Now that One Laptop Per Child has started Give One Get One XO sales, its time to revisit the cost of the XO-1 laptop. According to OLPC, its $200 just for the laptop, if you buy at least 10,000. Now that doesn't even come close to the Total Cost of Ownership, which is upwards of $1,000 per laptop when implementation and maintenance costs are added in.
But for argument's sake, let's go back to the base $200 laptop price. And let's take Sumner Lemon's example of Indonesia, one of the world's largest developing countries with a population of 235 million:
Indonesia has around 40 million students and buying all of them a laptop priced at $200 would cost $8 billion, a sum that is 3.3 times larger than the money set aside for Indonesia's mandatory 12-year education program in the government's 2007 budget.Now Indonesia is not alone in facing astronomical laptop costs when looking at a one-to-one distribution model when barely having a budget for current educational expenditures. So how can there be one learning laptop per child in such a populous country?
On this, I suggest that OLPC look to the wisdom of Intel's World Ahead program staff. Leighton Phillips, manager of Intel's World Ahead Program in Asia, introduced a simple, but effective idea to Sumner:
One possible solution is a monthly payment program where parents pay for subsidized laptops in installments over the school year. But families in developing countries are generally poorer than in other countries-- Indonesia's 2006 per-capita GDP was $3,900 compared to $43,800 in the U.S.-- and that calls for creative financing programs to cover the cost of the computers.Or imagine an alternate Give One Get One program. A global G25%G1 if you will, where relatively wealthy buyers of XO-1 laptops in the developed world pay a 25% mark-up on $200 laptops, with that $50 premium going to subsidize an Indonesian family's purchase of an XO on a payment plan.
"There are potential subsidies and there are different ways this is happening; some of it can be government-led, some of it can be corporate-led," Phillips said. With subsidized laptop programs, families could be asked to pay $10 per month in addition to existing tuition fees and receive a computer.
No, it's not a pretty as G1G1, but at the same time it could be significantly more effective. There would be exponentially more buyers of XO laptops and selling them in the developing world too can reduce unintended G1G1 consequences.
If XO's are given out free, there would be a propensity for recipients to waste computers - they expect they can just ask for another if the first one is lost or damaged or they could sell them for quick cash. But with a $10 per month payment plan for a $150 laptop, the XO would have a real value, yet only up to $250, which isn't enough price disparity to cause eBay XO sales to American buyers.
Now that would mean One Laptop Per Child would be expected to come up with a maintenance plan better than Humpty Dumpty on a million unit scale. In addition, there will need to be a cultural integration program for parents who've never seen a computer, much less the Internet.
Last but not least, they are also going to want proof that their child can "learn learning" more effectively with an XO vs. a Classmate, Eee PC, or a similar investment in One Teacher Per School.
My hope: OLPC's punt to the pilots develops all three.