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:
Success for OLPC LC-DC
What is the final tally of Give One Get One? 162,000, for $35 million.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:
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.
- 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
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.
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.