OLPC Uruguay: Request for Ceibal Proposals Out!

   
   
   
   
   

OLPC XO's in Uruguay

Ever since Nicholas Negroponte realized that Presidents loving OLPC laptops doesn't equal Ministers buying XO's I've been waiting to see what the participating countries' request for proposals (RFP's) would look like.

These competitive RFP's are the method by which every honest government purchases goods or services, especially millions of dollars worth of goods, and I fully expect One Laptop Per Child will need to first get countries to issue RFP's. Then, once governments have an outstanding RFP, OLPC can respond with the best one-to-one computing solution.

In a surprise move that somehow slipped past me, Uruguay has issued the first Request for Proposal that I know of as part of Ceibal (Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea). Here are the RFP's in Spanish and English.

If you read the RFP closely, you'll note the same interesting tidbits that Pablo Flores found:

  • It's not only for buying laptops. It also asks for software, school servers, connectivity devices and a proposal for qualification, support and maintenance.
  • 3 configurations of schools (of 150, 450 and 750 students) are proposed, so that offers include laptops, servers, connectivity, etc. This is fundamental to analyze different technological options (for example connectivity with mesh network Vs. solely through Access points)
  • It looks for buying 100,000 computers, to be solicited in different stages.
For me, I found the RFP's lack of focus on educational content and teacher training to be shocking. No where does the RFP specify what kinds of educational content should be included, not even hinting about the OLPC XO's ability to be an ebook viewer for a Library of Alexandria. It's as if the government of Uruguay does not care if the computer solution they seek has any content at all.

In addition, there is only the slightest hint that the supplier should teach teachers and other educators how to employ the winning technology in the classroom. In fact, there is only one sentence about teacher training in the entire RFP:

Teachers will be trained in the use of these tools and the elaboration of new educational proposals in agreement with them will be stimulated.
Did the Uruguayan government know about the ICT-in-Education Toolkit to develop and evaluate technology projects for schools or does it expect the educational system to experience an implementation miracle when the winning solution arrives?

And let us not be coy. The whole RFP reads like a description of the OLPC Children's Machine XO. It's as close to being rigged for One Laptop Per Child to win as can be expected without outright naming OLPC as the preferred supplier.

Now that doesn't mean that OLPC will win - they will have to change their order minimum down to 50,000 or 100,000 maximum and they will actually have to successfully respond to the proposal - both tasks that have tripped up the best technology companies before. In addition, the RFP also defines a need for a school server, which OLPC claims to have but has not released specifications about.

Uruguay has seemingly specified where the first batch of computers will go: Florida. The Uruguayan Florida, not the American state. Pablo Flores reports that:

This means giving computers to all its kids and teachers, as well as providing connectivity infrastructure in all its schools and in as many homes as possible.

I don't have the exact numbers now, but we are talking about more than 100 schools (many of them called "rural", with only one classroom and one teacher), about 500 teachers and 10,000 kids. The total population of Florida is close to 70,000, half of whom live in the capital city Florida, most of the rest live in smaller cities, and 12,000 live in rural areas.

An expansion of one-to-one computing of that size will be first, for Uruguay and the world. And it will be quite interesting to see who will be leading the expansion once the RFP bids are opened on July 27th.

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20 Comments

"For me, I found the RFP's lack of focus on educational content and teacher training to be shocking. No where does the RFP specify what kinds of educational content should be included, not even hinting about the OLPC XO's ability to be an ebook viewer for a Libarary of Alexandria. It's as if the government of Uruguay does not care if the computer solution they seek has any content at all.

In addition, there is only the slightest hint that the supplier should teach teachers and other educators how to employ the winning technology in the classroom. In fact, there is only one sentence about teacher training in the entire RFP:"

I think the alternative, specifying computers, software and teacher training would preempt ANY proposal. Because that would force Uruguay to go with standard PCs (laptops?) and a Spanish Integrated Learning Systems and computerized curriculum.

I expect the price of this would be close to $2000 per student (both full curriculum ILS' and teacher training are extremely expensive). I seriously doubt whether Uruguay would be able to afford that.

So I think there is little choice here. Either this cut down RFP, or none at all.

Winter

Winter,

You miss my point but make another. The RFP can require teacher training and content without being so restrictive as to focus on traditional PC's and a set curriculum, but no one-to-one computing solution costs are just hardware.

The RFP can include on section on teacher training requirements such as "the winning bidder will include a framework for training teachers how to use the bidder's technology & guidance on how they can include the technology into the classroom/curriculum" without a traditional PC lock-in.

Note that I use "framework" and "guidance" as Uruguay will want to have final control over both actions, but the bidders, especially OLPC, needs to help Uruguay understand how it can have teachers (both formal and informal) guide children to have the greatest benefit from the OLPC's clock-stopping hot technology.

Also the RFP can contain something along the lines of "bidders should present a menu of educational content it recommends for inclusion on the school servers and/or computers and suggest methods to update and utilize such content". This plays right into OLPC's advantage if, in fact, they are really driving a large amount of Open Source content for children to use and explore.

Last but not least, you are correct in suggesting that educational content and especially full teacher training would cost around $2,000 per child. That is yet another aspect of the Total Cost of Ownership that One Laptop Per Child refuses to acknowledge and yet another reason why the "$100 laptop" moniker is borderline immoral false advertising.

"Last but not least, you are correct in suggesting that educational content and especially full teacher training would cost around $2,000 per child. That is yet another aspect of the Total Cost of Ownership that One Laptop Per Child refuses to acknowledge and yet another reason why the "$100 laptop" moniker is borderline immoral false advertising."

Wayan, I agree with most of what you wrote. But I think I did not make my point completely clear.

If the final cost of implementation of a CAI program is around $2000 per pupil, it is just out of reach to Uruguay. There will be no point in getting the RFP out as Uruguay won't be able to afford it anyway. And that is irrespective of the platform.

I chose standard PCs because you suggested the RFP should specify educational software, which I interpreted as some kind of ILS. This is only available for MS Windows or OSX(?).

You obviously consider the current crop of XO software insufficient. I have no idea what kind of guidance/framework for integration in the curriculum you would advice. The OLPC is rather small, so if you expect a supplier to have a massive on-site presence I think Uruguay could better drop the OLPC or contract this aspect somewhere else.

But the MoEdu could calculate that they can procure teacher training and software support cheaper locally separate from the systems supplier. With FLOSS, this would not be a wild speculation. Say, Uruguay could hire Argentinians or Brazilians (Mandriva) for that job. They could even contract one of Mark Shuttleworth's companies. The whole point of FLOSS is just that, you are not locked into one supplier for all your needs.

But a framework would be nice, indeed. Maybe the RFP is not as open as it looks and the decision is already taken?

I don't think the $100 laptop moniker is false adverticing. The laptop is indeed $100 (or $175), software included.

Anyone who buys 1 million laptops from tax money without knowing the difference between appliance price and deployment costs should be jailed. You and I can hardly complain because we would never have been allowed to buy the laptop. (on the other hand, Dell advertices their prices to consumers without deployment cost)

Winter

The RFP is talking about two phases:

1. Phase: 100,000 computers

2. Phase: 150,000 computers

So if all goes well in the first phase, OLPC could have their minimum of 250,000 laptops.

Winter,

Please re-read my comments. I use the term "educational content" not "educational software". OLPC already has a decent set of educational software and more will come as OLPC starts to make a market once it deploys.

I am more concerned with educational content, like ebooks of Spanish-language classics, for this is what will drive children to explore and learn, the whole point of OLPC's Constructionist underpinnings and OLPC's real differentiator from Intel's offerings.

And $100 is not $176, for the second price is 76% higher than the first. Would you consider that difference in price between advertisement and reality acceptable at Dell? I would not, especially when, as Jason points out, you have to multiply that difference by 250,000 units. That would be a $19 million dollar difference.

This is an interesting addition to the debate on the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) programme. You make some good points, particularly about the participating countries' Requests For Proposals (RFPs). These need to be made to enable tihe OLPC to respond with a suitable computer-based solution.

The OLPC is a great idea, as it will expose more kids to computers. OLPC will help children in developing countries around the world. But it will also change the world of laptops forever. The marketpace will benefit, and I’m sure that every home in the developed world will have one. What is becoming clear is that the OLPC is a not the solution but a starting point for development. This project needs to be handled in a sensitive way. Different needs and cultures must be addressed properly. Only then will the OLPC project be a success.

Right now is an exciting time for technology, particularly mobile technology covering laptops, mobile phones and PDAs. Also the web and they way they all work with the web.

"I am more concerned with educational content, like ebooks of Spanish-language classics, for this is what will drive children to explore and learn, the whole point of OLPC's Constructionist underpinnings and OLPC's real differentiator from Intel's offerings."

Wouldn't that be Google's part of the deal?
Project Gutenberg would be a (small) starting point. But someone should convert them to ODF.
http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/languages/es
http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/languages/pt
These also might not be the best texts for education.

But Gutenberg doesn't cover "modern" texts. However, these texts are copyrighted and I think the South American countries are in a better bargaining position than the OLPC.

"And $100 is not $176, for the second price is 76% higher than the first. Would you consider that difference in price between advertisement and reality acceptable at Dell? I would not, especially when, as Jason points out, you have to multiply that difference by 250,000 units. That would be a $19 million dollar difference."

Indeed. Therefore, Negroponte always told the world that this would NOT be the introduction price, but the long term goal.

And if some person quotes a target price for a product still in development to be launched in years, you cannot claim to be ignorant about inflation, exchange rate fluctuations, and component spot market prices. Let alone design changes that increase costs.

Really, this sounds like nit-picking. It is a pity that the OLPC cannot deliver for $100. This seems to be the crucial price point for deployment in primary education. It does make the XO less attractive. But I think calling it "false adverticing" is going to far.

Winter

Winter,

Again you misinterpret my comments. I was expecting the RFP to ask for basic educational content. Content should be central to any government's efforts to introduce computers into educational systems. Content that is resident on local networks so it can be tied into classroom projects & home use without the need to constantly use Internet bandwidth.

Through OLPC's efforts lead by SJ Klein, there is a growing wealth of content that they can offer to Uruguay, content that Intel lacks.

As to the "$100 laptop" price, I stand by what I've said already: http://www.olpcnews.com/prototypes/olpc/olpc_xo_100_dollar_laptop.html

"Again you misinterpret my comments. "

You are right. I should read better. I stand corrected.

So Negroponte's $100 mark was good PR, but might end up being bad marketting?

Winter

Winter,
"Project Gutenberg would be a (small) starting point."

Perhaps International Children’s Digital Library ( childrenslibrary.org )would be a better starting point for small kids. For books in Spanish see:
( www.childrenslibrary.org/icdl/ResultByWorld?area=1&country=0&view=cover&start=0&type=0&sort=title )

Wayan: Uruguay is making a request for school stuff, just as if they were requesting school chairs or bidding for the lowest offer for school lunch NOT for a whole education revolution. Uruguay already HAS a curriculum, already HAS schoolbooks, and already has teachers with content to give, simply wants to equip them with computers.

It´s good to see real world news. Specially when we see that negroponte must get down from his pole and actually adapt his computer solution to a real country's needs, as opposed to force a educational revolution (without a curriculum) on general ficticious "underdeveloped world"

Did we say \"rigged\"?

Gabriel

"In addition, the RFP also defines a need for a school server, which OLPC claims to have but has not released specifications about."

Actually, they have specs and are in early design:

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Hardware_specification#School_Server_Hardware

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XS_Server_Specification#XS_Specifications

"No where does the RFP specify what kinds of educational content should be included"

I am with winter on this one. The only explanation that makes sense is that they are going to go with FLOSS on this, and/or materials that they have developed on their own or are going to, and so they already have their educational content list.

Indeed, perhaps most the materials that oplc comes with are already on their own list. And they don't need to have it put in the proposal that oplc submits because they can go to the wiki and see for themselves.

Just because they are not doing things the ways educational ministries usually do doesn't mean they don't know what they are up to.

The funniest part of this clearly rigged RFP is the one clause specifying that the "winning" computer must have been built not earlier than 3 months before the date of opening bids!!!!

Not to mention that the "2 stages" "magically" conform to the minimum 250,000 unit orders set by Negroponte...

:-)

Wayan/Winter

If you read the RFP, this is an Equal Access project, aimed to reduce the digital gap in our society. The government of Uruguay is well concerned about education, and the fact that we have 97% alphabetization talks by itself.

We are not biased to any computer (XO o Classmate). We have requested prices for 100.000 machines and a second phase of 50.000 more. RFP should be read with attention. We have asked future prices, and defended the right to buy at market prices if those in the future are lower than quoted.
We are well aware that there will be more than one or two suppliers of computers in the future

Probaly it is difficult to put yourselves in the the needs of the countries. This is a comprehensive project that will cover more than 350.000 teachers and 25.000 teachers. It will cover more than 2000 schools and will be impelemented between 2007 and 2009. Internet will be provided in all schools and in the majority of the homes.

The real projects have a lot of uncertainties, a lot of new ways of measuring success and failure. We will report it in our blog constantly

There is a mistake in my previous blog. It should say 350.000 children and 25000 teachers

Ceibal Project blog says participating RFP bidders have received a one-month extension and bids will now be opened on August 24th. In addition, there's now a school server RFP.

http://olpc-ceibal.blogspot.com/2007/07/equipment-bid-deadline-extended-by-one.html

"I found the RFP's lack of focus on educational content and teacher training to be shocking."

There are many precedents for this, not least in the UK. The perceived problem with lack of hardware is resolved with a large amount of cash, this doesn't deliver any results so it simply moves to the next perceived problem of lack of training / software / motivation / etc. We built the cart and complained there was a lack of horses.

Something that started with content and teacher engagement / training and evolved back to a hardware requirement would ultimately be more productive.

Dear Wayan,

I am a content junkie when it comes to computers in education. I find your post on the OLPC in Uruguay extremely insightful, even though you haven't seen things happen already, as I did. I was a teacher in Uruguay in the days when a donation from Spain enabled every capital city in 'guay to set up a computer lab, 19 in all. I believe it was sort of 1995, Win 3.11 times.

Issues of lack of training and lack of content made that investment pretty much useless. I remember trying to gain access to it, which much upset the teacher in charge that preferred to keep the lab locked, with her smoking inside studying for her advanced degree (from books - no internet in those days). In any case the lab got but scant use. I am annoyed to see the the OLPC go the same way. Without content there's not much beyond the fun of the toy, which can be amazing, a true joy, but so, so far less of something that would impact the kids to the point of drawing them to the developed world level. And don't get me started on the appointed teachers, and the 'guay teacher establishment. They actually do go out of their way to name people by seniority. Even though an "interview" component was added to the current round of hiring, 50% of the points were awarded on a seniority basis.

Thank you for pointing out that this was not as easy as it seemed. Oh, BTW, the OLPCs are only for the kids in public schools. No such look for those in private schools, even though their parents pay the same taxes that finance the OLPC for Uruguay. And no mention in any Uruguayan source of the US 2 million donation.

"For me, I found the RFP's lack of focus on educational content and teacher training to be shocking. No where does the RFP specify what kinds of educational content should be included, not even hinting about the OLPC XO's ability to be an ebook viewer for a Library of Alexandria. It's as if the government of Uruguay does not care if the computer solution they seek has any content at all.

In addition, there is only the slightest hint that the supplier should teach teachers and other educators how to employ the winning technology in the classroom. In fact, there is only one sentence about teacher training in the entire RFP:"

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