While we await Nicholas Negroponte's Industry Insider address, he apparently told Dan Nystedt of the IDG News Service a pre-speech shocker: OLPC is going to launch in America through US state governments, after ignoring them for the past year or so:
OLPC America already has a director and a chairman, and will likely be based in Washington D.C., said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC, in an interview.Now why would Negroponte suddenly change course form his previous dismissals of an OLPC USA? Before he said he wouldn't pursue One Laptop Per American Child in the near term because of the difference in need. The American government has the money to afford One Mac Book Per Child while developing country governments do not.
"The whole thing is merging right now. It will be state-centric. We're trying to do it through the 50 state governments," he said.
His three stated reasons for starting OLPC America now are:
- The need in poor areas of the USA (New Orleans anyone?), but that need has been there since the inception of OLPC. Why the change of heart now?
- The educational value of American children communicating with children in the developing world, is worthy, but neither OLPC nor anyone in the US educational establishment has noted this as an overriding need.
- The critical mass of developers that would grow from engaged parents from Florida to Alaska hacking the XO laptop for their children, which is odd since he just said that G1G1 was disappointing.
On the other hand it doesn't quite create an economic model which could run the whole thing. If we had done a million units with G1G1 you could then maybe say the $100 laptop becomes a zero dollar laptop. So it didn't do that well in terms of the economic model to go forward.With that telling comment, I think Negroponte is interested in OLPC America for only one reason: to sell more XO laptops.
Sales are faltering in the developing world, the USA is rich and geeky. And for the exact reason he didn't engage an OLPC America before, he's willing to try it now: we have the resources to experiment with clock-stopping hot technology. So while I question his sincerity on the stated reasons, I has only one response to his actions: about damn time!
And good luck. OLPC USA will be a challenge too.
Other OLPC America links: