Was Give One Get One an One Laptop Per Child Success?

   
   
   
   
   

Reading today's press release from OLPC, I was amazed by the success of the G1G1 program:

In total, the campaign raised $35 million and more than 100,000 XO laptops are already in the process of being distributed to children in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda.
But in reading Nicholas Negroponte's interview with Forbes magazine, I didn't hear a sense of accomplishment from Negroponte himself:
xo is god
Success for OLPC LC-DC
What is the final tally of Give One Get One? 162,000, for $35 million.

Is that more than you expected? It is and it isn't. It's stunning to do that. On the other hand it doesn't quite create an economic model which could run the whole thing. If we had done a million units with G1G1 you could then maybe say the $100 laptop becomes a zero dollar laptop. So it didn't do that well in terms of the economic model to go forward.

On my hands I come up with a whole different tally. On the positive, I see a whole nation now seeded with up to 81,000 future OLPC supporters. People who are all fired up to:
  • directly contribute to building out the Sugar software
  • develop a whole range of additional educational activities
  • make multiple peripherals and accessories
  • and test all manner of alternative XO uses
These new XO users are populating websites, wikis and forums with their thoughts and enthusiasms, pretty much overwhelming those of us only used to a small cadre of geeks interested in low-cost computing. And I'm glad they've joined the OLPC community, their voice is new and refreshing and they're quickly adding a depth to the conversation that was missing when it was just techies arguing Python vs. Smalltalk.

On the negative side, G1G1 exposed a major distribution and support issue within OLPC. XO laptops are still slowly arriving across the USA, even for Day 1 Donors, with Canada still on hold till at least February 15th.

Granted, shipping thousands of laptops to thousands of addresses is a major logistical difference from shipping thousands of laptops to one location, but the sanfus don't make OLPC's official distributor, Brightstar, seem all so bright. Nor does advertising for a logistics manager after the fact.

broken xo
Woops! Did I just break it?

Next, OLPC was not prepared for the wave of support calls and requests that came in when those used to Windows or Mac were confronted with the need to hack Linux at the command line. The OLPC Wiki, expansive as it is, was way too dense for G1G1 donors and the first users received a too curt "go explore & learn" response to many questions.

To give OLPC credit, they responded quite fast with a volunteer support service and ticket tracking system that now effectively holds the hands of those who need it. They've also been quick to take back defective laptops through RMA's to Brightstar.

Still, when looking at both my hands, I don't share Negroponte's pessimism about the G1G1 economic model. While his financial numbers work out to $216 per laptop, OLPC is about more than laptop sales.

OLPC is about change. I am confident that the G1G1 donors will become a major force of change for OLPC. They have the passion, the connection, and most importantly the symbol of OLPC in their hands and in their hearts.

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27 Comments

I agree with Wayan. Mr. Negroponte's comments are not that encouraging. Imagine more than 150,000 laptops to be tested in the US/Canada and an equal number of enthusiasts developing tools that could be used with the XO machine. This is only going to strengthen the OLPC's cause. The g1g1 backers didn't have to donate to OLPC (there are ways to donate 220 bucks for other good causes) but they did and all, least Mr. Negroponte, should acknowledge and appreciate that.

I think we should hold off calling the scheme a success or not until the dust settles a few months down the line.

I have to say that my experience has been soured somewhat by my unit breaking with the sticky key problem, which appeared suddenly after a couple of weeks trouble free use. I would like to stress that my unit has been absolutely babied and not even left the house yet, let alone been thrust into the environs it is supposedly designed for. Given the probable manufacturing-related nature of the fault i am very pessimistic as to how many of the other units shipped will also be affected with the same problem over the next couple of months. To put it another way, if it happens to you and you are outside the 30 day window (only a week away for some) then how will you feel then? Will holding on the support line for 90 minutes, as i did today, just to be told that you cannot be helped seem like a satisfactory resolution? Will G1G1 still be a success then?

I truly hope that the cases reported about sticky keys thus far are exceptions and that everyone gets many years use out of their devices (which are absolutely fantastic, i have to say, fault aside i really love the little thing) but until the dust has settled it is a bit premature to call it either way.

In total, the campaign raised $35 million and more than 100,000 XO laptops are already in the process of being distributed to children in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda.

Looking forward the press coverage of this. I hope they can get to your forum for help.

I think that the biggest problem with G1G1 is that is over. There are 100,000 of these beautiful lime green machines in the hands of fanboys, like myself, who will tell anyone who will listen about the mission of OLPC.

What do interested people do now to get their hands on an XO? eBay? Get together 100 people to buy in? Not likely.

To make this a true success, OLPC should keep G1G1 going infintely. More XO's will be in the hands of excited first world citizens, more XOs will go to third world children, and more people will become interested.

Go G1G1!!!

Negroponte is right at the point that this is not a working economic model for producing and distributing XOs. (Meaning: developed world sales finance 0$ laptops for the developing world). The initial 150K/2month performance would be quickly degrade to way lower sales.

I also find the $400 price limiting, a continuous G0.25G1 program with a little bit "consumerized" XO would be very successful.

Just make a 200$(plus shipping)laptop!

Every parent in the developed world would buy one for their children.

Make it mass produced, so they could produce the 100$ laptop, hold the 200$ price and give the benefit to third world.

150.000 people that gives 200$ to others is a huge accomplishment. But people first care about their own children(400$ is a lot of money for something that is not proven yet to work).

It would be nice if i have not been waiting for it to come for the last 56 days....and counting...

"It would be nice if i have not been waiting for it to come for the last 56 days....and counting..."

Reading all the "complications" with the G1G1 program, I think that the OLPC might not have been so wrong to try to sell in 1M lots. Maybe they were fearing some of these problems.

Winter

@ Jose & Andras,
I couldn't agree more. OLPC should continue G1G1 as G.25G1 on an international scale. Let parents, not government, be the XO decision makers - they're faster and richer than governments: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/countries/indonesia_laptop_payment_plan.html

@ Winter,
I am confident that the logistics nightmare that Dan is living is a huge reason OLPC didn't want to G1G1 in the first place. That said, once they committed to the idea, they had time & resources to do it right. Sadly, them seemed to want ot make it a mess just to get out of doing it again.

In a way, the logistical and support problems of G1G1 will (hopefully?) be a long-term benefit to the project. Having the fact that the laptop does not automagically inspire creative self-learning in 100% of the cases, and that there are some confusing bugs that require Deep Linux Magic, and that physical distribution is a Hard Problem all sound familiar. They're are all issues that OLPCNews has pointed out as severely lacking in OLPC's nebulous implementation plan. I hope that the OLPC Foundation will learn from their mistakes (not that they have before), as they move from G1G1 geek early adopters, just about the friendliest, most forgiving, and technically competent crowd around; to government buyers who expect the hype to be real and expect things that they've paid big bucks for to show up on time (or at least on a schedule) with support materials and staff.

"Sadly, them seemed to want ot make it a mess just to get out of doing it again."

Don't attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence.

Winter

Winter,

I feel they didn't try their best to make G1G1 distribution work, maybe partly because they didn't want to do it in the first place. That's not malice, we agree, but I don't think it incompetence - OLPC is amazing when they really try.

I think 150,000 new developers/contributors is a bit optimistic. And by 'a bit' I actually mean 'a lot'. It seems to me that while a lot of people are excited about OLPC, the majority of G1G1 donors didn't know what to expect (and many of them still don't). Consider the number of people who have been disappointed with their XO or those who purchased them exclusively for their child's use (since that was how OLPC chose to market it). I think it would be more realistic to say that, at best, 50,000 of those will be contributors/developers. Even that is probably aiming high. Not trying to be pessimistic, but lets try to be realistic (because we have to compensate for OLPC's lack of being realistic).

I would like to see at the end of each month, last 5 days, G1G1 program going forward in 2008, to gets more people to see and SELL OLPC mission... That is what is important, even if OLPC get only 10 new developers per period that is a success. I just showed my Brother-in-law an MIT grad., it and he wanted one. Showed my sister a retired school teacher and she loved it. Then I could purchase two more for my twin son's to have and become again Sellers of OLPC mission. And two more children somewhere get XO's.

jdebay

"I think it would be more realistic to say that, at best, 50,000 of those will be contributors/developers. Even that is probably aiming high."

Even if you go with a far more pessimistic number of 500 contributors, that is a heck of a lot of manpower and some of those people are going to be more devoted than any employee ever could be.

All,

I see there might be a miscount of laptops vs. G1G1 donors. There are a total of 162,000 laptops, which denotes a maximum of 81,000 G1G1 donors. I would assume there are a bit less, as many people may have just donated $200 and/or donated their second laptop back to OLPC.

I've updated the post to reflect the 81,000 donor max.

"Even if you go with a far more pessimistic number of 500 contributors, that is a heck of a lot of manpower and some of those people are going to be more devoted than any employee ever could be."

More devoted? Possibly. Look at Wayan, he's a great example to us all!

More productive? Maybe not. No offense to Wayan, but he's not a programmer nor an educational-content provider. And it seems like most of the actual development happening by the community is focused toward geeking-out the XO, not making it a more usable platform for children. Doom on the XO is a perfect example. The large developer community argument of open-source works best when the developers and end-users have the same needs (such as in the case of Rockbox). People in general are more motivated to solve their own problems than the problems of other people. Especially when they have little or no understanding of the actual problems facing those people. Programmers in the US aren't generally aware of the specific educational problems facing students in other countries. It's up to the OLPC Foundation to identify the needs of these children and help direct the developers in the community toward producing a solution. Similar to monkeys and Shakesphere, you can't expect 500 or even 150,00 programmers writing code all day non-stop to spontaneously develop a cohesive education solution for kids they've never met in a country they've never visited.

I wouldn't call it a success from my end. I donated on Nov. 14 and still haven't received my unit. I've tried contacting them about this, and haven't heard a thing. And the phone number that appeared on my paypal receipt never picks up. Sketchy.

Ben,

None taken. I've never claimed to be a programmer or an educational-content provider and I couldn't agree more - it is up to the OLPC Foundation to identify the needs of these children and help direct the developers in the community toward producing a solution.

While we wait for them to take the lead, I would suggest we note those groups who are already leading, like OLE Nepal's educator driven development: http://www.olenepal.org/

Why did they think it was better to run an odd keyboard and an odd desktop (sugar) rather then just a cut down Linux distro with XFCE and carefully selected applications?

HUGE EGOS

I know they wanted the 'view source' button to work everywhere, but nobody cares about that button not working when the whole machine does not work!

This may sound harsh, but it is not. The machine crashes 100% of the time when you use accented characters in some fields (like network name) -- crazy for a laptop that was designed for international users that would not get pro tech support.

This is the same crap that killed the Pepperpad series of devices -- they tried to develop a whole desktop and application set with a couple of handfuls of people.

!!! Why, Why, WHY do people keep thinking that it is easy to develop a full working desktop and application suite?

Why couldn't they write an education plan that involved regular education with teachers?

Why has perfect has been the enemy of good, and OLPC lost their 2+ year lead because of it...

Nathan,
I'm sure someone will explain to you how Sugar is designed for kids with no computer experience. I've wondered why that's important, if they have no frame of reference a common Linux interface would be as good as any.

They didn't write an education plan because they don't believe in 'regular education and teachers'.

They put in the 'view source' button because they are brilliant programmers and they wish they had than when they were kids.

@Maddie:
They don't believe in regular education, and regular education does not believe in them. That is why the HUGE orders never did arrive.

.

It does not matter how good it could or will be, they are showing it today to (not) get orders. They are selling it today to avoid becoming a footnote in computer history.

Making 'view source' available in most applications is good, but forcing everything to be re-written in Python for Sugar is a lot slower then solving GUI-layout issues on working applications. If the hardware button is hit by accident, kids are confused when their word processing document is suddenly replaced with a bunch of code. Why not make it a menu item, below 'About Abi Word' you could have 'View Abi Word Source'?

.

@ all:
This is the OMG bug I was writing about:
http://dev.laptop.org/ticket/5884


The hardware is amazing, the plan is scant & offensive to the educators that make decisions, and the software is not ready...

I think the G1G1 was a success just because I love my laptop!

I wonder if the final tally of Give One Get One is 162,000, for $35 million. in terms of total orders including the ones going in USA/Canada and the ones going to Haiti/Cambodia/Afghanistan.. From another report it seems those third world countries are getting over 100 thousand units themselves. So 165 thousand might be the number of G1G1 orders, which generated 35million dollars in "profit", so the total revenue from G1G1 might be something like 70 million dollars. That is I guess to be precised by Nicholas Negroponte tomorrow. Cause 162 thousand or 81 thousand laptops distributed in the USA and Canada is kind of a difference. How many % of these G1G1 laptops have reached already the different regions would be interested to know.

The hardware on this thing is great (although not as great as originally promised). It gets a steady 4-5hrs, awesome screen, cool wifi, tablet mode, ect.

The problem is the software. No offense to OLPC devs and such, but the entire software stack is slow, painful, and completly not ready. This machine feels like a first beta, not a shipping solution.

they said that the special build of Windows runs great on this, and I believe them, because I have old Pentium 1 machines, with only 128ram, running winXP, that run circles around the OLPC in performance.

They should have just shipped the thing with a light linux distro. Something like xubuntu or DSL. As it stands, the machine ships in an almost unusable state, that requires contstant yum-installing of real software to even make usable.

Sugar looks like a good idea on paper, but fails miserably in practice.

(Typing this from a G1G1 OLPC, which I love, but only because it has a terminal with which i can launch Opera and centerim.)

At least the drama between OLPC and Intel has provided a break from the political news. I am still waiting for my G1G1 myself. I am also hoping they will be made available over for school purchase. Kid friendly, durable laptops are needed in our schools as well. It seems to me that they could be marketed over here to make a profit and the profits could be used to support laptops for the developing world.

There was such a small window for purchase, not everyone who wanted one ordered. It will be interesting to see what will happen next.

This drama is more interesting than any Soap Ophra.

How can someone who is interested in G1G1 - or any other solution - get an XO ? I've seen some friends playing with their XOs and I so badly want one :)

A future customer who regret not paying attention last winter

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