WinPro and Orphans Gain - OLPC India Loses XO Believer

   
   
   
   
   

Back in June of this year, René Seifert, entrepreneur and global citizen, had a vision to create OLPC for Vatsalya Girls Orphanage in Bangalore, India. As an internet-entrepreneur and sublime nerd who spends a big chunk of the day in front of the computer, he felt that bringing children from an early age in touch with technology as part of their fundamental education was an imperative mission.

But his vision turned into a nightmare of dead ends and foolish tangents with OLPC India. His quest for 11 XO laptops ended in failure - OLPC India never delivered the computers.

olpc orphan
That's not XO Sugar smile

So what did René do to keep his dream alive? He skipped OLPC and bought Wipro laptops with Windows XP for the orphans, instead of XO laptops. Here are his results:

Today we solemnly celebrated in the traditional Indian way the inauguration of something new. This novelty felt like two well crafted pieces of a puzzle came together to form a harmonious whole. One the one side, the phenomenal preparation of the Vatsalya team with setting up the room, installing broadband internet connection and putting tables with chairs in place.

From the other side the delivery and installation of the Wipro netbooks. Plug and play. And it just worked. Connected to the internet, connected to view through this window of the word. From Bangalore to anywhere. Therefore, to symbolize these limitless possibilities, I set Wikipedia in English as the home page on each of the 12 browsers.

All the pictures of the inauguration here on my Flickr-set.
This event should upset anyone who believes in OLPC. Here was a committed believer in the power of the XO laptop to change the world, but due to OLPC arrogance or mismanagement (pick one, suggest your own), he had to turn to a commercial netbook - one inspired by OLPC, to gain satisfaction.

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12 Comments

Good big things come from good small things. If an initiative makes it difficult to organize good small things, it is less likely that good big things will arise.

I would suggest that in this case, it was neither mismanagement nor arrogance but a failure in communication.

Worldwide, OLPC can only supply laptops in batches of at least 10,000 laptops. For pilot projects and smaller projects along the lines of what Mr. Seifert was planning to deploy, OLPC India is able to supply laptops in a minimum quantity of 100 laptops.

While in the future it might be feasible to look at batching together much smaller orders, at the moment it is far more strategical to focus effort into getting the big orders placed first. Once the laptops start arriving in volume, it will be trivial to add smaller quantities onto the order.

Sunil,

Read René's post about his process with OLPC India - they promised to batch his order and then disappeared. If there is comms failure, its not with René.

This is clearly absurd. OLPC has been clear that th are not like a retail chain. If Rene does not understand that, he seems too obsessed with himself in his blogs as it seems, too bad. Try asking a car company to sell half a car or ask for one golf ball out of a pack or ask for one chocolate out of a pack of a dozen.. You have to go to the retailer and if they do not retail, buy the packet or forget about it.. You are damning something that you cannot create in a thousand life times (sorry, have not seen your track record in craetivity anywhere just yet and would be glad to see that)..

I have checked and it seems Rene had no patience to wait for an order that would have completed the total to an order size of 100.

When finally asked a couple weeks later, he said that he had decided to buy mini at a higher price instead. That is fine for someone who does not care what children really do like and whether they are treated like dwarfs or growing up to become adults.

Going by what I have seen, while children can start liking any toy, the difference between the joy of using an OLPC XO and a mini is about as much being on a swing versus a chair.

If Rene can think of buying a mini laptop, he is clearly not into thinking about children or education because of his ego, he is clearly into a different segment. But its terrible that he loves himself so much that he is willing to trash something he cannot even understand the meaning of, for something that OLPC does not do. He was explained that OLPC will have to go out of its way to make it happen and will take time. But he seems to be too lost in portraying his pictures and carrying on a white man's burden and trashing organizations that were going out of their way to respond to his request.

Just very briefly as I truly don't intend to waste any more time on this debate, especially as we have moved ahead very well with our own project:

http://www.reneseifert.com/2009/10/inauguration_wipro_netbooks_for_vatsalya_-_connected.html

What started as a conceptual disagreement between OLPC and "my project" has now morphed to personal attacks against me on the lowest possible level - as the last comment by "Ravi" (whoever this might be) displays. One of the oldest classics in rhetoric: Once you run out of arguments in the subject, you start attacking the person. I am long enough in business and media to be completely unimpressed by them.

Furthermore, I believe that anybody with brain and decency will come to the conclusion that these obviously orchestrated comments by "Sunil Shah", "Adhikari" and "Ravi" reveal more about the kind of people than about the content of their statements.

It might also prove that by investing so much energetic passion into continuously bashing my person instead of fixing obvious organizational shortcomings, my analysis of the structural defects might after all not have been that wrong :-)

Its unfortunate that you started bashing an organization that openly says that they do not have the capacity to deal with small NGOs.

Just go and call the Cambridge number and you will hear that they do not have the capacity to deal with small NGOs. Period.

You pursued. You were given the facts. You wrote you found Mr Jha's conversation talking down to you because you do not want to accept that you are a small NGO.

The flaw is not in OLPC that has created something that changed the industry. The flaw is in expecting what it does not want you to expect.

If you start bashing our organization, you will have to at least listen to the response.

Why is it when I write its "orchestration" ad when you, who cannot distinguish between an XO and a mini, bash and defame, that is supposed to be polite and civil?

You need a mirror, Rene and clearly your language does not behove someone who wants to be known as a saint while throwing stones.

I resent the implication that my comment was orchestrated. I was merely stating the facts, whether you accept them or not is up to you.

Whilst I admire you for your work equipping children with technology, this sort of attack on a personal level is highly counter productive.

Okay smartypants - all bogus emails will be summarily deleted.

Its unfortunate that Rene chose a public forum to vent his grievances when we were trying to help him by going out of our way just because we thought he was genuine.

It seems that his picture towering over the skies by the side of a temple is a significant statement. He seems to want to play god.

I am disappointed that Wayan chose to support that by publishing the blog on this forum without checking it out with OLPC India. If Wayan is genuinely pro OLPC, he needs to find ways to promote it within the framework of OLPC policies.

As a moderator taking sides may not be the best of practices afterall.

Please facilitate. Do not tilt.

You are kidding, right? Like there are any OLPC policies or, if there were, an independent site should follow them.

"Wayan... needs to find ways to promote [OLPC] within the framework of OLPC policies.

Some policies are clear:

e.g: they do not want to ship in small quantities. why should anyone grudge that?

since you are an olpc supporter, you clearly may not want to deflect people, who normally find it tough to make any choices, to look away from exploring olpc and its potential.

it seems that you may be ever ready to promote olpc detractors.

rene seifert's observations were disappointing considering he himself noted that he was advised that olpc does not ship below a certain quantity. then where was the issue?

the issue seems that while rene wanted it, and could not get it, so he must trash olpc.

anyone with any "brain and decency" can see that rene crossed the line. pity that you fell in the trap. and months later chose to broadcast it without ever trying to find out with a judgment that seemed hasty to say the least.

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