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One Laptop Per Child: Appropriate Technology? Engineers Without Borders Presents: What is One Laptop Per Child? "Our goal: To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves." — Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC Chairman

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One Laptop Per Child: Appropriate Technology?

Engineers Without Borders Presents:


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What is One Laptop Per Child?

  • "Our goal: To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves." — Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC Chairman

  • Produce 1 billion(!) laptops for children in developing countries

  • Laptop will support learning by experience

  • Price goal: $100 per unit

  • Governments will purchase and give one laptop to each child


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OLPC Milestones

  • Kofi Annan and the UNDP support the project

  • Major laptop manufacturer Quanta is producing the laptops

  • Peru and Uruguay have purchased laptops

  • Mexico, Haiti, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mongolia will test donated laptops


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What Are The Stakes?

  • Largest technology development project ever

  • Intent to significantly change education systems

  • $100 billion dollars in direct costs alone

  • More expensive than the entire education budget in many countries

  • This had better work...


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The Smitcher

  • The Smitcher is a new technology developed in California that prevents pothole formation, when used on car wheels before each trip.

  • The Region of Waterloo is considering purchasing a Smitcher to install on each vehicle in the Region this year.

  • What do you want to know about Smitchers?




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Logistical Considerations

How much will this cost?

Can we get enough Smitchers?

Are people going to know how to use their Smitchers?

Can Smitchers be repaired if they break?

What we want to know about Smitchers

Engineering Considerations

  • Do Smitchers really prevent potholes?

  • Are Smitchers safe?

  • Do Smitchers work in the winter?

  • Are Smitchers bad for the environment?


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Predetermination

The Nortel Problem: Past trends may not predict future behaviour

The Ford Problem: Scale causes problems

The Hammer Problem:One size doesn't fit all

The Titanic Problem: Pride can make us overconfident

What we want to know about Smitchers

Cultural, Social and Economic Considerations

  • Will people actually use their Smitchers?

  • Will Smitchers disrupt the way we currently do things?

  • Is the pothole problem the real problem or just a manifestation of it?


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OLPC: Engineering Considerations

Does the OLPC provide a laptop that children in developing countries can use for education?

  • Test runs show increased engagement and problem solving

  • Uncertain whether intended skill and knowledge outcomes are attained.

  • Curriculum materials in local languages are not yet available


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OLPC: Engineering Considerations

Does the OLPC work within the infrastructure available?

  • Low power consumption, various charging methods

    • Is power consumption low enough for local sources?

    • What will it cost?

  • Internet connectivity via mesh

    • Geographic barriers, weather barriers

    • Is an internet connection available at all?


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OLPC: Engineering Considerations

Does the OLPC survive the environment in which it serves?

  • Design decisions help deal with dust, heat and cold.

  • More difficult: Rain, physical impact


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OLPC: Logistical Considerations

How much will it cost?

  • Current price $208 per unit

  • Should drop with economies of scale

  • “Given the resources that developing countries can reasonably allocate to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per pupil...” — Nicholas Negroponte

  • Cost does not include electricity, repair, support, internet connectivity, distribution, etc.


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OLPC: Logistical Considerations

Can the laptops be distributed to the students?

  • OLPC just does one delivery, to the central government

  • UNDP and governments are most able means of distribution, but still unreliable

  • Many schools have incorrect attendance lists


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OLPC: Logistical Considerations

Will people know how to use it?

  • Reports are that the interface is intuitive for children

  • Teachers are not trained in the use of the laptops in education

  • “Each [laptop] is assigned a "lease,"... The laptop connects to the internet... and checks... to see if it's been reported stolen. If not, the lease is extended another few weeks.If the lease expires, the XO's internet connectivity is turned off, and shortly thereafter the whole computer becomes a brick.”


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OLPC: Logistical Considerations

Are the laptops maintainable locally?

  • "The kids really can do the maintenance" — Nicholas Negroponte

  • Spare parts are not available

  • Trained repairers are not available

  • Disassembly is easy, but reports suggest that reassembly is harder


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OLPC: Cultural, Social and Economic Considerations

Will people want to use the OLPC?

  • Why should kids use the laptop? Value? Fun?

  • Who will be the champions? Teachers are explicitly outside of the OLPC learning model.


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OLPC: Cultural, Social and Economic Considerations

Will the OLPC disrupt existing structures in a negative way?

  • Who owns the laptops? Children are not legitimate owners in many developing world cultures.

  • How much value do the laptops have? Is theft and a grey market likely?


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OLPC: Cultural, Social and Economic Considerations

Is the specific problem that the OLPC seeks to solve really the right problem?

  • Is it lack of laptops that is the biggest barrier to an educated population in the developing world?

  • Availability of teachers, schools fees and other barriers are major problems


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OLPC: Predetermination

Determining methods early in a project leads to several problems:

  • The Nortel Problem: Past performance ≠ future results

  • The Ford Problem: Scale causes problems

  • The Hammer Problem: One size doesn't always fit all

    • Libya's population is 86.9% urban, Nigeria's is 51.7% rural

  • The Titanic Problem: Pride can make us overconfident

    • "...[OLPC] is a non-profit effort, and to criticise it is a little bit stupid actually." -- Nicholas Negroponte


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Conclusion

Lots of work and major changes to the plan will be required for the OLPC to be successful.


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