OLPC ISO: 600 Children's Machine XO Installers Per Country


Are you an ICT professional? One who deploys computer networks for a living, installing laptops across a county or even a country? Do you think yourself at the top of your game? And do you yearn for a good challenge?

Then how about the OLPC XO roll out plan as sketched by Nicholas Negroponte in Kevin Allison's "Clever kit to benefit the poor" Financial Times article?

Ready to implement nationwide?
Eventually, the project hopes to ship about 20 containers of laptops every month, with each container holding 5,000 laptops. The computers will not be unloaded at port, but taken to schools and left with a person who will spend a month teaching students and teachers to use the machines before returning to pick up the next shipment.

"If you do the maths, this takes about 600 people to do 1m machines over 12 months," Mr Negroponte says. "This includes an advance team, school by school, to install internet access, typically via satellite. That point of access can serve as many as 1,000 kids."

There's no indication which country Negroponte was speaking of, but no matter if it's Nigeria or Brazil, distributing a million laptops in 100,000 unit batches every month or so sounds quite ambitious.

At 100,000 laptops per month, each of the 600 people would need to configure and train about 170 XO-user pairs every 30 days, a six computer per day run rate every day for almost a year. In a developing world country where transportation, not to mention education, may be sorely lacking. Does that sound realistic to you?

Also, does this outline mean One Laptop Per Child will be managing the Children's Machine XO in-country distribution? Doing so would allow it to apply lessons learned to future implementations and may be part of the advance team role in the Libyan $208 laptop price point.

The installers probably will be paid by governments, for funding 600 installers over a year, even in cheap-labour environments, isn't cheap if you hire quality. And they'll need quality to succeed. Quality staff executing a quality implementation plan.

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Wow! How do you post 27 days into the future? Is this a special feature of XO? I'm viewing this article on 02/Jan/2007 and it says it was posted on 29/Jan/2007!

Seriously, I think the OLPC is a great idea. I'm not particularly anti-Bill, but it would be best to keep it Windows-free and indeed, proprietry-free as far as possible.

I just hope that corruption and the chance to earn some quick bucks does not rob the children of their machines.

Ooops! Thanks for the date catch, Albert, but would you have any comments on the implementation schedule?

If you're worried about Windows, read more here:

Great post. I am not sure that transportation would be an issue since all it amounts to in this case is sending out a container that will be trucked from the sea port where it lands to some inland point.

If the unit is outfitted as a support center rather than just being a storage mechanism to get the machines from point A to B then all that you would need on the ground is staff to roll out the project. (ie the container has tools for maintainance, parts, power supply etc).

I suspect given the relatively high unemployment rate in the educated populations of these nations, a shortage of skilled and relatively cheap labor would not be a problem.

I still think that this piece raised a valid question though. Are the logistics proposed feasible? I think that the bottlenecks will be social and cultural rather than logistic.

This implementation schedule looks very heavy. Even more so if you drop the month down to a more realistic 20 working days - making c. 8 units/day.

However, one of the key words was "eventually" - Clearly, a soft-start to hone the "quality implementation plan" will be required.

Also, a viral training system would make sense, whereby people trained within an organisation by the principal installer can be used to train others. You know how it is with children - some will pick it up so quickly that they'll be showing off even to the teachers within hours. That wonderful energy and enthusiasm can be channelled into multiplying the efforts of the installer. Those children who show a particular gift in such work could be brought along to the next school to infect the children there.

And yes, I want one too!

Kids learn quickly ;).

Apart from the task of training teams of people to implement an education protocol you'd need Technical staff that can speak the language of the country where its being deployed.
Having written many training documents and developed procedural systems there will be a huge amount of work to be done just in producing the tech manuals.
The interesting part will be in developing the real guts of the education model to utilise the tools that the Laptop provides.

I think that the implementation schedule might be a little tight if you take it down to trainees or units per day.

Now if you want to be really objective about this you have to think about real life implementation, and use cases.

I was in central China last summer, and I spend about 2 weeks in the country side with my in-laws. I had plenty of time to think about the OLPC and how it would be of benefit there. I also walked up to the local school to see how it was.

The school accounted a total of approx. 150 students up to 12 years of age. I don't mean to compare all developing country with China but what I am trying to show here is that you should take a slightly different view on the deployment.

(Fyi I am a support engineer in a company that licenses software to manage and deploy computers - mainly MS but we do support Linux and Unix, and I deal with environments of up to 150,000 units worldwide. Even for enterprise customers this is huge, but it seems to be peanuts compared to deploying a million units of OLPC in a single developing country.)

Instead of thinking unit per days (as in student per days) you should probably think at a school level. Deploying OLPC in a school would be fairly different from deploying it to a person, namely a child.

The first problem would be to ensure you had one or two contact within the school that could take ownership of the project locally. then you would need to train him/her/them up to be the local techies.

Next you would need to work with the teachers to ensure that they have a good understanding on how the OLPC can be used during their classes or not.

With this in mind you can understand that delivering the OLPC and have them in the teachers and students hand are two different part of the same job.

All in all this is a lot of work and I must agree with Wayan usual skepticism: it will never be as easy as it sounds. However I'll balance this with my usual optimism: if you plan well and long enough you can nail just about anything down. The important element here is that this is an education project. And we are talking about working with/for one million children and with/for the education system of a country.

Isn't the whole idea of distribution and configuration comparable with that of training of trainers? Once you have a "critical mass", the project can run on its own, and the ownership will not be so much of an issue anymore.

I'm new to the whole OLPC concept, but, I do wonder about the environmental costs of this project. Is there a serious Environmental Impact Assessment done, taking into account the scale of the OLPC project?

Toon asks a very interesting question:

How green is the green machine?

More broadly, how green are any of these types of initiatives? (Not just the MIT project, but all of these kind of things, whether from Intel, Microsoft, local industry, etc.)

The BBC had an interesting graphic a few years back that showed the different types of hazardous waste in a typical PC:

The UN Environmental Programme just had a big conference in Kenya that included this topic (e-waste). I seen lots of talk about all sorts of things related to the OLPC, but not much about the potential environmental impact of introducing millions of them in schools around the world.

I may just be ignorant on these matters (and haven't mined the excellent OLPC wiki yet on this topic), but I have never heard about concrete disposal scenarios for these things in any of the recipient countries. There seems to be a lot of focus on how these things can be deployed, and some on how they can be maintained, but little/nothing about how these things can be disposed of (and they will of course eventually need to be disposed of).

I don't know about a full Enviornmental Impact Study, but the OLPC Wiki says there is careful attention to environmental issues with

"no hazardous materials, fully ROHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) compliant."