Alternate One Laptop Per Child Financing Options

   
   
   
   
   
Nigeria OLPC
How can Nigeria afford this?
When countries start looking at one laptop per child, be it the OLPC XO, the Classmate PC, or even the Asustek's Eee PC, the cost of just the hardware becomes rather overwhelming, rather quickly.

One Laptop Per Nigerian Child would be 73% of the entire governmental income and One Laptop Per Argentinean Child would be half of the non-salary education budget. Countries like Rwanda or Nepal have no hope to afford even $100 per child out of their own national budgets. And this is all before the additional OLPC products.

So what are the alternate One Laptop Per Child financing options? Bram Ellens, a Business Developer at eBay, asks it the best:

What's the optimal business model to assure a healthy future for the $100 laptop? Selling directly to countries and leaving it to them how to distribute might not prove the most sustainable solution. In the vaccine business in the third world one of the biggest problems is reselling subsidized vaccines to 2nd or first world countries. Why not think of business models as innovative as the laptop itself? I think a great product like this deserves it.

Why not leveraging micro credits to make it affordable to families to buy it themselves in stead of giving it away? Or monetize the cult status the machine now already has in western countries?

We have all heard of the oft-stated idea of one-for-two purchases for OLPC XO - where "rich" people buy one laptop at double price so a child in a poor country gets one for free. While it's a great idea, Nicholas Negroponte is quick to point out that this idea will not be executed by One Laptop Per Child:
When that happens, let me say, 8-12 months from now, it will be somebody else not us. The reason we don't do it and the reason that isn't the economic model from the onset is that it is too incremental. And if we start doing anything commercial, then the clarity of purpose goes away.
olpc nasdaq investors
Tracking shares on Nasdaq?
So how might there be a way for countries to afford passing out $100, $130, $140, $150, $176 dollar computers?

Before you knee jerk with "donors" do note that OLPC expects countries to spend $30 Billion per year. The World Bank only lent $23 Billion in 2005 and it's the premier multilateral financier, the United Way, America's largest NGO according to Forbes, had a $3.8 Billion budget in 2005, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, America's richest endowment, only has 31.9 Billion in total assets in 2006, including the first installment of Warren Buffet's gift.

With these large numbers and even larger constraints in mind, my dear OLPC News readership, its time to sharpen your pencils, whip out your calculators, and put on your thinking caps (or tin hats) and give us alternate One Laptop Per Child financing options.

How do you think a participating country (pick one) can afford spending $200 per child (a nice round number cost guesstimate of XO + Products) to:

  1. equip all 6 year olds with new laptops,
  2. each successive annual cohort of 6 year olds with computers
  3. each annual cohort of 11 year olds with replacement machines
In this exercise you can conveniently leave out implementation, connectivity, and maintenance costs as all three are in contention. Also, please use the World Fact Book or other online resources for your analysis and realize there is a 3 link maximum in comments before they are tagged as spam.

Good luck.

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48 Comments

What about redesigning the laptop to be such that the people (parents) would like to get one for themselves and their children? To make it such that people want to have one.

First at all one should ask people what they would like to have.

What would then be a desirable product for people in the Majority World? What there should be then?

– GSM/GPRS (mobile phone) with data,
- FM radio,
- e-book reader and community wiki application.

Price less than 50USD with micro credit programs.

The Governments could then negotiate operators to give free GSM/GPRS connection for poor families / children or simply distribute prepaid SIM cards.

Why I think the GSM/GPRS - with some modifications making it suitable for learning - would be desirable and successful? According to number of studies investment on mobile phone pays off for people in developing countries. The little add-ons for learning would be just inexpensive extras making it a great tool for learning in schools but also in informal community settings.

It should be free market, folks! :-)

I strongly agree with the idea to use microcredit as a way to entrust the ownership of a computer to the entire community. Otehrwise we will face a flourishing black market in XO. But the whole idea behind microcredit is to make money. How can children make money from their pc? Even if someone were to come up with an idea, that would be child labor, and I don't see any other alternatives of making money out of XO.

The only other way I can think of is to give tax incentives to American corporations to "adopt" school systems of the third world countries. It would be something like what Oprah did with that school in Africa, but in a massively larger scale.

I like the microcredit idea too, but there is no need for the children to make money from the pc - it would be the parents paying off the debt as an investment in their child's education when they see the results of OLPC usage.

Who better to judge if the OLPC XO educates children effectively and who better to valuate that educational boost vs. current educational systems, that the very parents of those children?

Two thoughts:

1) Cut the costs by giving one laptop per family instead of one per child, and equip it with self-eduction software for topics such as reading, writing and mathematics. Each child would spend an hour or two on the computer, and maybe the parents too. That would result in a huge educational gain in areas of the developing world where there are few schools and high illiteracy. Not an optimal solution, but still well worth the money.

2) Don't think of olpc as an expense, but rather an investment. Higher literacy leads to economic growth which in turn raises tax income which in turn pays for olpc. Now the great thing about investment is if you can convince institutions with money that you have a good one, they will lend you the money. And don't forget that olpc as family and village computers will have many economic payoffs besides education, like a telecommunication network for communities that at present lack one. Oplc could be one of the the best development investments of all time.

So should I consider the lack of responses so far as admission that there are no real financing alternatives? That when extrapolated out to a country-wide level, OLPC is financially untenable even when just looking at hardware?

Or is it simply that this topic isn't as sexy or as easy to pontificate on as exploding laptop batteries?

Very unrealistic to think that someone will finance Nico's latest flight of fancy.

If his idea had any merit, his backers (especially Google) would be more than willing to spend a few hundred millions to get the ball rolling. The lack of a finished product doesn't help, either.

Even Quanta might be jumping ship with its announcement of a $200 laptop for next year (Winter tells me Intel is clearly behind the maneuver).

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070329-olpc-xo-manufacturer-to-sell-budget-portables-in-developed-countries.html

I already proposed a financing model in several of my comments.

Quote of my own comment to http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/olpc_great_idea_better.html
"One of the main problems that OLPC faces is that the countries need to make a huge initial investment to buy the hardware. This risk creates uncertainty about which OLPCNews is posting all the time. If those countries could lease, rent or otherwise pay for the use of such hardware in small payments spread over time or over usage of a consumable the risk for the countries would be much smaller and therefore their acceptance bigger.
...the world bank could take all the risk by buying the hardware and leasing it to the countries. Or the producers of the hardware could give it away for free but get payed via a necessary consumable."
This consumable could be usage time like a flat rate for a month's or year's usage."

Another quote of myself:
"if you use a consumable as the means of payment over time the initial hardware cost is not that critical anymore. Just as people can afford a more expensive car if they can pay for it using a payment plan. ... When countries do not have to pay for the computers upfront but over time more and poorer countries can afford them."

And yet another quote of myself:
"Why not give the XO's away for free and have the countries pay for them over time like with prepaid cell phones e.g. by activating them using a bought code number."

One more quote of a recent comment of mine:
"Finally the OLPC project could gain another advantage if the target countries would not have to buy the laptops upfront for a huge amount of money. If the hardware could be payed using a payment plan or by prepayment like cell phones maybe on a yearly basis this would lower the risk for the countries."

The risk of this financing model for the manufacturer could be reduced by the fact that the initial number of supplied laptops could be low (maybe 100'000 per interested country). If the parents had to pay a small part of the prepayments then after one year the percentage of those who pay the second prepayments would be a measure of acceptance and give the manufacturer a clue whether they can justify to deliver more laptops or to stop the project.

I would not support that the parants would have to buy the laptops because not all of them could afford it. Since everybody benefits from a good education of all kids it should not depend on the parents wealth and it should also be paid for by those who have no kids and also by companies. And rich people should pay more for it than poor ones. This is a typical responsibility of the government to use tax money.

Dick,

"Such arrangement is very effective..."

Do you care to elaborate?

OK my friends, I bring you the latest scoop:

Nicholas Negroponte himself said in Lima Peru, in a radio interview, that the computers could be paid in five years.

More precisely: he said that the "one hundred dollars" per computer could be paid in five years.

Hear it in English: http://www.rpp.com.pe/portada/nacional/82230_1.php#. The interview is in Spanish but he speaks in English.

More details when they surface.

Just to be clear: click on the Audio option on the right column next to the main article to hear the interview.

Ah, yes the "divide by five" defense. Negroponte is talking amortization of costs, not a five year payment plan.

Quanta must be paid now. And each new cohort of students will need an OLPC XO, else you will have yet another digital divide.

Dick Einstein,
your proposed computer labs look very cost effective but I am afraid that they are not very effective for education.

Schools that have such a computer lab typically introduce new classes called "IT" or "computer science" or similar in analogy to math classes or language classes. The typical content of such "IT" classes is learning to type, to operate MS Windows and MSOffice. And making PowerPoint presentations is already the high point of all that. A often very welcome effect for old fashioned teachers is to "contain" computer usage in "IT" classes and to keep it out of all other classes so that they do not have to adapt to new teaching methods.

But the point of real school computing is to leverage all tasks not just typing letters. A computer should be used as a general tool in all topics replacing and exceeding pen and paper, libraries, calculator, dividers and ruler, maps, microscope, telescope and much more. It should be used to revolutionize the learning effectiveness in science, humanistics and art not just office tasks. All teachers need to learn to use this new tool in their classes not just the "IT" teachers.

Answer to Roland:

Don't assume that my idea is based on using computers to teach Microsoft products. Read my post very carefully.

All I'm saying is that keeping the laptops simple and within the classroom is very efficient in terms of cost, implementation and maintenance.

And most importantly, whatever educational content or methodology is implemented, there is a guarantee that all students will be receiving the inteded benefit, as opposed to letting the kids take the machine home, where it might get lost, stolen, sold, abused or simply hijacked by older siblings and relatives for their own use.


What I propose is doable with any computer, including the XO - in a much simpler, cheaper amd controlled way.

Oops, in my post above "Each child would spend an hour or two on the computer" should read, "Each child would spend an hour or two a day on the computer"

Roland,

Your financing model might be a good alternative.

Dick,

The thin-client model (a la ltsp) is a great one for a lot of situations. However, the number-one target for oplc is rural areas that largely lack electricity and have a great shortage of schools and teachers. Your plan is not very workable there, since to provide computers for education for all the children you would first have to spend an enormous amount of money building and staffing schools.

On the other hand giving one laptop per family, as I described above, would almost certainly yield far greater educational gains than spending an equal amount of money expanding the school system. Also, the communities would have the added benefits of oplc, such as a communication system for everyone to use.

That is the key question in economic development for poor countries: what will yield the greatest economic growth for the least cost? I think that by this criterion one laptop per family is superior to just about any other option in the whole field of development.

We humans have plenty enough of ressources to pay for a OLPC laptop for every child on this planet, we can do it in a couple of years if we would just focus and collaborate instead of spreading FUD and corrupting governments.

Nigeria, Libya, China, Mexico, European countries and USA all those countries themselves are very rich, and could pay for a OLPC laptop for every child in their countries in a matter of peanuts compared to other expenses they have.. (military, oil)

Wayan,

"Ah, yes the "divide by five" defense. Negroponte is talking amortization of costs, not a five year payment plan"

That is where my point about investment loans comes in. In the economic development field, large investment loans are not some radical new idea. They are granted all the time. The question for those who might grant such loans is whether the money would produce enough economic growth to pay back the loan.

And institutions that grant such loans such as the World Bank are in a crisis because so many of their loans over the past few decades have not produced the desired growth. As a consequence they are looking around for new, more effecive types of investments. Oplc is a new idea that, if implimented in the one computer per family approach I described above, would be almost guaranteed to produce far more economic growth than it would cost, so I would think it would be relatively easy to sell to loan granting institutions

Eduardo & Charbax:
If only Negroponte would be satisfied with a One Laptop Per Family implementation and governments would spend more on education than military.

Since both ideas are degrees of fantasy, the move away from militarty & oil spending being outright hallucinatory, let's focus on the reality we are presented with: practical ways to finance One Laptop Per Child.

So far no one has come up with a realistic OLPC financing alternative. The best ideas are:
1. some form of micro-credit
2. reduction in cost to one laptop per family
3. limited development loans

What about a combination of all three? Lower laptop numbers financed by a mix of private & government funding?

Anyone know of any thrilling results from the use of computers in education?

Like a lot people I know that computers will someday revolutionize education but I've been waiting for the revolution since 1974 when I saw a Plato terminal running instructional software.

Is it constructivism that's going to turn computers into engines of learning? I wonder when we'll be able to see how that works? I'd sure appreciate even a small demo lesson so as to better understand the methodology. Certainly there must be software far enough along to produce a useful demonstration of how constructivism will work in the XO environment.

Nobody has done any number crunching as Wayan requested in the original post. I'll try something like that, but I believe that one specific figure, the base figure is still far from final and this makes any attempt to have certainties on hold.

Mr. Negroponte insisted in a news presentation today in Lima that the computer is still a "hundred dollar" one. Well, if I was an education ministry budget planner, or at least a parliamentary busybody, I'll start by asking exactly what is in the "basic" package for each student, classroom and school, and the costs for each bunch of goodies. Since the whole package, apparently, has still to start from 250.000 computers, the obvious question, at least from a budgetary approach, is exactly how and where these 250.000 computers are going to be distributed, to calculate the numbers of complementary items, like servers, chargers, antennas and repeaters; next, ancillary kit like security measures for the servers and co.; then at least a 10% extra equipment, or 10% less coverage, for the inevitable failures, robberies and whatnots. Distribution, minimal training costs, travel, et cetera too. Printing basic guides, consulting fees (there are always consulting fees), perhaps some extra equipment like printers and CD drives for the servers.

Is there something like a number for an standard, basic 250.000 computer package like this? An approximation of needed investment, even assuming that some slack would have to be included, is the starting point.

Let's say that I'll become Peru's education minister (impossible), but only under the condition of implementing a OLPC-based plan for using computers in education (impossible) and only in 250.000 installments per year (impossible). So, besides going to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I'll probably ballpark a figure around 250 per computer, including in the cost per unit all the extra investment. USD 62,50 million. For as many years as I need to provide all students and teachers in the 6 to 14 year-old range with a computer, including newcomers.

As we have in Peru, roughly speaking, 2.8 million kids in the 5 to 14 range (no figures at hand from 6), it'll take USD 600-700 million to pay for all of this in one single burst, considering kids outside public education and a lot of "who knows".

The whole government's budget for 2007 is less than USD 20 billion, and education's budget (all considered), something like USD 750 million. I have no clue about the actual expense structure, including how much goes to pay salaries and how much is left for anything else (I'll try to ask an expert) but on current levels, even the 250.000 acquisition would mean 8,5% of the whole education budget. Since a significant part of the budget is going to pay teachers, and that there are a lot of things, like building and repairing schools, have to continue...

But I digress. Even this very simple exercise demands a base point to start making more precise calculations. When is it going to come?

From wayan's post and all the comments, I can easily conclude that the governements of the target countries do not have the money to pay for the laptops.

In a broader perspective, the OLPC tries to improve economic growth in developing countries by making better education.

If we go back one century, we saw the same situation in Europe (and the USA?). In Europe, economic growth was stiffled by lack of an educated workforce. The solution was governement sponsered general primary education and bussiness sponsered secondary information. One of the world's biggest electronics companies, Philips, founded almost the complete secondary and higher education in it's home town Eindhoven.

I think the current situation is very much like the history in Europe. There is a global shortage in educated workforce. The results are low wages and low economic growth. Japan, Singapure, and Korea got out of that partly by stimulating education.

Regions with relatively good education (India and China) have relatively good administration and civil services, and a good workforce. They grow. Regions lacking any of them, don't grow.

I think that the final answer to wayan's question will be bussiness picking up the ball and sponsering these laptop programs. They need the workers to produce and sell in the target contries. Think about Brazil. This country could become a new Korea, if it just could get the educated workers and civil servants.

Of course, this is a kind of prisoner's dilema. No one will pay, if free riders can run off with the results. So it will be the governements that have to step in to organize this.

So I think, ultimately, governements have to organize (international) bussinesses, the world bank, and the IMF to organize financing of the educational programs.
If laptops are part of that effort, the financing will involve everything from World Bank loans to micro-credit, sponsering, and "laptop adoption".

Then it is up to the OLPC or Intel to convince them that laptop programs are a good investment. Which might be difficult, I know.

Meanwhile, the OLPC needs to get the first batch of 5 million XOs out of the door. I think that can only be done by making a commercial version (say, in beige metalic) and sell it over eBay ;).

Winter

I'm glad I read through Winter's post. As far apart as we are on the political spectrum we seem to have a meeting of the minds about the importance, perhaps primacy, of a commercial XO.

Clearly the amounts of money involved would stretch the budgets of many of the target nations never mind such political considerations as convincing the leadership of the countrys to start spending vast sums of money on the poorest, i.e. least politically important, segment of society - poor children.

Keep in mind that the budgets of the target nations isn't just money sitting around in piles waiting for a good cause to fund. There are multiple, competing constituencies vying for that funding and by insisting that only governments can be customers Mr. Negroponte has made the XO a political issue.

Does the navy get the patrol craft it needs to suppress illegal activities in national waters? How about the interior department? Is the funding going to be available to build out the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of the electricity the new dam produces? And those are legitimate uses for such funding. The corrupt among the politicians will always be looking to steal as much as possible.

And as I posted on some other article, where's the evidence of efficacy?

One of the questions certain to be asked by any responsible public official is how effective the XO *is* at educating children. Not how effective will it be but examples of schools in target countries that have shown explosive increases in educational attainments via the use of the XO or at least via the use of computer-based education. The improvements will have to dramatic because the increase in funding to the public education agency will be dramatic.

So, does anyone have any such examples?

Allen wrote:

"One of the questions certain to be asked by any responsible public official is how effective the XO *is* at educating children. Not how effective will it be but examples of schools in target countries that have shown explosive increases in educational attainments via the use of the XO or at least via the use of computer-based education. The improvements will have to dramatic because the increase in funding to the public education agency will be dramatic.

So, does anyone have any such examples?"

Those examples do not exist, Allen (but I'm sure someone will jump in to tell us how he would not be alive today if Uncle Ben had not given him a Commodore at 3 years old).

Computers have not radically changed student achievement anywhere in the world. Yes, they are good and desirable, but, in the end, elementary education is a very complex process where computers can only play a very minor role.


Negroponte knows it - that's why he won't entertain any sort of testing.


That said, I think a very important detail is being overlooked in all these conversations dealing with OLPC's difficulties in getting orders: the product is not only un-tested; it is also far from finished (the only other person noticing it is Dick Einstein - a man with a most puzzling name!).

In short: as of today, the OLPC does not have a finished product to sell, so governments don't have a finished product to buy.

As for the "pay for 2-get 1" subsidy fantasies, you won't see it happening for this reason: NOBODY (at least in the USA) will accept the XO as anything other than a toy - people, for better or worse, would expect to get a mainstream laptop, something the XO is definitely not. I can only imagine the deluge of returns followed by the negative press, when people realize they are NOT getting real laptops...

Metro

"Computers have not radically changed student achievement anywhere in the world. Yes, they are good and desirable, but, in the end, elementary education is a very complex process where computers can only play a very minor role."

The point of the OLPC is not that computers are "good for education", they are, but not that much in a well developed school system, eg, as in the EU or USA. And there, even with ample books and teachers, computers play an increasing role in (high-school) education.

The point was, that it seemed to be impossible to increase the quantity and quality of educated children in the developing world by all conventional means. The analysis underlying Negroponte's idea was that both the production and distribution of learning materials and the recruitment and training of teachers were failing catastrofically in teh developing world.

Both these problems would have been solved in the west by automatization: Applying technology to help increase productivity. So the question became, do we have technology that can increase "productivity" in education in the developing world.

The answer of the OLPC was (and Intel is), Yes, we have such technology. It is extensively used in schools in the rich world, and it can be used to overcome the dual bottleneck of lack of learning materials and lack of teacher's time.

However, we might have the technology, and the total amount of money needed would be only a fraction of the educational budget of a small western country (really, Dutch children spend twice the price of an XO on books EACH year). Still, for the target countries, these are huge sums they probably cannot muster.

So this is the classical development problem. The means and money are available, but the wrong people have them. Every famine in the world shows how deadly that classical problem can get.

And telling politicians from poor countries their children don't need the resources that are given to children in rich countries won't make many friends in poor countries.

Winter

"And telling politicians from poor countries their children don't need the resources that are given to children in rich countries won't make many friends in poor countries."

Children in poor countries DO need the resources given to children in rich countries.

The XO, however, is not one of them.

I'm a bit confused.

I understand that poor countries are not ordering the XO because there is no money. But, how is it that rich countries don't show any interest, either?

How is it possible that the entire world lacks the vision shared by all members of the OLPC team and their many followers?

Why is it that big corporations like Google, Sun, Ebay, etc. are not willing to invest in this wonderful technological and educational miracle?

How come great countries like Germany, Holland, France, USA, Japan, Israel, etc., don't want this for their own kids?


very strange...

Perhaps because it's not been sold to them?

Negroponte has been peddling the XO in the USA, but nobody shows any interest.

At this point, he would take orders from Hitler, if that's where they came from...

True that, Dick,

While he's not Hitler, Gaddafi isn't exactly the Pope and Negroponte constantly trumps the MOU with Libya.

I think we must ask if the OLPC computer is really worth $100-200 per kid in educational value. I downloaded Sugar and made a boot disk ( http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar ) and I'm not sure about that. If these poor countries are going to spend more, what things compete with the OLPC machine that would give more bang for the buck, or even provide the same educational value for less money. I love the concept because I'm into computers and wish everyone had one. But if I got past my bias, I wonder if other uses for the money would provide more education. For instance, would a television/satellite dish and solar power collector benefit the class or school more?

I think the most important benefit to a OLPC machine would be access to the world through the internet. But a TV can do that too. None of the software on the test system I saw seemed like a killer app educationally. And if such an app did exist, what would it do? What if a program provided a self-learning system that would take a child from simple arithmetic to higher mathematics? Would such an app make it worth the price of the machine for a poor country? If these kids did learn higher math, are their job opportunities where they could apply it?

I think the OLPC concept is one of the more fascinating concepts created in recent years, but it brings up so many questions.

Jim Harris

Wayan,

"The best ideas are:
1. some form of micro-credit
2. reduction in cost to one laptop per family
3. limited development loans

What about a combination of all three? Lower laptop numbers financed by a mix of private & government funding?"

Sounds good to me. The more funding sources, the more success.

Metro Gnome,

"Computers have not radically changed student achievement anywhere in the world. Yes, they are good and desirable, but, in the end, elementary education is a very complex process where computers can only play a very minor role."

The reason they have not shown a lot of achievement is they have been used in educational systems that are already well-developed.

For the purpose of facilitating economic development in the underdeveloped world, the question is whether computers can promote literacy in regions that have a great shortage of shools and teachers. As I explained above, oplc with self-educational programs for reading, writing and mathematics almost surely could do that, and in a very cost-effecient manner.

Wayan,

I want to add in another important argument. You say that oplc faces a terrible problem because it seems to be so expensive it is hard to see how it could be financed.

To see why this is probably wrong, let's start with something we all agree on, namely that for a good number of months Negroponte has been spending 6 or 7 days a week meeting with heads of state and other high-level officials around the world. If oplc is too expensive for the countries, then why are they bothering to spend time meeting with them?

Let me make this more specific. Negroponte can't just walk up to a Ministry of Education headquarters and say he want to have a meeting. He has to make an appointment a good time ahead. To do that he would phone the Minster of Education and say he want to tell them about a project he thinks they should adopt.

Now the Minister of Eduation is a busy fellow, so he isn't going to want to waste time setting up and attending a meeting for a project that there is no chance his country would actually adopt. So he is going to ask Negroponte to tell him some things about it. And since the project involves money, the Minister of Education is going to ask about how much it would cost. And since the Minster of Education is used to dealint with budgets and educational projects, he is going to know the right questions to ask, like what would be the expenses for hardware, training, support, and internet connection.

If, as you claim, oplc is so overwhelmingly expensive that financing would be an impossible problem, then then when the Minister learns from Negroponte about the costs, he would almost certainly tell him the idea seems impossible and refuse to set up a meeting. And the same logic applies if Negroponte is talking to the president.

And if that were true, Negroponte would have no one to meet with. But we know for a fact that in fact he is meeting with presidents and high level officials practically ever day of the week. That indicates quite clearly that those people think that the finances for oplc are such that there is at least a good possiblity they can be handled.

So, Wayan, what do you think of my argument?

Oops, that should be, "then why are they meeting with him?" (I really need to get some more sleep)

Eduardo,

Nicholas Negroponte started the OLPC sales effort by only meeting with Presidents. To them his idea of one laptop per child is an irresistible populist idea: one chicken in every pot, one car in every garage, one laptop for every child. And, like in the Peru interview, he tells Presidents that he has a $100 laptop.

The Presidents then requested the Ministries of Education to meet with Negroponte. I watched one of the first meetings at the IADB and it was not pretty. Negroponte came in very high-minded, and a touch arrogant, and the Ministers were offended by his glazing over of the details. http://www.olpcnews.com/implementation/plan/implementation_miracle.html

That's why there are so few sales. Presidents loving laptops doesn't mean Ministers buying them, as Ministers are asking those tough questions: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/countries/presidents_loving_laptops.html

Eduardo,

You're being a VERY naive and misinformed here, Eduardo.

Negroponte has VERY BIG political connections through his brother, John Negroponte. Presidents don't come "to the phone" because a college professor has some idea for an interesting laptop.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Negroponte

Wayan,

Those two posts you link to don't really address my argument. They are about the need for metrics and procurement procedures. I am arguing that if, as you claim, oplc is so outrageously expensive that no developing country could afford it, then Negroponte would have been thrown out before he could even get an appointment. Instead, the ministries are, as your posts indicate, continuing to seriously consider oplc.

Dick,

I have been following John Negroponte's career for a number of years, and I can assure you that he has never held a position that would give him the ability to get developing countries to seriously consider an educational computer program.

As for Nicholas Negroponte being just a an ordinary college professor, perhaps you should do a little reasearch on his position in the computing world.

Eduardo wrote:

"I have been following John Negroponte's career for a number of years, and I can assure you that he has never held a position that would give him the ability to get developing countries to seriously consider an educational computer program."

That's not what I said, is it?

I'll repeat it, just in case you missed my point the first time: Negroponte's brother CAN GET HIM THE APPOINTMENT WITH A SINGLE PHONE CALL.

I didn't say Negroponte is an "ordinary" college professor - the "ordinay" is your word.

Dick Einstein (aka Socrates Montenegro)
Emeritus Master of Chacras
University of Panchos, Inca Pacitado
Peru (bordering Columbia)

Tocayo (namesake)

I've worked as senior adviser to a vice minister a few years ago here in Peru. I think I'm qualified to share some thoughts about how do they work, and to tell you that your line of reasoning is wrong.

First of all: he ain't a simple college professor. He's a technology guru. He's been to Davos, talking to Kofi Annan, and has been called a series of beautiful names.

I'm not getting into Mr. Funny Name's argument about brotherly help, cause I think that unless there's proof, it's just a silly conspiracy theory. But Nicholas Negroponte has clout by himself.

Second: there is always someone, next to a President or Minister of Education, who considers him or herself as a visionary. In Peru's case, Mr. Garrido-Lecca, our housing minister, fills that role. He'd be laugh off at a geek convention but in the Ministers' Council he pulls it off. All the rumors point towards him as the champion of OLPC in our country; I guess there are others around.

Third: Computers are cool, modernity and progress itself, a PR dream. To be for computers is politically advantageous, to be against them is simply wrong. Everybody in politics loves to attach themselves to simple, powerful and easy to explain ideas: a computer in every pot and a chicken in every desktop, paraphrasing Wayan's previous comment.

Fourth: "And since the Minster of Education is used to dealint with budgets and educational projects, he is going to know the right questions to ask, like what would be the expenses for hardware, training, support, and internet connection."

Sorry, but you're wrong in two different counts. Ministers are not used to deal with actual budgets at all; they have career, non-political officials to do that, here and everywhere else. Also, the right questions in the realm of a Minister of Education are related to educational issues, not to internet connections, hardware expenses and so on. Whenever we needed to know that when I worked with my boss, the Vice minister, we just called a guy from the budget's office. We knew ballpark figures, and we knew that if a government buys a lot of gear, it gets a good markdown. But that's all.

Fifth and final: politics is based on negotiations and compromise. When Mr. Negroponte states that a government has to buy a million computers, politicians know that he's talking a starting position, before reaching a deal. As Wayan has pointed out, Mr. Negroponte harsh demeanor and arrogance is a big problem, since he doesn't appear to be negotiating, but rather giving instructions.

So, I can imagine: a President enthused by the Siren Song of Mr. Negroponte's recipe to progress and happiness through technology, sends a note to his Education Minister, who's well aware that the Prez is in charge after all, and welcomes the conversation. A whole bunch of officials ask question, an even larger bunch of budget officials at the Finance / Treasury start saying "sorry, there's no money for this", Mr. Negroponte gets all arrogant and says "if you don't do it, someone else will take your place in the line", and so on for a while. It's a process, conversations and deals are part of it, and a lot of people is involved.

Dick Einstein,

"I'll repeat it, just in case you missed my point the first time: Negroponte's brother CAN GET HIM THE APPOINTMENT WITH A SINGLE PHONE CALL.

Apparently you are unaware that John Negroponte was the US ambassador to Iraq, and the Iraq war and occupation are very unpopular around the world, with the consequence that if he were to phone a governmental leader in most countries, they would be less likely to give his brother an apointment than if his brother were to phone on his own.

Or are you one of those left-wing crackpots who belives that the CIA runs the world?

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,

"Sorry, but you're wrong in two different counts. Ministers are not used to deal with actual budgets at all; they have career, non-political officials to do that, here and everywhere else. Also, the right questions in the realm of a Minister of Education are related to educational issues, not to internet connections, hardware expenses and so on. Whenever we needed to know that when I worked with my boss, the Vice minister, we just called a guy from the budget's office. We knew ballpark figures, and we knew that if a government buys a lot of gear, it gets a good markdown. But that's all. "

Thank you for the correction. However, my basic argument still stands. When Negroponte calls the Minister and says he wants to pitch a project, the Minister will check with his aid to see if it makes financial sense, and if it clearly does not, as Wayan claims, there will be no meeting. The fact that Negroponte gets both initial meetings and a lot of follow-ups indicates the Minister's aids think oplc might be financially feasible.


Jim Harris,

"If these poor countries are going to spend more, what things compete with the OLPC machine that would give more bang for the buck, or even provide the same educational value for less money."

The key thing here is you have to look at different sitauations. I am saying that maybe it isn't worth it in areas that already have a well-developed education system, but one ones that lack it, you can get far more bang-per-buck than spending the money conventionally.

Winter,

"The point was, that it seemed to be impossible to increase the quantity and quality of educated children in the developing world by all conventional means. The analysis underlying Negroponte's idea was that both the production and distribution of learning materials and the recruitment and training of teachers were failing catastrofically in teh developing world.

Both these problems would have been solved in the west by automatization: Applying technology to help increase productivity. So the question became, do we have technology that can increase "productivity" in education in the developing world.

The answer of the OLPC was (and Intel is), Yes, we have such technology. It is extensively used in schools in the rich world, and it can be used to overcome the dual bottleneck of lack of learning materials and lack of teacher's time. "

Yes, that is the key point, adding in that in much of the developing world there are no schools or so few that children attend only half day.

Wayan,

Maybe we should take this one step at at time. Here is a question for you: If it turns out that oplc can provide self-instructional literacy training in regions that lack
sufficient schools, and can do so at a cost per student significantly less than the conventional approach of building schools and staffing them, then would you agree it would be a good development investment that could pay back its costs?

Eduardo Montez wrote:

"Apparently you are unaware that John Negroponte was the US ambassador to Iraq, and the Iraq war and occupation are very unpopular around the world, with the consequence that if he were to phone a governmental leader in most countries, they would be less likely to give his brother an apointment than if his brother were to phone on his own. "

Don't make laugh, Eduardo.

When the USA Deputy Secretary of State (whether it is John Negroponte or Che Guevara)calls, EVERYONE - including the women and children - in the third world WILL come to the phone.


"Or are you one of those left-wing crackpots who belives that the CIA runs the world?"

No, Eduardo. I'm not a left-wing crackpot, and the CIA does NOT run the world. All I'm saying is that the USA Deputy Secretary of State has the power to get an appointment with most 3rd. World leaders. That's all.

Eduardo: you are not considering that, from a politician's point of view, talking with Mr. Negroponte, especially after his or her president has done so too, it's a perfect good investment of time. Again: politics is negotiations and compromise, and you don't kill opportunities, even more so if they are politically rewarding, unless it's a crackpot or a non-entity. Mr. Negroponte ain't any of that, no matter how much I may disagree with his ideas. An Education Minister can bury things he or she doesn't like in some many different ways that one meeting is not a problem.

Dick, my problem with your argument is that it's unneeded. There are enough good reasons for Presidents and Education Ministers to received Nicholas Negroponte without strongarm tactics from his brother. Applying Occam's razor, unless you find some proof that the reason why a country like Brazil or Argentina, with the governments they currently have, are willing to listen to whatever Mr. John Negroponte may be saying, I believe all the discussion about the sibling's help it's just white noise.

Dick Einstein<

"When the USA Deputy Secretary of State (whether it is John Negroponte or Che Guevara)calls, EVERYONE - including the women and children - in the third world WILL come to the phone."

1) That post is recent. During most of the time Nicholas has been out promoting oplc, John was Director of National Intelligence, a post with very little outside influence.

2) Would John contact foreign leaders in his official capacity? That would be improper, since the U.S. government is not promoting oplc. If it was informally, then they would ask, "why are you, someone who knows nothing about computers or education, promoting a computer education project?" and become dubious.

3) Besides being the former ambassador to Iraq during an occupation that is very unpopular around the world, he also was Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Honduras, helping its government in its very dirty campaign against a left-wing insurgency, a fact that renders him virtually persona non grata in latin America.

Dick, you are reasoning according to a very simple principle, "John Negroponte is a high U.S official, so he can get appointments with officials from other countries." That is a reasonable principle in general, but when you look at the specifics of this case, it is clear it doesn't hold.

Eduardo,

See my reply to Dick

Dick Einstein<

"When the USA Deputy Secretary of State (whether it is John Negroponte or Che Guevara)calls, EVERYONE - including the women and children - in the third world WILL come to the phone."

1) That post is recent. During most of the time Nicholas has been out promoting oplc, John was Director of National Intelligence, a post with very little outside influence.

2) Would John contact foreign leaders in his official capacity? That would be improper, since the U.S. government is not promoting oplc. If it was informally, then they would ask, "why are you, someone who knows nothing about computers or education, promoting a computer education project?" and become dubious.

3) Besides being the former ambassador to Iraq during an occupation that is very unpopular around the world, he also was Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Honduras, helping its government in its very dirty campaign against a left-wing insurgency, a fact that renders him virtually persona non grata in latin America.

Dick, you are reasoning according to a very simple principle, "John Negroponte is a high U.S official, so he can get appointments with officials from other countries." That is a reasonable principle in general, but when you look at the specifics of this case, it is clear it doesn't hold.

Eduardo,

See my reply to Dick

I would like to know how to purchase one of these laptop for my child. As our funds are very limited. I believe this could help a great deal.
We are located in the USA.

I would like to know how to purchase one of these laptop for my child. As our funds are very limited. I believe this could help a great deal.
We are located in the USA.

As of right now there are no firm plans to retail the OLPC in the US. That may change but there are other options popping up you should be aware of. Asus has been showing off a mini-laptop, the Eee. in the size/price range of the XO, shipping date unknown but hinted at being this year. Intel's been showing off a stripped conventional laptop, availability unknown.

hi wayan.. one actual laptop per actual child in country x might be utopian and unrealistic.. esp. considering the many current questions re olpc.. so if uber implementation/financing not realistic, maybe start w/ baby steps?

imo truly bottom up learner centric olpc might allow people who want one to get organized to get one.. crowdsource the financing of 250k orders?

in mexico city there are plenty of under"educated" street vendors who don't pay taxes but do earn ten bucks a day.. i've seen lots more fancy music/camera/cellphones appear in use on steet over last two years.. maybe 250,000 families families in mexico could commit $1/day for 1/2 year toward an xo?

just a thought.. point is, users might use machine even more if they pay for it.. many families *can* afford to invest a dollar or less per day in education.. a financing scenario that empowers end-users may be worth considering..

Duke,

Agreed, many families can buy an OLPC XO, even in the developing world. Not only would this shift the massive cost from central governments that can be quite inefficient with distribution, it would also be a great test of the XO's usefulness. Parents would only buy them if the computers were effective in teaching children.

I brought this idea up a while back on Open Source Radio: http://www.olpctalks.com/walter_bender/bender_radio_open_source.html

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