What is the Real Cost of the OLPC?

   
   
   
   
   

What really is the cost of implementing an OLPC project? OLPC itself says it needs $30 Billion annually to reach all the children in the world, at an initial cost of $208/laptop according to the Libya MOU. But this is just the beginning -- the laptop, school servers, satellite Internet, and set-up costs (including a team of advisers). We're still missing key components for success of the OLPC experiment -- what is missing from these calculations?

olpc-cost.jpg
Should "Apply for New Loan" be a new boot option?

Training costs - Without training, the OLPC experiment will fall flat with a lack of support staff and educational curricula integration. I was involved in a project with similar goals, focused on literacy and numeracy, with a laptop component as a means to this end, (Nick reminds us that "It's an education project, not a laptop project"). Nevertheless, this project trained teachers and set up educator networks to diffuse the knowledge, and can provide us with a ballpark figure for training costs. You can read the final report on USAID's Development Experience Clearinghouse site. The end result was 200 trained teachers whose responsibility it was to share the knowledge with their larger networks of teachers, who all would reach 43,500 students. The program cost 6MM over three years, or $138/child, or $27.60/laptop/year (spread over 5 years) in training costs.

Hardware maintenance - OK, so it's well designed, but no computer can stand up to the beatings they take in the developing world for too long. Power fluctuations, heat, dust, floods, hurricanes, goats, insects (I once lost a webcam to an ant colony)... They will break, get lost, or stolen. Let's presume there's a 5/100 loss rate per year, requiring full replacement (and really, almost any problem in these systems means full replacement - even if "standard" parts are the culprit, there are no Fry's nearby). At $148/laptop, that’s $7.40/laptop/year.

Software maintenance - Let us hope that the OLPC laptop monoculture doesn't have some security glitch that creates a billion-strong zombie army, and that there's a working upgrade mechanism. Presuming that OLPC remains true enough to their F/LOSS convictions, there should be no licensing costs. Let's be optimistic, and say that between international e-volunteers wanting to help and the training costs above, that this is free.

Internet Access - As Zimbabwe found out, Internet access isn't free. While SES has offered a $1/laptop/yearWhat happens when the satellite-Internet bill comes due, goes unpaid, and suddenly this entire investment loses a huge chunk of its value? What if there's a change in government policy/leadership? Or if their budget simply can't afford it? Will the on-the-ground experts be able to switch the OLPCs to an alternate connectivity model? The UN Digital Divide Report for 2005 listed the global average of 20 hours/month of connectivity as USD$36.91. This average hides a USD$56.31 cost for low-income countries. Let's double the cost to get up to 40 hours/month of usage and presume 10 laptops sharing each connection (these are dial-up connections for the most part, remember!), which costs $135.14/laptop/year.

The Bill

PER LAPTOP INVOICE, 5 YEARS
Setup
  Initial Hardware
$148.00
  Setup (1-time fee)
$108.00
Total Setup
$256.00
 
Training
  Yearly
$27.60
Total Training
$138.00
 
Maintenance
  Yearly
$7.40
Total Maintenance
$37.00
 
Internet
  First Year $1
$1.00
  Yearly
$135.00
Total Internet
$541.00
 
5 Year Total
$972.00

At the end of five years of training, continued Internet, and maintenance, the actual cost is USD$972 per laptop, almost quintuple the Libyan estimates, and ten times the original laptop cost. Of course, a more expensive computer system would just drive all of this upwards, so at least we're starting cheap. This all reminds me of Namibia's SchoolNet rejecting Microsoft's "gift" of MS Office (sans operating system!). For the OLPC project to succeed, it needs to accept that it's selling a $100 laptop with an $872 support plan, and find countries that can afford it as such.

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35 Comments

All right, I was on the fence but this article tipped me over to the other side. So is there another OLPC news site, with an RSS feed, where every single article *isn't* a snipe at the project?

I really just want to hear about milestones like "the production version of the screen is ready," "we signed up another country," "Intel announced a competing project but it costs twice as much as ours and is subsidized," "we built 10 working prototypes," "oh dear, we lost a country," "OK, guys, we're going to give some actual laptops to some actual children now, so get your spam filters ready...." but here at this site all I get is editorializing. Not editorializing about how you would do it differently or better, but how you're afraid it's just not going to work in the first place. For really valid reasons, like "we made up these support numbers based on our own experiences and added them on to the cost," or "hey, they keep changing the name."

OK, so one of you was involved in a similar initiative that didn't pan out. You'd hate for someone as pompous as Negroponte to succeed where you failed. I get that. But at least have the decency to call yourselves "olpcopinion.com" or something like that, lest people mistake your daily diatribes for news.

I don't really expect this comment to get approved, but it's a genuine question. Where can I find objective reporting of current OLPC-related events? I just want the facts. Not their own "glorious revolution of the people" spin, but not your spin either.

Our friend Jon has posted an editorialised opinion of 'The Real Cost of Implementing Laptops' and has taken some figures that, while they may be fanciful, are also food for thought.

If you want just 'News' then go read whats posted weekly at laptop.org. That usually contains fairly dry reports about who did what where, goals achieved, countries visited and such like.

I personally like what OLPCNews is doing in general and what their contributors put forward. I dont always agree with their comments but then thats what a site like this is for. I enjoy seeing healthy discussion. Lets not just nod approval to World Governments spending large chunks of their GDP on buying laptops for kids. Lets explore the good and the bad behind the OLPC initiative. Thats why they provide these 'Comment Boxes'.

Maybe Mr Raindog would venture a figure on what costs might be involved for Governments to give away laptops to their poorly educated children. Certainly not $208 per laptop for Libya.

raindog: Comments here are not moderated, never have been and almost certainly never will be.

However, we do ask those who comment to do a little test. Instead of a tiresome "capcha test", we merely asks that you to enter the appropriate letter into a field just above the "comments" text box.

Any commenter who neglects to enter that letter will find their carefully constructed thoughts consigned to the junk comment folder. Once there, it will probably get junked because this site is spammed pretty relentlessly and fishing out legitimate comments can be rather time consuming.

As you can see, your comment passed the test and it is up on the site.

It won't be deleted.

Two additional points - the project I discussed was actually reasonably successful (I was not that closely involved with it, perhaps that's the reason!), just expensive. Further, I was discussing the project with one of the two fellow mid-career Peace Corps IT volunteers who was central to the project, and he suggested that the number was low; it got 2 highly experienced PCVs which otherwise would have been additional consulting positions, and a lot of (infrastructure) costs swept under the rugs that the schools picked up.

What is the "setup" that's supposed to cost $108 per laptop? I really don't see how millions of laptops identically configured will cost $108 each to set up, especially since the storage capacity is so low.

And what is the $135/year in Internet access? I know a lot of schools that provide Internet access and none of them pay anywhere close to $135/year/person. Is is utterly absurd to *double* the global average for a high-volume project. High-volume applications pay way lower than the average rate.

These two costs account for 2/3 of your estimates, and there is nothing valid to support them.

David;

The $108 is calculated from the Libyan MOU (http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/libya/one_laptop_per_libyan_child.html), when the laptop was priced at $100, the total per-laptop implementation was $208, including a technical team configuring school servers, the intitial networking, and the satellite connection. And yes, I think it's high, too, but I'm going with the numbers that OLPC is releasing. $208-$100=$108.

The Internet access is described in the article, based on the UN average for *low-income* countries of $56/month (it's much cheaper for high income countries) for 20 hours of Internet access. I did not double it because of the size of the project, I doubled it to provide 40 hours/month, or about 2 hours/weekday of shared 56k dial-up per 10 students. You are likely correct that bulk, government-backed purchases could drive this down by 10-15%.

David (Schwartz): Current Internet costs in developing countries are absurdly high. For example, my monthly ADSL bill in Kenya (32/128kbps unlimited) is KSh9188 (US$130). The "cheaper" option costs KSh5604 (US$79), but access is limited to 90 hours a month making it much more expensive per hour of use.

Alternatively, I could opt for a shared satellite service. This costs a lot to set up ($400 in hardware outlay for microwave receivers), requires three customers to share the provider's infrastructure implementation costs (unknown but high), but eventually ends up cheaper (about KSh21000 shared between three (US$295). I also looked into rBGAN/Thuria/Iridium - but again, the hardware costs are prohibitive and the ongoing costs very high.

So, I think Jon's figures are pretty much on the money as far as I experience them here in Kenya.

The situation for OLPC nations seems certain to change once they (or whomsoever OLPC contracts) start to roll out infrastructure but, as yet, we know nothing firm about this aspect of OLPC's plans.

I am one of the PCVs that Jon cited in his comments. The project I worked on was pretty successful in using technology in a developing country. The key to its success was supporting teachers and the rest of school communities to integrate technology into their teaching-learning processes.
That support has the highest part of the TCO. The training, the preparation of new lessons, the lost productivity in a classroom the first time a laptop is being used, the time lost as kids shuffle to lab, laptops are setup or moving to the principals office to use computers etc. Paying these soft costs that do not seem to be accounted for in the OLPC model is key to getting technology into a school.
Clearly lowering the cost of hardware would lower the costs of entry to technology in classroom. It seems that many people on this project are negating the importance of getting teachers to go from the entry to final stages in technology use in their classrooms (see Apple Classroom of tomorrow model for more information on this).
While the OLPC project seems like a good idea I am a little bit confused by the approach being taken and wonder how effective it will be. It also seems to be over promising, under pricing, and over hyping will disappoint.
A more realistic approach that effectively estimates costs, and results would still make the OLPC a very attractive project. Technology in classroom can do so much. Lowering the cost of hardware from 500 to 100 is a big deal that could create results. Technology even in limited forms can reach kids that are bored stiff in a traditional classroom setting closing the achievement gap between the haves & have nots.
With the current over hyped OLPC, I can foresee situations where a principal has begged borrowed and stolen to get a set of OLPC for their school. Only to be disappointed by the actual results and costs versus promised. Quickly, the school will be unable to sustain the computers because the costs are not as expected or budgeted. That will probably be it for computers in that school until a new principal comes along willing to make their own mistakes.

> The Internet access is described in the article, based on the UN average for *low-income* countries of $56/month (it's much cheaper for high income countries) for 20 hours of Internet access.

This article feels extremely dishonest. OLPC *already has* a $1/child/year Internet deal in place, as you described -- why assume that they'll pay "the UN average" if that deal falls through for some reason, instead of finding someone else to give them a similar price?

Comparing an average cost for net access per person to the cost given to a group buying access for *millions of people at once* seems fundamentally broken, is already disproven by the deal currently in place with SES, and is responsible for *more than half* of your five-year total, which (in my opinion) makes your figures worthless.

I'm with raindog; I enjoy the news, but whenever numbers are involved you all seem to lose any shred of common sense and fall into sophomoric worst-case handwaving passed off as fact, which isn't honest or fair.

Dear Jon:
My name is Seiya. I am the sutdent studying in Japan, and i am writing thesis about XO.
I am really interested to your article, but I want to ask how the number $108 for setup is calculated.
Well, I can understand the way how do you caculate the number (208-100=$108), but I really cannot understand why do you put the bumber $148 for initial hardware.
If you use this number, $148, as the cost for XO, I think the cost for setup shoould be $60.(208-148=60).


Sincerely

I really do appreciate that you reply my comment so quickyly!
I agree that the expected initial cost of XO will be $148, but it is still hard for me to get $108 for setup cost
The Libya and Negroponte already get the agreement of buying 1.2million computers, one server per school, a team of technical advisers to help set up the system, satellite internet service and other infrastructure for $250 million dollars. It means that it will cost $208 for each laptop to start OLPC program, as you write on another artcile.
If both numbers, $108 for set up and $148 for initial hardware, are correct, it will cosst $256 for each XO and its setup(as you write on the artcile), and it contradicts the agreement of Libya OLPC program which says 1.2 million XO will be given for $250million .( $256 * 1.2 million = $307million) Therefore, I still think either number, $148 for XO or $108 for setup, are doubtful.

By the way, if you don't mind, I would like to ask one question about this OLPC project. Do you know that after children get XO from government, do they have to give it back when they become adult?

Sincerely

Seiya Takata

My first response, via email, to Seiya was (for the record)
"I took the $100 cost from the 208/child according to the Libyan MOU, but since then the expected initial cost of the machine was predicted to be $148, instead of $100. I presumed that the extra $108 would not change significantly (or in any way I could extract). "

Her point that perhaps the setup is $208-$148=$60 might be on target, but let's remember that this setup fee has to take care of, for each community, in-country transport of the satellite dish (and the purchase of one!), the laptops and the OLPC server (and hopefully a UPS for the server), not to mention airfare, transport and housing and board for the setup team, and many other piddling details that absorb money pretty rapidly. Now, $108/laptop still sounds high, but the satellite dishes and servers only scale up to so large of a geographic area.

I'm very excited about the amount of good criticism that's appeared in this thread; it really reveals how opaque the implementation plans and therefore their costs currently are.

Just a few figure from where I see things...

I am a resident of India, a developing country where almost 20% of the children in the age group of 5-15 reside.

~ The training cost though will be required will in turn give rise to income generation for local population. Hence there is a cost involved in the same, there is benefit as well which is apart from the benefit to the child directly.

~ The access cost of internet today is Rs 2500/9000 PA (ie approx USD 56/200) for 400 mb/unlimited usage pm for a broadband connection in most of the parts of the country. If 10 children share the same, even at the higher end it cost at max 100 USD for a 5 yr period. The costs can be recalculated & will be less than half those mentioned above.

Even if 10% of the total children in the 5-15 age group can be tapped (which will be approx 25 million) we are talking abt annual internet access cost of half a billion $ which is almost 25% of the annual spend of BSNL the biggest service provider in the country (& that too on all its services Landlines, Mobiles, internet et al). All this also gives direct employment to several other people which can be the other benefits which is totally overlooked in the cost calculation.


Your training cost seems very high. 27.5 USD represents a least half a day of qualified technical person in a country in West Africa. Source Top-Coder. Will it take half a day to train each user in a 1 to 1 session per year? You quote USAID numbers but is that valid. USAID are an expensive organization.

You Internet Cost seams high. Sure it costs allot of money to have an ISP ac in a developing country, but that is because of a lack of a demand. According to http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/libya/one_laptop_per_libyan_child.html
there are 205,000 Internet users in Libya. Libya has ordered 1.2 million laptops so increasing the market by 5 times you say that the Internet Cost does not go down! Your numbers may be right for 2005 but not for 2007. Also there is new bandwidth coming on stream all the time to less developed countries.

This article is extremely disingenuous. The "$100 laptop" has always been a reference to the target costs for hardware, period. No one's ever made the claim that $100 (or $140 at the moment, to reflect current reality more accurately) represented the entire investment that needed to be made, and to present it in this way seems intellectually dishonest.

Further, some of the additional costs seem equally unreasonable. Training costs and internet access costs are unrealistically high, as many others have noted. Beyond that, adding in a spit-in-the-wind estimate of additional costs based on loss or destruction of other machines seems like telling you that your new $50 pair of sneakers _actually_ cost at least $100 (since you'll need to eventually replace them), or maybe $110 on the supposition that some fellow across town might lose an identical pair at some point.

It seems that this site has a big axe to grind for some reason. OLPC is, indeed, an ambitious project, but it's already bearing fruit in terms of improved software and hardware implementations that will be fed back into the mainstream for the benefit of all.

None of this is, of course, taken into account in this "analysis". One could as easily, and with as much rationale, claim that the mesh networking scheme used by OLPC, in urban areas, could significantly reduce the need for WiFi access points, making internet access effectively cheaper, and pull a random amount, say $20, out of the cost on that basis.

It's duplicitous to present this poorly-supported editorial as "news".

As for Internet costs - hopefully, this will all be moot, as will the entire line item, with the satellite access. Given than, I'm not really surprised that India has much lower cost Internet access than the average non-OECD access costs.

I definitely stand by my training costs. They encompass curriculum development, integration, training workshops and continued "check up" visits to help answer any questions and further encourage adoption. I highly recommend Rogers' _Diffusion of Innovations_ for some highly valuable case studies and theories looking at successful ways to get new practices working, from new varieties of rice to cell phone projects. The training costs actually ignore a few unpaid full-time positions which were filled by unusually experienced Peace Corps IT volunteers.

Sure, the $100 cost is supposed to be "just" the hardware target price - the cost of the donated MS Office software was "free" - it just required the schools to buy OS licenses. I argue that the same problem is in effect here. The laptop may only be $100, but dropping off a few million laptops at a ministry's doorstep is about as useful as a CD of MS Office without (or even with?) an MS OS to run it.

All this being said, the OLPC is an amazing piece of technology, from the dual-mode display to the UI to the mesh networking - it'll be a great tool, if we can find effective ways to diffuse it!

I can't seriously believe that Negroponte and co. have any intention of dropping the laptops off and going "Well, have fun!" But I also can't seriously believe that they intend to train the teachers (or at least the people who'll train the teachers) and then go, "OK, here's your bill."

It could very well be that they'll get a couple years into the project, deliver the first large-scale deployments of the unit, and then have a press conference going, "Heh heh, we have a little problem. We need 100 volunteers per country to train computer-illiterate teachers for the next 3 months. The MRE's and mosquito netting are on us. Who's with me?" But even I'm not quite cynical enough to think they're planning to do that.

I know that criticizing you guys when you criticize the project might make me seem like a cheerleader, but the truth is I'm just slack-jawed with amazement at their audacity. I'd love to see them succeed just because of the quixotic nature of their goals, never mind the long-term good it could do to these countries' economies. (That's countries like Ethiopia and Brazil, not India which has a pretty strong information economy already.)

And, yes, I'd love to see them succeed so I can buy a cheaper and more durable laptop myself. That thing can do things that my $2500 Thinkpad tablet, also running Linux, can't do. Either its technology "trickles up" into mainstream computer gear, or I start buying OLPC laptops for the car, each room in the house, my retired schoolteacher mom, and so on.

Raindog,

I really, really hope you're right. Yet, their constructivist pedagogy is very child-centric, as is their discussion on implementation:

"Many people think you have to train teachers to teach the children which is wrong, you don’t. You can take a Nintendo gameboy in its box and drop it in the center of Africa, the first thing a child will do in a remote rural area who has never seen one of these is open the box and throw away the instruction manual and then start using it. That is, I won’t claim it is genetic, but trust me, there is all the evidence in the world that he children don’t need to be taught how to use it. The guidance they need is the guidance that teachers can provide in terms of what to learn and how to do it." -- Nick Negroponte at OAS (Read the whole transcript here: http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/nicholas_negroponte_oas.html)

And it won't be OLPC presenting the bill for implementation I don't think. Most likely the government will contract out some development agency and take out a loan to fund an implementation and integration team for the country.

To sum up some of the criticism,
Training costs are very high and some aspects, like the in-house development of lessons, materials and so on are left out.
As a mather of fact , you may expect some revenues from reselling the materials and so on.
The costs of internet access will drop when the the number of users is growing rapidly, as is the case. Of course only hardware is just part of the problem, but you seem to forget it's also part of the solution.

Raindog,

You've just encapsulated my OLPC News mindset: OLPC is stunning technology and a grand vision that we all hope will succeed. But the OLPC leadership's unwillingness to discuss on-the-ground realities of ICT implementation creates a suspicion of arrogance leading to failure.

Even if the OLPC total cost would be a 1000$?
If you take a mainstream PC you start with close to a 1000$ for hardware alone, and then you still have to add all these other cost factors. So an OLPC still remains way cheaper than mainstream PCs, period.

Regarding internet costs: the figures in the article are for standard commercial internet service, delivered over telephone or cable wire. But with olpc you are going to have a satellite dish connected to a server, and from there it will go out wireless through the mesh, which is a much cheaper system.

"The UN Digital Divide Report for 2005 listed the global average of 20 hours/month of connectivity as USD$36.91. This average hides a USD$56.31 cost for low-income countries. Let's double the cost to get up to 40 hours/month of usage and presume 10 laptops sharing each connection (these are dial-up connections for the most part, remember!), which costs $135.14/laptop/year."

The cost could be very much lower. Suppose for instance that for the $50/mo isp fee, 5$/mo goes to pay for the isp's expenses for connecting itself to the internet, and $45 goes for distributing this connection to users over land lines.

The later gets eliminated entirely with the mesh network, so it is the $5/mo that gets doubled and then divided among the 10 users, hence $1 a month and $60 for five years.

I don't know if the figures above are correct, but it seems to me that Jon should have done some real investigating before puting out financial figures and presenting them as reasonable estimates.

If there is one thing of which we can be absolutely sure, it is that olpc will not cost $972 per student.

That is because it includes $541 for internet, and no developing nation could afford that. Now remember that internet connection, while it would be very useful, is not at all necessary for olpc. The laptops, the gui, the software, the mesh network, and the servers will still make an enormously useful educational system.

That means that if internet is too expensive, the countries will simply leave it out. A more reasonable estimate, assuming that all the other numbers are right, is that countries will pay no more than $100 for internet, so it will be either $531 without or $431 without.

Eduardo, first - I am hopeful for the satellite service, but cynical from experience with working with programs to get schools connected.

The mesh network only extends as far as a high density of laptops and repeaters can extend. This works great in an urban setting, but breaks down in rural settings where each community is sufficiently distant from each other that they can't, or can't reliably share a connection.

Even so, you can only share so much bandwidth (surely we've all had a roommate who was a bittorrent/p2p addict?) before you need to add more connections. I feel that dividing a 56k modem between 10 laptops for only 40 hrs/month is already stretching that connection to its limits of utility. Whether the government can make deals with local ISPs for lower costs is still to be seen.

Obviously, (a) the satellite deal, if it holds, is awesome (provided the cost of the dish, installation and repair are included somewhere already). (b) Some countries will be cheaper than the global average that I used, but some will not. Also, inf the cases where communities are using phone connections, phone on-call time is almost universally charged per-minute connection fees - you wouldn't believe how many times I've seen this destroy a school's Internet budget.

Ben;

Yes, the OLPC is at least a cheap starting point, any beige-box computer (well, this is increasingly less true, but that same trend will also drive down the OLPC price) will start at $500 US or so, plus the "MS Tax" in many cases, and I tried to address this quickly in the last paragraph of my post.

However, the elephant-in-the-room difference is that anyone can go out and buy a off-the-shelf computer. If you want an OLPC, you have to buy at least a million of them, which has difficult challenges in successful implementation.

1. The world would change as we know it. There will be more people using Linux than Windows within 5 years of worldwide launch.

2. I don't think training cost is that critical. When I grew up with Apple IIe, my brother taught me everything, which I taught to all my friends. There was no training cost. When I did have computer class in middle school, I felt like I knew more than the teacher. Kids learn from other kids, and they learn from fun and game first. My 8 year old niece didn't receive training for her 2x100Mhz $120 NDS either.

3. Internet is initially not that important. After all, the original goal was to educate people in poorer country who otherwise won't be able to use computer at all. A good distribution may embed so many games and education programs that users won't need any addition in 3 years. If these people can't afford elementary school textbooks and don't understand English, is accessing ocw.mit.edu that important?

4. There will be cost even after purchasing OLPC hardware. But the benefits for these countries far exceed the cost. The only thing that might suffer is America's lead in information technology. Imagine all of China or India's youth writing Linux program by the age 15 and both their population are 3 to 5 times larger than that of US.

Jon, you make some interesting points, but you are still not addressing my main argument, which is in order to estimate what internet would cost olpc you have to know what the underlying technical costs actually are.

The $50 a month figure that you started out with is just about useless for this. Perhaps the isp's charging it are monopolies, so their fees are much higher than their underlying expenses. In fact, I have read that in the US, when there are two providers the rates are as high as when there are only one, because there is an unspoken agreement between the two providers to keep rates high. However, when you get to three or more providers the rates suddenly drop.

You need to find out what the real costs are, and if the ISP won't cut its rates down to near that, then the government can build its own isp. That is what a lot of communities are doing in the US when the telecoms won't provide broadband.


So, Jon, I am saying you should stop speculating about costs until you get some real data. Do you disagree? And you seem to be a rather technologically-connected person, so I am imagining you would have no trouble contacting some IPS techies you could give you the data, so why don't you go out and get it?

Ed, lacking language skills and knowledge of local ISPs and regulatory environments in all the various countries, as well as much free time, I fear this is not a great option. Also, one would hope that a government program with a country full of subscribers could work out a deal[1]. This is why I looked around to find an average number split out by at least development level. This average is built on "real" data, . Will it vary by country? Sure. In a few days I'm posting an article on the Brazil spreadsheet, linked from the follow up article comments, which, for at least urban areas, is much cheaper than the UN average.

If we start talking having the government setting up their own ISP, though, I start adding the costs for that into the implementation, that's some serious infrastructure, salary and access costs to add on!

[1] The government of Jamaica, after much wrangling, has been able to get free Internet access to schools through Cable&Wireless (monopoly landline provider with high rates and horrible service). Schools had to fill out a paper form, send it through a specific address at C&W offices, and then their monthly access fee was waived (after the paperwork went through) - but schools still had to pay per-minute charged for the phone call to the ISP, even after all this hassle and nationwide effort. A good lesson on why not to grant monopoly rights to a company, but also a hard reality that the gov't seems unable to do much with.

This thing is a joke, cranking the handle to generate power, slimed down version of Linux, poor quality user interface. No hard drive! That’s the best they could do? No knock agaiinst NicNeg but for 200 dollars they could deliver a real pc with 1 GhZ processor, 512 MEG RAM, 60 gig hard drive, and a slimmed down version of Windows XP or even Windows Mobile or Pocket PC. Microsoft could have joined hands with Intel and perhaps HP or Dell and produced the thing quite cheaply. They could have gotten funding from all sorts of sources, including the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and the UN. It could have been a slick little device with a decent screen and basic office software from Microsoft – MS Works would have been fine. Heck, I’d buy one for poorer kids in my neighborhood for $300 with the extra $100 going to fund the program.

Price doesn't matter - as long as the functionality is there, the learning curve is low enough, and the strictly material costs two computer generations from now are favourable. I think those conditions are met.

Nor does this particular machine have to succeed per se. If it inspires, in five years or so, a very similar commercial product at a lower price point, so much the better.

That, and I want one now, to use here and there, when I don't have the big iron along with me.

More serious is the stunning refusal of industrialized countries to devote any real portion of their educational budgets to online resources. What are they thinking, if they are?

Dave, that "real pc" you are pushing how are the kids going to carry it between school and home? And where is the electricity going to come from, given that half the children in question live in areas with no electricity service?

Dave, the crank is gone, replaced by a better power generating system. I'd argue that while the industry is constantly getting cheaper, there is limited interest on the part of the top-of-the-chain companies like Dell/IBM/MS in putting as much innovation into a machine and "marketing" it to the third world. This is a pricy thing to do, with limited financial returns (and they must answer to their shareholders, who don't see the bottom line benefits of more social-benefit returns).

The Gates Foundation stays away from technology projects for conflict-of-interest reasons.

The technology and design philosophy behind the OLPC is fantastic. I think their overall devotion to open source and open design is admirable, and of huge value to developing nations, who can use the open source code to learn programming at many levels for their own improvement.

My ongoing problem with the project is their scale requirements. Whereas one can buy a stripped-down Dell or what-have-you for $200, you have to sign up for a million OLPC laptops. Even at twice the price, that's a big barrier to entry, especially without testing it or seeing other countries having success with the project.

Russel;

Nor does this particular machine have to succeed per se. If it inspires, in five years or so, a very similar commercial product at a lower price point, so much the better.

Actually, OLPC's possibility for failure really frightens me with their current model. If they launch in 5-10 countries with say 100 million laptops among the various countries, and then by some quirk fail in a significant number of them; these countries will be deeply in debt for having tried out this revolutionary project (even if they are able to finance it internally, that's still money that could have been spent on tested projects, but most likely it'll be debt-financed), and skittish about technology projects for many years afterwards.

Thank you for interest in the real cost of the One Laptop Per Child, Children's Machine XO. And thank you for reading this post to the end of the comments.

Unfortunately, due to inordinate amounts of comment spam, we've had to close comments on this post.

Please follow this specific cost comparison on the "Implementation Cost Follow-Up to NewsForge & Slashdot" post: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/press/implementation_cost.html

Or the general "OLPC cost" conversation in the OLPC Price category: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/price/

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