From the very beginning, Nicholas Negroponte has put forth the idea that developing world governments would buy the Children's Machine XO. That the OLPC $208 or $972 dollar laptops could somehow fit into national budgets when multiplied out to millions students.
Our number crunching of the education budget for Argentina and the whole national budget of Nigeria, two of the richer OLPC target countries disproves that notion quite easily - a one laptop per child computer purchase would bankrupt most of the populous developing world countries.
So we figured that poor countries would look to rich countries like Libya or China to donate OLPC's as a form of international
bribery aid. And it turns out we were right, just with the wrong countries. Silicon.com's Jo Best interviewed Negroponte on his country to country sales plan:
Which countries that you're in negotiations with do you think will lead to orders?Rich countries to help poor countries, eh? Well in the case of Finland and Namibia that would be easy. Namibia's 800,000 children could each have a $208 dollar OLPC laptop and the $166 million dollar cost would be insignificant to Finland's $92 Billion dollar budget. It would represent 44% of Finland's $379 million in foreign aid, starving half of its current aid program recipients of funds.
In central America there are eight countries grouping together in a single block [to purchase laptops]. That is definitely happening. Mexico is happening. We are talking to the Philippines and Pakistan - I'm convinced that's going to happen.
We're also talking to rich countries to help poor countries. Finland is interested in Namibia, UAE is interested in helping Pakistan, and France is looking at countries in Africa.
The United Arab Emirates funding OLPC XO's for Pakistan would be a whole other situation. UAE might be a rich federation of 7 emirates, but 40% of its $35 Billion dollar budget would be consumed by a $13.5 Billion dollar purchase of $208 dollar laptops for Pakistan's 65 million children. Take into account the real cost of the OLPC, $972 dollars per laptop, and the cost balloons to a budget smashing $63 Billion, or almost double U.A.E.'s entire budget.
I wonder if Negroponte mention these numbers to Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mub-arak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Abu Dhabi, UAE when the two met in October?
And I wonder how he suggested UAE and Pakistan should measure the success of their budget breaking investment? Maybe in an increase in test scores? Or how about an increase in literacy or employment? Or maybe how Negroponte answered Jo Best when she asked for his metrics of success:
We'll find out very quickly if it's been a success. The measure is the energy in schools. There's a village in Cambodia [using the laptops]… [where] there are twice as many kids registering. That's a good measure. That kind of measure - that's the best. Parent interest in kids' education is another.Well there you have it. According to Nicholas Negroponte, UAE should spend 40% of its entire national budget on "energy" in schools, student attendance, and parental interest. Globally, we should make a collective $150 Billion dollar educational investment in Negroponte's OLPC implementation miracle.