Do you remember Jon's computation of One Laptop Per Child "$100 laptop" costs that concluded that XO's are really "$1,000 laptops"? Or the implementation cost follow-up where we debated the estimate in detail? Or José Antonio Meira da Rocha's OLPC Brazil laptop costs comparison study?
Jon's general point was that computer hardware is usually only one small component of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for technology implementations in the developing world. Training, maintenance, and Internet connectivity can drastically increase a project's scope and expense
Expenses in follow-on years are even more difficult to cover when the initial excitement of new shiny flashy things has past. Now that the initial fanfare around the One Laptop Per Child pilot testing in Galadima School, Abuja, Nigeria is waning, OLPC Nigeria is starting to learn this lesson with a cost we didn't include: electricity.
First, Tomi Davies explains the infrastructure he installed to wire the school for power and Internet:
This comprised of a 15KVa electricity generator for power supply, a VSAT dish for internet connectivity, WiFi access points, to connect the laptops to the VSAT (Which was provided by Accelon) as well as to one another and electrical wiring of the classrooms where the XO's were to be used by the children and their teachers (to facilitate laptop battery recharging). An alternate power source (solar panels using gange chargers) was also used to support the laptops power needs.A quick and rough pricing out of that parts list can give us a basic cost estimate to install One Laptop Per Nigerian Child at one school:
$5,000 - 15KVa electricity generatorAdmittedly, this is just a very rough guesstimate for a high-profile school in the nation's capitol, but if we multiply the $9,000 in initial installation costs by the 41,531 primary schools we find that wiring elementary schools for OLPNC would cost $374 million dollars, or another $24 per primary schoolchild.
$3,000 - VSAT dish
$50 - WiFi access points
$100 - electrical wiring of the classrooms
$600 - solar panels
$250 - gang charger
But don't be quick to assume that costs stop there. While the XO laptop may be close to indestructible, power generators are not. And expensive power generators bring their own set of problems.
From the Nigeria Chapter of the Club of Rome, we learn that the generator has to be stored in the principal's office to prevent theft, requires costly gasoline, and servicing that can take days. Worst of all, the generator broke down, burning out the UPS for the Internet, and its still insufficient for all the power needs of the school.
Children and teachers can recharge OLPC XO's using batteries that are recharged with the solar gang charger, but there's no Internet connection without generator-supplied power for the VSAT. Of course, a few parents might think the lack of Internet a good thing, what with pupils turning XO's into porn servers.
And before you say "UNICEF will come to the rescue," note that it's only offered to help OLPNC convince Nigerian businesses to sponsor XO's as part of their corporate social responsibility. With costs at least $176 per child and $15,500 per school for just hardware alone, UNICEF and OLPNC will need all the convincing help they can get.