What About One Laptop Per New Orleans Child?


The savior of Lower Ninth Ward?

Down in New Orleans, Ashley Morris is waging a one-man campaign to bring One Laptop Per Child to the Big Easy. In his One laptop per Child; except in New Orleans post he puts forth four very simple reasons why his city should be the lone developed world exception to the OLPC laptop distribution plan:

1. The school system is devastated. We have little if any computing infrastructure
2. We have a free local wireless network, courtesy of earthlink
3. The people eligible for this were decimated by the failure of the federal floodwalls, and could use the help
4. It would be a big PR event for the organization
And he followed up his online hope with emails to OLPC and posts on the OLPC Wiki.

As you can see by the response to his Wiki plea, he was not well received. In fact, he was rebuffed with this correct, if curt reply:

The OLPC project offers the laptop to any country, although emphasis is put on underdeveloped countries, willing to participate. But it's up to them to decide, not the OLPC.
Regardless of the apparent need in the Lower Ninth Ward, if Ashley, or anyone else, wants to see One Laptop Per New Orleans Child, they will need to have the New Orleans School District or the State of Louisiana ask OLPC for Children's Machine XO's directly. And then be prepared for the 1 million unit initial purchase lot, both logistically and financially.

OLPC is not giving out its laptops willy-nilly, in fact, it's not giving anything to anyone. Developing world countries will have to buy laptops from Quanta, either thought tax revenue, borrowing, or more creative arrangements. There is no free lunch Ashley, and even these cheap laptops may not be all that cheap.

So rather than a OLPC Wiki post, if you want to see OLPC in the Lower Ninth, you'll need to organize a formal demand request, one with buy-in from the local or state government and hopefully schools too. You may even want to look up OLPC4USA for help. You'll need all the help you can get.

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I laud the effort to provide the children of New Orleans w/ OLPC. That said, you have to do more than just ask for the laptops. OLPC is not the Tooth Fairy. They have 29 million in funding, not 29 Billion.

Judging from her Blog, her efforts to date total 3 e-mails to the OLPC staff and posted text on Talk pages of the OLPC wiki. OLPC works w/ governments because governments administer educational systems. If Ms. Morris gets the New Orleans/Louisiana educational establishment on her side, I think OLPC will be happy to work w/ her.

OLPC? Are you mad? Bill will send them free Vistas ;))).

I applaud any effort to educate children. Having said that, I am sick and tired of all the money NOT being spent on children in the UNITED STATES! I SERIOUSLY DOUBT the true value of our country's current "No Child Left Behind" program in public schools.

I know within the two different school systems my son has attended, "loop holes" were found within the federal guidelines. The schools are NOT alone; and, manage to turn in IMPRESSIVE test scores from their charges BECAUSE of "editing". Children who fail to perform well in schools are "weeded out" and NOT tested under the current required system... Good test scores translate directly into good federal funding.

The bottom line is United States American children ARE being LEFT BEHIND in the scramble for better educated kids. GREAT American teachers have had THEIR creative, inspirational hands tied and poor teachers are STILL getting a "free ride". Any child can pass any test when they STUDY THE ANSWERS for a week prior to their testing...


Get your selfless humanitarian heart's priorities straight. PLEASE! And please don't forget the children of the MISSISSIPPI Gulf Coast. We still have 30,000 families without permanent housing down here... AND, we even have children in Mississippi who ARE being left behind and/or falling through the holes!!!

This makes a lot of sense. Think of New Orleans, even before Katrina. It had little manufacturing, high unemployment, the economy was based to a great extent on natural resources -- the Missisippi river, the Gulf, oil, shell fish. There was a casual attitude, lots of partying, lots of poor people, lots of crime, lots of political corruption, lots of music, voodoo, and a great love of music.

Now what does that sound like? The answer is: a city in the developing world. And of course that is what olpc is designed for.

I came across the OLPC program just very recently, and have to say, it struck a chord with me. I lived for 3 years in a very primitive location in a west African country, surrounded by poverty, superstition and disease to which there is no comparison in the civilized world (including, dare I say, in New Orleans).
It seems to me that every time someone feels compelled to start an initiative to raise the standard of living of these doomed societies, there is always the self-righteous cry of "why the hell are we spending all this money on others; we're not spending enough on ourselves?!" It's tragic that there is poverty anywhere, but to take the position that "poverty and need in such a rich country as our is particularly tragic" is incomprehensible. As if the fact that we are a rich nation entitles us to an absence of suffering before we help others. Shame on us.
Well done, OLPC; keep it up. I wish I could help.

Phil, you're right that New Orleans is not remotely as poor as a really developing world city.

New Orleans is a city with a developing-world character that happens to be located in an advanced industrial nation. That means it is considerably different from the typical American city, but vastly richer than a typical devloping world city.

Um ashley morris is a dude

Woops! I'll correct the post now...

Hello, and thanks for the publicity.

In case nobody was aware, I am a university professor in a computer science department. I have done much more than just the 3 emails I wrote about in my blog.

After working on this for a while, I think that 1) OLPC could not care less about New Orleans, and has no intention of helping New Orleans no matter what I or anyone else do; and 2) OLPC is the wrong solution to not only the New Orleans problem, but may other problems.

For countries (such as those mentioned by the commenters above) in Africa, the money could be much better spent on books and libraries.

As for New Orleans, well, I believe that the only thing more enormous than the cosmos is either the US Army Corps of Engineers' incompetence or Negroponte's ego. More on this later.

At this point, I am preparing a grant proposal which will address NOT ONLY the hardware, but also the things that most OLPC participants appear to overlook: training and upgrades.

My last 3 grants were funded by the American Society for Engineering Education, NATO, and the National Academy of Science. I believe that such a proposal tailored for New Orleans will be funded, and will be successful.

However at this point, I think that removing OLPC from the equation will result in not only a better proposal, but a better solution for New Orleans.

I laud Mr Morris for efforts to help repair the problems of the New Orleans Public School System in a manner that he has expertise. I am troubled by the response in defense of OLPC to ignore his request for helping the childern of the crecent city with the following psycho-babble:

"The OLPC project offers the laptop to any country, although emphasis is put on underdeveloped countries, willing to participate. But it's up to them to decide, not the OLPC.

Regardless of the apparent need in the Lower Ninth Ward, if Ashley, or anyone else, wants to see One Laptop Per New Orleans Child, they will need to have the New Orleans School District or the State of Louisiana ask OLPC for Children's Machine XO's directly. And then be prepared for the 1 million unit initial purchase lot, both logistically and financially."

When did the NOPSS become a country? Or the state of Louisiana for that matter?

I don't think anyone is asking for a handout here. We are a proud people and are very fond of our home and it's culture regardless of how outsiders may percieve us. When the United States government sent its spies here in 1800 they were shocked at the awful things going on here like whites and blacks enjoying life together both slaves and free men of color. The horror!

It really does not matter how we may fall on the industrialized scale. What matters is that we are trying to demonstrate a need for technology that is soon to be available. If that is not recognized by OLPC that is their fault and not the fault of Mr. Ashley Morris.

Further why should abitary requirements be presented aganist a potential customer of OLPC that far exceede their needs. New Olreans currently has three seperate public school systems, and only 23,000 students among them. There are not even 1 million students in Louisiana at the present time.

I recognize the need of OLPC to make a profit to continue its work, but any good vendor knows how economy of scale works. We understand that we may have to pay a higher rate for a lesser number of units. But this is far better than having no units at all.

Shame on you OLPC!

It's ridiculous to blame OLPC for any wrong doing in this situation.
They are a non-profit organisation with (at last count) a dozen staff and 20 million in donated money. Their mandate was to design a laptop for children. They have done an excellent job of targetting the problems and designing a great learning tool.
The manufacturer of the laptop is a multi-billion dollar per year company tasked with producing the design. For their system to work they have to produce millions of these for paying customers. There is no free ride.
Now, focus on the poor job the US Government is doing.
Education standards in the US are only good for those that can afford to pay. In fact its criminal that the worst education is provided to those that really need it. K-6 students seem to miss out as many others have attested to in other posts.
Perhaps parents wrath should be used when voting time comes along. There's a great target for outrage. Not the OLPC.

Let's assume that voters and lobbyist do their job and the US Government decides to roll out XO's to the entire public school system. Do you honestly think a fair amount will be delivered to the children of the lower ninth?

Why do we have to purchase a million units? Why can't OLPC sell directly to the Orleans Parish School Board?

It seems to me OLPC should be OMLPG, One Million Laptops per Govenment. my $0.02.