What is the Point of OLPC's Give One Get One?

   
   
   
   
   

It's now been several years since the OLPC program was revealed to the public with a flourish of publicity worthy of P.T. Barnum and, as it's turning out, with about as much substance.

The educational miracle that was implied has yet to reveal itself or even to reveal its nature. The sales figures that were initially bandied about are nowhere near being achieved and don't look like they ever will be suggesting either unrealistic optimism or willful misrepresentation.

I am Allen Majorovic, and I am thankful that the extraordinary arrogance and vulgarity of the initial sales campaign has subsided into silence although some of the pronouncements made about the way in which the sale of OLPCs would be conducted revealed a disregard for the political realities that was simply breathtaking.


Nicholas Negroponte of OLPC

Certainly Dr. Negroponte's response to the question of nations that wouldn't purchase OLPCs on his terms. i.e. "screw you, go to the back of the line", wasn't directed at either the heads of governments or the heads of the education ministries which makes it worth considering who the comment was directed toward.

Not to say that there's nothing to show for the substantial efforts of some very smart, very energetic people. Just that there's nothing to show in terms of the vast promises made about the effect of the OLPC on the human condition. The educational miracle, which was the reason for the entire exercise, is not only nowhere in evidence, it's still undefined.

All of which has what to do with the G1G1 program?

Not a damned thing other then to make me wonder what, if the education miracle hasn't seen fit to reveal itself, what is/was the point of the G1G1 program?

While proponents will say it's a way to get XOs in the hands of the kids for whom it was designed, that was going to be the job of the education ministries. Since sales to countries have been a fraction of what was projected and, presumably, what's needed to keep the assembly lines running, the G1G1 program is life-support for the OLPC against the hoped-for day when somehow, it'll start to fulfill the promises made on its behalf, the prospects of the computer showing up via conventional retail channels seemingly nonexistent.


A quiver of G1G1 XO's please

But that's what the G1G1 program is to the OLPC organization. What's it to the people who are willing to lay out $400(US) to buy two computers of which they get one?

Obviously it's an expression of generosity in that people wealthy enough to buy two computers are willing to see one of them sent off to, hopefully make the world a slightly better place. But it would seem that if you wanted to be generous you'd find some charity and simply write them a check.

The feeling then must be that the XO in the hands of a poor child will do more to improve their circumstances then the equivalent in food, clothing or other forms of aid. The XO then is the proverbial act of teaching someone to fish rather then simply handing them a fish.

That, I believe, accounts for a significant percentage of the purchases via the G1G1 program and the problem inherent in that approach is that with time the assumptions about the value of the OLPC, absent substantive demonstrations of that value, will wane.

Prospective purchasers will want to know that the OLPC is really getting the job done since the earlier participants, the people who have simply decided that the OLPC will work an educational miracle, have already made their purchases. What's the evidence that will impress those new customers enough to make G1G1 purchases?

Allen Majorovic is a computer programmer with a long-term, borderline obsessive interest in the public education system and the use of computers in education, who is trying to understand why neither works or works as well as it should.

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The way I understand it, the G1G1 program was designed to generate sales at a moment when the project's viability was in question (due to the lack of orders).

Nicholas Negroponte's grave error was in assuming that countries would blindly take his (very often false) word.

Try to read up a little on what OLPC is doing before posting such drivel. Boo-hoo, no one has knocked on my door to prove that the world is being changed.

See http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/community-news/

See also http://www.flickr.com/photos/olpc/sets for photographic evidence of kids whose world has been changed by G1G1 donations.

OLPC News editors must be getting desperate for content to publish a lame, ignorant and poorly-researched post like this.

I'm sorry, did OLPCnews.com suddenly become "rants, raves, and unsupported assertions?" This sort of idiocy has no place on what is essentially THE place to go to find out news about the project - things going on, deployments, advancements, and other things of interest to the public.

What exactly is the point of this 'article'? It does nothing but throw out incomplete assertions, poorly thought out statements, all with a heavy coating of anger and bile.

I put it to to you, Allen, that instead of ranting like some 13 year old on a webforum somewhere, you take some of your energies and direct them at answering the questions you're putting forth, rather than mudslinging.

Your article does nothing to further the concept of open communication, exchanges of ideas, and intellectual discourse. All it does it serve to give a voice to your bitterness and, frankly, cluelessness.

I do not reserve my dissatisfaction only for Allen. The OLPCnews editors have absolutely no place to publish this ranting idiocy.

I point directly to the 'about' section of your website:

We at OLPC News do our best to celebrate what is going right, question what is going wrong, and suggest what could be done better.

Where, exactly, does Mr. Majorovic's posting fall into this ideal? If it's under the 'question what is going wrong', I'm all for that, but this post does nothing to question, it accuses and falsifies, but does not question.

I'm disappointed in the OLPCnews editorial team for taking such a powerful forum as this site, and allowing it to be dragged down to this level.

For shame, OLPCnews.

>> But it would seem that if you wanted to be generous you'd find some charity and simply write them a check.

Hmmm, The Red Cross, Unicef, and countless other charities that help developing countries have existed long before OLPC. No doubt the world would be much worse off without them, but at best, their war on poverty, ignorance, and violence is a stalemate.

OLPC may or may not tip the balance, but the important thing is to try something different. The program is only a year old, so like the children it helps, it needs time and attention to grow.

>> The educational miracle that was implied has yet to reveal itself or even to reveal its nature.

Long-term change usually only reveals itself in the, er, long-term.

Amporphous, hard-to-measure concepts like "betterment" "education" etc. are also difficult (if not impossible) to legitimately quantify.

>> The feeling then must be that the XO in the hands of a poor child will do more to improve their circumstances then the equivalent in food, clothing or other forms of aid. The XO then is the proverbial act of teaching someone to fish rather then simply handing them a fish.

the "Feeling" must be? G1G1 Participants are participating out of vague, ill-defined feelings? Sounds like this is coming from somebody who _does_ view the third-world as a permanent backwater, unworthy of serious development, unworthy of education or modern technology, and should instead be trained to permanently rely on the Wise Handouts of Those Better Off (who, presumably, are giving for mathematical reasons, not something as suspicious as "feelings").

>> What's the evidence that will impress those new customers enough to make G1G1 purchases?

That handouts are nothing new. That giving a person a fish is nice, if you like giving out fish every day and creating a culture of dependency.

----

Mr. Majorovic's description says that he has an "interest in the public education system and the use of computers in education." But from the article above, his doesn't seem to like them very much in that setting.

Computers are a tool -- just like chalk and books. They are no better nor worse. But sometimes they can be far more flexible.

I shudder to think of societies denied educational chalk because there are no studies to support its long-term benefits. Instead, give them fish while we think about it....

@OtherMichael:
"I shudder to think of societies denied educational chalk because there are no studies to support its long-term benefits. Instead, give them fish while we think about it...."

Even worse!

When have books been proven to improve education?

To think that we have used books in schools for more than a century, while there is still no evidence they improve the quality of education!

What a waste! How much chalk could have been bought for this money.

Winter

Allen has some good points. OLPC has marketing problems and refuses to admit it or do anything about it. It is the best laptop available for children and school. They should sell it to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I tried to buy a few dozen for several people to take to several foreign countries for schools but they would only sell them to us unless we paid for several dozen to be given to another country. US$189 buys a nice laptop from another company.

ken says "US$189 buys a nice laptop from another company. "

Really? Where?

"I tried to buy a few dozen for several people to take to several foreign countries for schools but they would only sell them to us unless we paid for several dozen to be given to another country."

Hmmm, yes, those pesky terms and conditions, damn those poor children ruining it for you. If only OLPC a company (without a profit motive), you're needs would be paramount in their priority list.

anon says to ken "damn those poor children ruining it for you."

Poor children had nothing to do with OLPCs decision not to sell the computer to people like Ken. Why the excessive need for control, OLPC? Why shouldn't I, or Ken, decide where both computers go?

Majorovic's sour rant also seems to want someone other than the donor to determine where the help goes: "But it would seem that if you wanted to be generous you'd find some charity and simply write them a check" he says.

Why indeed! Why shouldn't I, not a rich person, be able to put my meager resources to work where my body and soul are already at work, in Nicaragua, where there doesn't seem to be any "charity" distributing laptops to poor children.
-LC

Lilly says "Poor children had nothing to do with OLPCs decision not to sell the computer to people like Ken. Why the excessive need for control, OLPC? Why shouldn't I, or Ken, decide where both computers go?"

Lilly, you obviously know nothing about what you are saying here, study up section 501c(3) of the taxcode. You and Ken both totally miss the point that G1G1 is not "selling" laptops to anyone. G1G1 is offering a totally incredible premium (an XO laptop) in return for a donation that will put an XO laptop in the hands of a child in one of the poorest countries in the world. OLPC is a charitable organization, not a laptop company. Would you donate to Heifer International and ask them why they didn't deliver a cow to you? Would you donate to Habitat for Humanity and ask them to come and build you a garage?

Lilly says "Why shouldn't I, not a rich person, be able to put my meager resources to work where my body and soul are already at work, in Nicaragua, where there doesn't seem to be any "charity" distributing laptops to poor children."

You are certainly free to make that choice with your own resources, but again, your ignorance is showing, you are quite wrong about there being no charity distributing laptops to poor children in Nicaragua.

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Nicaragua

"In late 2008, Telmex donated 3000 laptops to Nicaragua. The government has asked Waveplace to help them with training 400 teachers."

While someone else (Telmex) is paying for those laptops, every child that gets one will get the benefit of the work of OLPC employees and volunteers. Donating to OLPC would be one way of showing support for that effort, but it is not required, just don't complain that they act like a charity and not a business.

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