The XO laptop for One laptop Per Child. You want one for your kid. You want your kids to "learn learning", too. You want one for your nephews and your neighbors' kids, so that you can use that great built-in mesh networking together.
You want one for your neighbor. You know he'd appreciate the little web-browsing, sunlight-viewable screen marvel.
You want one for the kids in the poor elementary school across town that usually have to make due with old books and overworked, underpaid teachers. Heck, you want one for yourself, because you love the entire concept, the grand possibilities, and the magnificent vision behind this practical work of art.
But you shouldn't want something meant for the poor, underprivileged kids in developing countries. Obviously, it is only gadget-lust. Or is it? Is it a bad thing to want this edutechnological revolution to come to your town and make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you? Should we simply be content to wait?
I am Gabriel Morales. I say no.
And I say it with conviction. If it meant depriving those children in developing countries of the little machine that is after all, designed and meant for them, then I could not justify it in good conscious. But I don't believe that this is the case at all.
In fact, I believe the opposite is true. I believe more of those children would get access to an XO laptop more quickly if OLPC were to open up Give 1 Get 1 sales to developed countries as well, and I firmly believe that there is a market for the XO in the developed world, and that it would greatly benefit children and adults alike there.
Such a proposition, if properly executed, could be a win-win situation for both the developing and developed world. Bringing the XO to the developed world, en masse, means bringing down production costs increasing the project's mindshare, very possibly leading to increased sales of the educational device to its intended target.
It is also a means by which the developed world can subsidize the XO laptop to the developing world. Not only that, but the combined benefit of the proliferation of the XO platform would increase its value tremendously.
Children in developing countries would be playing, working and learning on the same specially-designed, open source platform children in developed countries would. This in turn, also increases support of the platform.
With more people using XO laptops and more developers with access to them, it is a practical assurance that more educational and practical software would follow.
The Give 1, Get 1 offer, which started on Monday, is a good start, but it is not enough. It is too limited in its scope, and while those of us who believe in the project are happy to put down $400 for one, this roughly 100% markup makes it too costly for large orders, and leaves too many of the people who would benefit from an XO laptop in the developed world out.
Another issue with the Give One, Get One offer is the limited areas in which it will operate. Wayan has suggested using a mail forwarding service, and has even enlisted the help of a particular UPS store, which we all hope will bring the joy of the XO to other parts of the world besides Unites States and Canada. This is only a temporary work-around to an issue that should be addressed by OLPC and its chosen distributors instead.
Something much more expansive and inclusive is called for. Already OLPC has taken some positive steps forward, by opening up donation offers to individuals and organizations outside of governments. And I really believe OLPC would benefit greatly from taking yet another step forward and simply opening up sales.
What I am proposing is that OLPC open up XO sales to all public and private schools, educators, parents, and in fact, the general public to the developed world at large, at an affordable price, perhaps something like a 25-50% markup initially.
Not to say that opening up sales is a trivial matter. There are lots of details to take care of and distribution in itself is a job. We've already seen various telephone ordering hiccups caused by an inexperienced and perhaps initially ill-prepared staff with the Give One, Get One offer.
Production needs to ramp up to meet the demands of such an expansive distribution program. We certainly don't want a situation where developing countries are denied XO laptops because demand must be met in developed countries.
However, the bigger a market is the more that can be produced at lower cost and the more willing a manufacturing plant is to increase production due to lower risk. In the end, if there is indeed enough demand (and I believe there is), it should work out to the benefit of developing countries. There are definitely some risks, but I think the benefits are overwhelming.
To that effect, I have set up a new website called XO For All to represent the interest of those of us supporting open sales of the XO laptop. Everyone's welcomed of course. As more and more users get an XO laptop and the community grows, OLPC needs to know that there is a growing group out there that wants access to this innovative new platform and that everyone will be better for it.