Electricity is the bugaboo of every OLPC deployment

   
   
   
   
   

Five years ago, Rwanda announced OLPC participation and two years ago, Rwanda ordered 120,000 XO laptops, yet as we learn from the Rwandan Ministry of Education, only 57,000 laptops are deployed.

Why would it take two years to deploy 57,000 laptops, five years after the country announced it would distribute one laptop per Rwandan child? While there are many political and educational reasons, reading the MoE article, one technology reason is self-evident: electricity.


How to power all those XO's?
Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the OLPC Coordinator in the Ministry of Education explained that so far, a total of 56,607 laptops have been distributed and by the end of June, this year, OLPC hopes to have distributed 100,000 laptops. Commenting on the rollout of electricity in schools where there is no power, he said that installing electricity has been a major undertaking in the implementation of OLPC project.

"The first step of the project has been to overhaul the installation of electricity in schools and ensure that all classrooms are properly wired with both lights and at least four power-plugs capable of charging 60 laptops simultaneously," he pointed out.

Bakuramutsa said that 150 schools in the country have already been powered and the process to connect an additional 90 schools, by June, is ongoing. The ministry also plans to install solar panels in schools that are not on the national electricity grid.

Rwanda is not alone in finding electricity a major barrier to XO deployment. In Peru, a recent evaluation by the Inter-American Development Bank found that almost 5% of the schools which already have XOs don't even have electricity yet, and as Christoph found, even schools that are considered electrified, aren't ready for XO's - some have just a single outlet in the principal's office. That obviously this isn't going to be enough to power several dozen laptops.

In Nigeria, the situation was even more dire. Their shocking electrical costs didn't stop at deployment. The generator purchased to power the XO laptops had to be stored in the principal's office to prevent theft, required costly gasoline, and servicing that took days. Worst of all, the generator broke down, burning out the UPS for the Internet server.

In Afghanistan, they are still looking for alternate power solutions, including pedal power, and in Kenya they've installed all solar power.

So while we can all praise the 21st Century technological advances in computing that bring us the XO laptop and its kin, OLPC is still hindered by 20th Century technological disadvantages, like the lack of electrical power.

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1 Comment

In Cambodia where there is no electricity -- we have been handling this situation for over 10 years by getting a school diesel generator to power our needs.If you are using any sort of generator you will need a stabilizer to make sure that there are no high surges.

In 2008 we did put in solar which has helped our organization to be able to run well over 30 XOs at a time plus a projector and 8 Panasonic Toughbooks. The XOs take very little power which helps.

There is also the possibility of using car batteries and attaching tiny clips to the positive and negative charge spots. Many countries use this method for powering light at night. These batteries need to be recharged every week though. In Cambodia the cost for this is less than $2.00. per charge.You would need to test to see how many you can power and clip on one battery.

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