One Laptop Promise Per Mongolia Child

   
   
   
   
   

In the midst of OLPC production delays, we now seem to have the first Give Many participant, and he's a character.


OLPC donor John L. Thornton

John L. Thornton, Professor and Director of Global Leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing and former President and former Co-COO of Goldman Sachs, so he is able to donate XO's and he knows how to execute a successful implementation.

He is also an Intel director and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Board, which makes his One Laptop Per Child connection all that more interesting:

President Nambaryn Enkhbayar of Mongolia announced today his commitment to provide every child in his nation with a connected laptop by the end of 2010.

As a first step toward making this a reality Professor Nicholas Negroponte, and Mr. Nyamaa Enkhbold, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, agreed to launch the OLPC initiative in Mongolia as early as January 2008 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) thereof in the presence of President Enkhbayar. In January, Mongolia and OLPC plan to launch a pilot project providing 20,000 units of the acclaimed XO laptops,

The realization of this project in Mongolia comes through the ongoing support of Mr. John L. Thornton, and builds upon the work of two MIT students, Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin and Jan Jungclaus, who spent the summer of 2007 in Mongolia promoting the concept and spreading the word.

Now why would a Intel director support XO donations to Mongolia? And how much should we believe the government angle in this press release? If we look back, didn't Libya also sign a MOU with OLPC? And what have we heard from them since? Only this reflection on it during the OLPC analyst meeting:

Promises empty as Mongolia?
Negroponte: Libya, interestingly enough, is entertaining giving its neighbor 125,000.

Interviewer: They ordered a million, didn't they? That was put out in the press release.

Negroponte: That was put out in the press release, but again press releases are worth… when the time comes, that is in August, we'll do a smaller amount in Libya.

So is that what we have to look forward to with Mongolia's government? An initial order of 20,000 XO laptops, or $4 million dollars, announced with a big bang and then followed up with…?

You know I am starting to tire of hearing about One Laptop Per Child of Country X that starts with Nicholas Negroponte shaking hands with a President. Didn't he learn his lesson about their promises already: Presidents loving laptops doesn't equal Ministers buying XO's.

Doesn't John L. Thornton know that the best OLPC Mongolia implementation plan would start local. With school districts - parents, teachers, even school administrators - who are involved from the very beginning? Not showboating Presidents and Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

I would've expected more from a successful professional familiar with the developing world. I would have expected an OLPC Oceania approach at the very least.

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5 Comments

Yeah, it will definitely be very interesting to see how that all works out in Mongolia...

And thanks again for linking to my Flickr album via my Gobi photo! :-)

I want to buy G1G1. Will my child be able to email the child receiving the free one overseas? I want my child to learn about giving and receiving?

I am an educator of twenty four years in my home town in Ohio. I teach children that do not have coats to wear to school in the winter or food on their table at night and am wondering why a fellow educator, in my own country, has chosen to enrich the lives of children of other countries instead of working with the school districts and poor families of his own country first. I am outraged and ashamed to call this gentleman a keeper of children's dreams and futures. Mr. Negroponte, could you please respond, personally, or come to my school district to see how our prescious children struggle to understand the world without enough laptops or computers in their school system let alone the lack thereof in their own home?

Candace,

It's a common misperception that OLPC is paying for the laptops. The way the program works the government buys the laptops and directs them to the school system. Your question should be directed to your local, state and federal education officials to ask them to purchase laptops for your students.

"Doesn't John L. Thornton know that the best OLPC Mongolia implementation plan would start local. With school districts - parents, teachers, even school administrators - who are involved from the very beginning? Not showboating Presidents and Ministers of Foreign Affairs."

Well, yes and no. Mongolia is one of those countries that is very centrally, top-down oriented. So, often projects make as much sense if the Ministers get on board first as if parents started a charge. The bigger concern is probably going to be the fact that the country is heading into national elections this summer.

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