Where is OLPCorps? 220+ Entries and No Clue Who Won


April 10 came and went - and no announcement from OLPCorps about the 100 projects selected to pursue that initiative in Africa from June to August of 2009. No announcements, period, for anything, after the project was started with much fanfare and the usual assortment of supporters, among which I like to count myself.

Who should be celebrating?

Looking at the "history" of the Wiki page, started Feb 21st by Paul Commons, there are 770 wiki entries, from dozens of people - a very respectable number, quite consistent with the avowed "grassroots OLPC initiative" profile this project was to have.

Public request for community input was made, and a warm fuzzy feeling came to quite a few of us. Finally, the community would not be just the pockets that OLPC feeds on and told to but not listened. We could actually do things, make things happen! a new era of OLPC-olpc would begin! (yes, that's the way they call us, lower case people...)

But yet, one more time, same old, same old snub

While a "support committee" was invited to form, there is no notion it ever met. Community meetings were scheduled for Sundays at 6 pm - only 2 took place, last one March 8th, and not because there was less interest...

An "official" announcement was drafted, and published in Laptop.org. The position of "Director, OLPCops, Africa" was announced, and with characteristic OLPC humor, it includes a requirement for "a strong disdain for mediocrity". I couldn't find the posting in Laptop.org anymore, but thanks to the internet, it's still many places, like here. Was a Director ever named?

The last entry for OLPCorps Africa Movement is March 25, the same date Paul Commons, one of the original organizers, appears in the OLPC wiki for the last time.

So we assume there are 15 teams selected out of apparently several hundred. The Jamii OLPC & Matemwe School has announced that they are OLPCorps Finalists, and several got a note they were rejected (apparently these did not use enough times the phrase "OLPC core principles" ').

Only choosing 15, when 100 was the goal lets it be assumed funding is running low. Does OLPCorps still have the support of OneHereOneThere's $3.5 million? The other possibility is that there were not enough good proposals - which, considering the process, is hard to deny. The concept itself was a good idea, but the rush to implement had Wayan calling it a "Good Idea Gone Bad".

But there was hope to turn things around, and hope was in the community, especially because the community has, if nothing else, a very, very "strong disdain for mediocrity". But the community has been kept in silence, as we should be used to already. Oh well, Quixotes of all nations, unite!

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Let's see the updates we can find on Twitter:

First, Seth says: "And yes, the OLPCorps winners have been notified."

And then Sharon Peters said: "Bummed & a bit angered by OLPCorps lack of transparency about proposals accepted; they stated up to 100 accepted; only 15 chosen"

Now Cary Lee says: Didn't get olpcorps. Internship at Siemens this summer?

My team was notified April 11 (a day after announcements were promised) that we were among the group of finalists. We were told we would be informed if we were going on April 17. April 17, we waited with bated breath, only to find out the next day (April 18) that they had only chosen 15.

There was no delineation or explanation as to how the finalists were chosen, why there was only 15, or what made our proposal finalist-worthy but not worth giving a grant. I wish I had something more positive to say, but being shut out of the process for a whole day without contact, then OLPC delaying again the second announcement, have left a fairly bad taste in my mouth.

I can copy-paste the list of chosen proposals if people would like.

Yes! Please post the list - we want to bring some light on this process. And the list is a start.

Too bad no UofPA students have been to the OLPC Philly meetings located 5 minutes from their campus!

1. University of Massachusetts, Boston (Soweto, South Africa)
2. University of Pennsylvania (Cameroon)
3. Dalarna University & The Royal Institute Of Technology (Arsi Farmers Coop, Ethiopia)
4. University of Education - Winneba (Ghana)
5. Cornell University (Mauritania)
6. University of Miami (Mauritania)
7. Harvard & MIT (Namibia)
8. University of Lagos, Royal Holloway University of London and University of Salford (Nigeria)
9. Tulane University, University at Buffalo (Sierra Leone)
10. University of Kinshasa (Eddy Mintela, Congo)
11. Colorado College (Uganda)
12. University of Maryland (Sierra Leone)
13. Indiana University (OHOT, South Africa)
14. University of Ibadan (Nigeria)
15. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana)

And here is the full OLPCorps Announcement email from Paul Commons

The lack of transparency and consistent communication from OLPC was (and still is) certainly frustrating.

Jamii OLPC received neither official email (one being the notification that we were finalists, and the second being the announcement of the successful teams), and in both cases had to email OLPCorps directly in order to hear of our status in the competition.

We publicly posted notice that we had made it into the finalist pool as soon as we heard in effort to regain some semblance of transparency to the process, and I'm glad it got picked up by the community.

Unfortunately, it seems that such a trend won't continue, as there is still to my knowledge no official public announcement of the successful teams from OLPC and not much from the teams that made it either. With the requirement that our proposals be posted publicly to the wiki throughout the process in order to facilitate transparency and community feedback, I and my team find this pretty astounding.

Jamii OLPC (along with at least a couple other teams I am aware of) have also specifically requested feedback from OLPC as to why we were unsuccessful, but at this point have heard nothing in return. With all of the work that our teams--and, more importantly, our partner schools--put into preparing these proposals, I think that asking for some constructive criticism from OLPC is more than reasonable a request... but, I suppose we'll just have to wait and see whether they agree.

Sam Burton
Project Coordinator Jamii OLPC

Brian Stuart put the "add to wiki" request (not a requirement), on March 8th. Brian was one of the original initiators of the whole project, together with Paul Commons, and possibly now part of OLPCorps staff, but not part of OLPC directly (just guessing here). In personal communications I have found both of them open and willing to accept partnering with the community, and go the extra step to learn how that works. Their wiki contributions were usually signed.


March 8th was the high point of openness and connection with the community. It was the community's desire for a collaborative project where we could all construct a new reality that got us to ask for the wiki thing to be part of this, and a list, and other such.

Things went back to normal during the following week, but the fact that that line stayed there has made this the one page in the OLPC wiki with the most participation, and most diverse participants, ever.

I would also like to see their proposals. Despite these numerous hiccups, I'm still interested in the prospect of applying next year - should it come back next year. Who knows what the circumstances may be then.

Also, will Laptop.org provide us with frequent updates on the progress of the teams all throughout the summer?


Will OLPCorps be around next year for anyone NOT making it this year?

Who would submit proposals next year only to get 15% accepted of their original 100 accepted that had not already submitted them this year?

Will the motivated potential interns from this year still believe their promises next year?

OLPC accepted an additional 15 teams last night (bringing the total to 30). I think they simply invited all the previously not accepted finalists. These teams got emails from Paul Commons last night.

Jamii OLPC didn't receive any notification, but I'm not too sure what that means considering our prior communication difficulties... would anyone happen to have a copy of that email?

Sam Burton
Jamii OLPC Project Coordinator

I can say that I emailed Paul Commons a few times specifically asking how much was actually budgeted for the AfricaCorps project. (Up to 100 projects at up to $10,000 each - should have been $1 million, right?)
He never responded to my questions, so I emailed Negroponte and his assistant for the AfricaCorps project with the same question and I never received an answer from anyone. Can someone tell me definitively how many projects were funded? Thanks