Have a Day of Service Everyday for OLPC


My university is having a "Day of Service" soon. I volunteer every day, so a special Day of Service means little to me. Anybody who wants can volunteer on one of my projects. We need techies, engineers, artists, writers, translators, lawyers, musicians, teachers, entrepreneurs... If you know anything that children should know and their teachers don't, you're our kind of person.

The projects include Digital Learning Materials for every subject at every age, village electricity and Internet, and international microfinance for every available business opportunity opened up by education and an Internet connection. There are opportunities on the ground, online, and in research. Cash contributions are also welcome.

The complete program will cost something like $30 billion a year for a generation (peanuts in a global economy in the tens of trillions), but will attain all of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and considerably more, and increase real GDP by tens of trillions of dollars, with an IRR of better than 20% in some models I just now threw together.

In case you have the ear of a Board or Department of Education in the US, a Ministry of Education elsewhere, a foundation, or an aid agency with anything from a few hundred thousand dollars to a few billion looking for work. My projects, in a word, a bargain.

olpc sugar stick
$5 Sugar on a Stick

You name me a sum of money, and I will tell you of an effective project that it will fund.

  • $5 will pay for one Sugar on a Stick (bootable USB thumb drive with education software) for one child to use on any available computer.
  • XOs cost $189 each in quantity 10,000. The estimated price for XO-2s next year is $75. The cost per classroom, per school, per district, per state or province, per country depends on local numbers, but is easy to estimate. That's $75 billion spread over three or four years to supply every child with an XO.
  • We can write software manuals for $5,000, and drafts of "textbooks" for a higher price, depending on subject matter and curriculum standards.
  • Classroom testing and rewriting for the textbooks will be an ongoing expense.
  • WiMax wireless for broadband Internet costs about $10 per person installed, with at least a 30-year lifetime for much of it, for better than 90% coverage of whole countries. Thus, about $50 billion would do for the entire unconnected world. See also my recent article here at OLPC News on the takeoff of fiber in Africa.
  • We don't have an exact price for renewable electricity, but 10 Watts/child would do for powering XOs, so 10 GW would suffice for a billion children, at less than 10 cents/kWh on average, including a construction cost probably less than $1,000/kWh, to be spread over an operating life of hundreds of thousands of hours, at 8766 hr/year. Operating cost would take up the other 9 cents or so per kWh.
  • Microfinance can be profitable, needing only sufficient seed money and proper organization.

Now, you may well ask, why will my program work when a trillion dollars in foreign aid for Africa have failed so far? That's a long story, with chapters on massive corruption and double-dealing on the part of donor governments, recipient governments, and other actors, empire building, ideologically-based incompetence in all directions, and the determination to make aid profitable for the donor country immediately, regardless of the effects on those supposedly being helped.

Also chapters on real rather than Voodoo/trickle-down economics, and the real history of growth of civil society institutions and government institutions. Not the nonsensical idea that elections alone make a country a democratic republic. Among other things.

And then on the positive side, the Best Practices currently available from organizations such as Grameen, Sarvodaya, and Partners in Health, brought into an integrated program addressing all local development issues at the same time, in the hands of the people, not of government kleptocracies.

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Great post, Edward. I've been following the developing world for half a century, and I agree, development needs to be in the hands of the people, not the govenments.

In a mostly unrelated story, I have a promotional flash drive of the exact same form factor as that pictured. It runs like $*&#. The slowest flash drive I've ever seen.

Edward - in future years you might work with your univ to combine the day of service with National Volunteer Week and Global Youth Service Day (gysd.org)

(Yes, this is shameless self promotion w/r/t gysd, btw)

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