OLPC in Uruguay - More than just Plan Ceibal


One of my first takeaways from Uruguay is that OLPC here is so much more than just the official Plan Ceibal. I had always heard of the different organizations and groups of people doing OLPC related work in the country but it wasn't until I got here and started talking to some people that I realized just how many different entities are working in this space.

I think this is very interesting in that this structure is different to what is happening with OLPC in other countries where more often than not it's one entity - either the government or an NGO - that is actively working on the project (but maybe I simply missed something). What seems to be happening in Uruguay on the other hand is that a whole ecosystem of organizations which all fulfill different roles exists both in Montevideo and across the country.

Plan Ceibal

Yep, that's the Plan Ceibal logo

Plan Ceibal is Uruguay's official OLPC initiative started by former president Tabaré Vázquez. In his own words "CEIBAL's longer-term objective is to promote social justice by promoting equal access to information and communication tools for all our people." The first step to achieve this goal was to provide every child and teacher in the country's public primary school system with an XO laptop, an ambitious undertaking that was completed in October 2009.

In terms of its history Plan Ceibal was for a long time run by LATU (Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay - Technology Laboratory of Uruguay) before being spun out into a newly created organization called CITS (Centro para la Inclusión Tecnológica y Social - Center for Technological and Social Inclusion). Today CITS' approximately 180 employees work on every area needed for an undertaking such as Plan Ceibal, from evaluating hardware and designing network solutions over training teachers and developing educational content to evaluating the educational and social impact of the initiative.

What I found interesting is that although Plan Ceibal is CITS' largest project some of its employees also work on other efforts in the area of health-related technologies. I can definitely see the potential for innovative projects that combine education, technology and health-topics in the mid- to long-term.

Flor de Ceibo

Flor de Ceibo is a project that was started at Universidad de la República - Uruguay's largest university - in 2008. The three main goals of this program are:

  1. To create an enabling space for participation in the ongoing and interdisciplinary national effort that is Plan Ceibal.
  2. To contribute to the closing of the digital divide by involving university students in Plan Ceibal.
  3. To enable new forms of collaboration between the university and the broader society.

To achieve these goals faculty and students are active in a variety of projects, many of which are related to introducing Plan Ceibal in general and the XO laptops in particular to communities in remote parts of Uruguay. This year approximately 400 students are enrolled in the program which allows for many activities to take place all around the country. To learn more about Flor de Ceibo's project take a look at their Web site or dive into their 129-page activity report for 2009.


ceibalJAM logo

ceibalJAM is an NGO that grew out of the desire of several volunteers to establish an entity that is focused on the development of Sugar activities and educational content. The most popular example of an activity that was created with the help of ceibalJAM is Conozco Uruguay, more recently followed by Flavio Danesse's JAMedia which turns every XO into a TV and radio tuned to Uruguayan online channels (YouTube video).

Additionally ceibalJAM has regularly organized workshops covering a broad range of topics. One of them will take place this coming Saturday, July 24, at "Punto de Encuentro" at San Jose 1116 - stay tuned to ceibaljam.org for more details. Oh, and before I forget: ceibalJAM recently received an honorary mention in the "digital communities" category of the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica 2010 festival.


RAP-Ceibal (Red de Apoyo al Plan Ceibal - Support Network for Plan Ceibal) is a network of several hundred volunteers which can be found all across Uruguay. The individuals and groups associated with RAP-Ceibal are involved in a broad variety of activities which cover everything from handing out XOs and repairing broken machine to introducing parents to Plan Ceibal in general and the XOs in particular. (A separate article taking a closer look at RAP Ceibal will be posted over the coming days.)


Apart from the ones mentioned above there's also a variety of smaller and independent groups which are active in this area. (Update: Please see the first comment below for one example.) Overall it's really quite amazing to see what all these organizations and communities are doing here to support Uruguay's OLPC project. I definitely think that people in other countries with ongoing OLPC projects can learn a lot from the various ways people here have found to contribute to what they consider a worthy cause. Plus I can't wait to get to Lima in a little over three weeks to see whether a similar eco-system has developed around OLPC in Peru.

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ceibalJAM - the content and software focused organization which I described in more detail in [more]


Additionally, Oscar Mendez, director of the planetarium in Montevideo, has been using my StarChart activity in conjunction with the planetarium's educational outreach program. And my ConstellationsFlashCards activity has just been localized in Spanish, thanks to Daniel Castelo, who did the non-technical translation for StarChart as well. This is another example of the "grass roots" level of work, one that probably flew below your radar but will eventually be helping up to 200,000 school kids get excited about astronomy.

David, thanks a lot for the head-ups, I've added a note in the article for people to check out your comment as an example of things that really did stay below my radar.

The recommended way to do an OLPC deployment is to involve a wide range of local resources, including the Linux and Sugar communities, local universities and interested NGOs to mention a few possibilities. Such an approach leverages the resources of the project sponsor and OLPC, creates greater community understanding and may provide high quality resources to the deployment.