The OLPC project has made little to no effort to date in order to help create local technician teams in the countries receiving the laptops

d) The OLPC project has made little to no effort to date in order to help create local industries of products and services around the new OLPC platform in the countries receiving the laptops

This is a sincere attempt to sum up Daniel's view on the subject which might explain a bit his position. I'm not really sure if he's already presented this issues in proper channels such as this mailing list before attacking the project in his presentation from Cuba but I hope this post could help a bit discuss this issues and specially get opinions from you guys at Fedora, MIT or involved governments.

Another really interesting point brought to my attention at my local mailing list by Crhistian, Daniel's interviewer, was the risk of the laptop from being caught in a "tivoisation" process as explained by Richard Stallman in a presentation from the 21st April 2006 transcripted here: http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3/fisl-rms-transcript.en.html

I guess this could be another interesting issue to discuss since this practice is being designed to be incompatible with the GPL v3, something to take into account for it's potential implications to the future of the project's software development.

Hope all of this is useful talk, thanks for reading.

El pais es quien paga las computadoras entonces: ¿Cúal es la aportación de MIT?

¿Porqué no financian a cada país para que este desarrolle su propia tecnología?

Podrían perdonar la deuda externa de los países pobres para que usen ese dinero en fabricar sus propias laptos.

Pero no... eso no seria negocio para el MIT.

about https in our site is for two reasons:

1. many people write password over non secure protocol

2. Many ISP having bad configurations in proxy cache, and any change on site is reflected for user in 12 to 24 hours. This is most commons for now in argentinan ISP, like Speedy. Them are using transparent proxy with bad configuration.

UTUTO Peoject

Danieloso, you seem to be very confused about the financial aspects of this project.

The OLPC organization received $10 million in initial donations from several companies and this is what was used to develop the machine (a lot of people helped out for free as well). Most of the money was actually spent in things like air fare, I imagine, since designing a new PC is not a particularly expensive activity even when you have some great new technology like the displays.

The countries will be buying the machines from Quanta, which will have a small profit on each one. To continue developing new models and software OLPC will depend on more donations, which will be easier to get if lots of countries are buying the first generation laptops, of course. But the income for OLPC does not directly depend on such sales, which is why both Negroponte and Bender have said several times that they will be equally happy if someone else creates a laptop and gets them to the children.

Take a look at Brazil. Here the government is doing a pilot study with the OLPC XO, the Intel Classmate (to be built by local companies) and the Mobilis from the Indian company Encore (also to be built by local companies).

In addition, the UCA (one computer per student) group from the government has talked to two local developers (I could point out the pages for the Neo computer and the Cowboy one but they are all in Portuguese) who only have prototypes and so won't be able to participate in the pilot studies (which will use about 1000 of each type of computer in schools this April).

What OLPC has created is an interesting oportunity. It is each country's money so they must decide if it is worth taking advantage of this oportunity or if they would rather develop something similar themselves (as did India and China). If some local developer is being ignored by his government I don't see how this could possibly be the fault of the OLPC people.

I always wondered... the One Laptop Per Child.... Do they also try to hook up the children in the U.S.? Or are the American children SOL?

I think Antonio is pointing out the real downsides of the OLPC project. These are issues which every responsible Government / citizen should get answers from the OLPC.

- - - - clip - - - -
a) The laptop comes with no manual explaining the hardware in detail and how to re-flash the BIOS to support booting other OSes than the Fedora one shipped with the product.

b) The laptop comes with no documentation aimed at operating system designers

c) The OLPC project has made little to no effort to date in order to help create local technician teams in the countries receiving the laptops

d) The OLPC project has made little to no effort to date in order to help create local industries of products and services around the new OLPC platform in the countries receiving the laptops
- - - - clip - - - -

In the field of development research we know that the "top-down" methods just don't work and in most cases are causing more harm than development. Opening the hardware and software for local development would make the OLPC muh more empowering project.

Because of this and the arrogant "Negroponte is giving" ethos in the project - especially when we know the name Negroponte has never gave anything good for the develpoed world - raises concern on which the OLPC should give clear answers. Why they don't?


1. I can buy the OLPC in parts?

2. I would like to buy solely the screen and the battery to make laptop more potent in Mexico. This is possible?

3. The multimillionaire patents of the hardware prevent sale OLPC in parts?

Desde un punto de vista práctico, y para adultos, el XO es frustrante e improductivo. Recordemos que no sólo se distribuye a niños aquí en Uruguay, sino a maestros. Los maestros no pueden: 1) Usar alguna impresora con el XO (el laptop ni se entera que tiene una conectada) 2) No pueden copiar archivos en forma fácil a y desde un pendrive (el Journal es malísimo para eso) 3) Se cuelga a menudo. Nunca da una indicación de cual fue el error (odiábamos las pantallas de Windows, pero esto es peor). 4) No crea documentos realmente compatibles con Word; el formato RTF que usa se ve como "basura" en Word y la única opción es salvar en HTML. 5) El Writer tiene problemas para insertar imágenes en documentos. 6) La traducción es terrible; más de la mitad de los botones y menúes están en inglès. 7) No hay un botón u opción de menú "Ayuda" en los programas. 8) Se cuelga reproduciendo MP3 o mostrando páginas web con animaciones Flash. Algunos .GIF como el que trae por defecto , "Lunar libration ...etc" cualgan el navegador.
Pienso que es un lindo juguete para los niños, aquí en Florida (Uruguay) se los ve en las esquinas jugando con sus XO, pero que no les servirá para escribir su tarea domiciliaria.
Los padres lo ven como un juguete más.
Los niños no aprenderán a utilizar un laptop de verdad con cualquier S.O. estándar, como Linux con interfaces normales, ni Windows, ni Macintosh. O sea, no aprenderán a utilizar las computadoras de la vida real.
Los maestros lo arrumbarán como juguete y seguirán usando sus viejos PCs de segunda mano con Windows 98.
Pienso que para los maestros sería mucho más útil un Classmate.