Now I don't know how or if Jim Klein is related to OLPC, a Google Search didn't show any direct relationship, but he portends to speak as a member of the OLPC design team on his OLPC Follow Up Post and his answers give me concern. Specifically his maintenance Q&A:
Q - How will these devices be maintained? They will break, everything breaks, and these will be in the worst of environments for electronic devices. I don't think parts distribution is part of the current plan, at least not in anything that I've read.Okay, so I agree with the training methodology, I've found older students to be the best mentors and maintenance gurus in developing countries, as they are not afraid to experiment and explore, and yet they are still too young to be considered workforce age by parents eager for another family-support income.
A - The current plan is to provide maintenance in much the same fashion that we in the United States do with our OLPC projects - train the upper grade kids to provide this support. While this may not be perfect, it is truly the only way to get it done on a scale such as this. As near as I can tell there is no spare parts distribution plan. However, since the laptops are extremely inexpensive, it stands to reason that buying some extra units would allow for initial replacement until a critical mass of spare parts could be established.
The devices are completely sealed (ie air vent free) and contain no moving parts, in an effort to avoid much of the maintenance requirements of traditional PCs. True, failure is inevitable, but it seems reasonable to assume a fail rate of less than 1%, considering the design. And if 1 in 100 (I'd bet it will be even less) fail and aren't repaired, there will still be ninety-nine more that work.
But that "there is no spare parts distribution plan" gives me great pause. You are going to flood a country with at least 1 million units of brand new, cutting-edge technology without a spare parts distribution system? And you expect the countries to buy extras to cannibalize?
If we use his 1 percent failure rate (a fancifully low number for a brand new technology I say), you are talking 100,000 units or $1.4 million dollars of additional investment to get to the fabled one million unit critical mass.
$1.4 million is not an insignificant sum, even for the relatively rich countries that OLPC is dealing with now. I see bureaucrats screaming for a purchase warranty. Who wants to be the Minister remembered for buying at least $1.4 million of non-working technology that, without a spare parts distribution system, became pretty paperweights on delivery?