The $100 Laptop and the OLPC Association

specs_dimensions.jpgI was a bit curious as to why the Philippines was not included in the list of countries for initial roll out of the $100 Laptop program. China, Argentina, India, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand were the initial countries targetted for intial deployment in 2007 then other countries joined in (Libya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tunisia to name a few). So I fired off a query to the people behind One Laptop Per Child and this was the reply that I got from Julia Reynolds of OLPC

All countries have the opportunity to receive laptops from our organization, but we have to receive a request directly from the government.

From the overview file:

OLPC has decided not to set up subsidiaries in each country. Rather it will work with country-appointed institutions for rollout, service, and pedagogy.

To which she also stated that they got no direct request from the Philippine government other than an inquiry from the office of one Provincial Governor. Guess that answers that question. Basing from the answer of the OLPC folks, this program calls for a countrywide roll out. Which could only mean that it has to be the National Government who has to take the lead in applying for the program, purchasing the laptops then deploying it to the host communities.

specs_displayetoys.jpgOff the top of my head, Dept of Science and Technology and Department of Eduction are the two branches of the Executive that look logical to spearhead the program if ever the government decides to apply. For the reason that the DOST has the technical know-how and nobody knows Education and the receiving communities better than the DepEd. OLPC is suggesting that deployment be in different locations of the country and not just one specific location or sector.

One Laptop Per Child
is the Association behind the $100 laptop program. It was founded by Nicholas Negroponte along with some members of the Media Lab of MIT.

The core purpose of OLPC is to enable all children to have the best-possible education. Distributing one laptop per child makes students more active and creative learners; and helps them master the new skills and ideas they will need for living and working in a digital society. It will give them access to knowledge that they did not have access to in the past…Research has demonstrated that we learn best when we are engaged in designing and creating things, especially things that are meaningful to us or to others around us….

The One Laptop per Child Association (OLPC), a non-profit corporation, proposes a pilot program to equip one-million primary and secondary students and their teachers with ultra-low-cost, individual, connected laptop computers to dramatically enhance the childrens’ education.

OLPC proposes to launch in 2007 with an initial 7 million laptops and then reach 100 million laptops a year later. Since it is a non-profit organization, any cost savings incurred during the construction of the laptop will be to the benefit of the selling price of the laptop. Meaning that a $10 savings could lower the cost of the laptop to $90.

The main features of the current design of laptop that stand out for me are:

  1. Low electricity consumption. Compared to the existing 30-40 watt laptops that we have, the $100 laptop consumes only 2 watts. Meaning that it can run on a hand crank as well as have a longer batter life. For those who are handicapped by having no access to electricity this makes using a computer possible.
  2. The Mesh network. It is like a Peer-to-Peer wireless sharing network, wherein two laptops can share internet connection as long as they are within 300 meters of one another. Meaning that laptops can connect to the internet by piggybacking on other $100 laptops closer to the base station. A visual example can be found here, click on the PC’s to deploy the mesh network.

    This means that the laptops automatically (and transparently to their users) form connections between them and cooperatively relay packets for each other. This allows their users to be able to communicate as if they were all connected to the same 802.11 access point.

  3. The Rugged Design. Since it was designed to be carried by children all the time it had smooth edges, incorporated a built in handle, was small in size and extremely light. Proof of it’s flexibility is in the fact that it can be reconfigured to function as a laptop and an e-book reader. It was also assumed that it would be carried in almost all weather conditions (dust and rain storms), hence the need for thick plastic casings, external connector covers and a sealed rubber-membrane keyboard. Since connectors and harddisks are the first parts of a laptop that usually fail, it was designed to have only 2 internal cables and have a flash disk for it’s hard drive (512 Mb).

What the people behind OLPC are doing is truly commendable. Their work is helping to break the barriers that developing countries are facing with regards to enabling their education sectors to have access to timely and relevant information. In the Information Age that we are in right now, it should be a crime that students aren’t able to access the internet and the mountains of information that it holds.

One of the hurdles of establishing Internet Labs in Public schools that I am seeing is in the price of a broadband connection. A $22/month wireless internet connection might be cheap to some people but to a public school in a remote area that is a big chunk out of their monthly budget. I’m not even sure if the local PTCA’s (Parent, Teacher and Community Assoc) will allow for that kind of program in their schools given the monthly cost. Not to mention that the bandwidth that comes with that package might not be enough to accomodate all the users in the school. And with the remoteness of some of these schools it looks like mobile broadband could be their only option. So here’s to hoping that broadband prices will go down some more in the Philippines.

Other Info on the $100 Laptop Program:

  1. OLPC laptop specs here
  2. Contact Information for the OLPC project are found here
  3. Debunking OLPC Myths
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  • Maybe it’s because in the Philippines, the government officials who would want this the most are the congressmen.

  • ron

    great post. I hope our government should grab this opportunity NOW or our children will be left out.

    but then again, they are busy with the upcoming election.

  • vilma

    happy to sponsor my village school in Region 8 for the $22 per month-how do I do it
    Area is Canipaan Hinunangan S.leyte to be precise
    Vilma

  • Hi Vilma,

    I’d suggest trying to get in touch with your school directly and see how much it would cost to have internet installed… it might cost more than $22/month if wireless broadband isn’t available in their area… with OLPC not yet available in the Philippines (and no definite plans), if they don’t have any PC’s they might need to purchase some…

    I believe this is the contact info for your school

    http://www.deped.gov.ph/public/public.asp?sec=&action=edit&iID=39158&type=Public

    hope this helps 😀

  • @Migs

    That’s a good question to ask OLPC if they need monitoring of where the laptops will go to…

    @ron

    You and I are hoping the same thing 😀

  • Using Libya as a comparison.
    13 million Philippine school children

    * one laptop per child
    * one server in every school
    * technical support
    * satellite internet.

    ~2.7 Billion US -minus volume pricing
    Only laptops maybe half that cost.

    Now the big question is funding….

  • @Hans

    Great figures :D…

    At the 2.7 Billion budget you are projecting… that would seem to require something like a 20 year rollout plan … hopefully by that time mass adoption and technology development would knock a few more dollars off the $100 price tag 😀

  • good article. check out my write up on this and other alternative tech at: http://livingplanet.blogspot.com/2006/12/my-alternative-technology-christmas.html

  • From early articles about OLPC, the government has to commit to 1 Million laptops. So that is $100M (approx Php 5B). From the 2007 budget, the approved $96 M will go to the school feeding program. Just throw in some more from the pork barrel then we can order those laptops…

  • I’ll sign up to sponsor at least one school too. How many more will?

    The thing about this program that saddens me … and I’ve been commenting about it on a number of blogs … is, that every message seems to have one distinct undertone … it can’t be done. Well, if you think you can’t do something, you’re right.

    Some have even taken the trouble to calculate scientifically all the reason it won’t work, how much money is needed and why it can’t be done. Obviously these are folks working for government or large corporations … in my years as a government worker the absolute easiest way to get out of doing anything was just to cook up a spread sheet to show the boss how much it would cost. that would kill the project dead.

    One thing I don’t think anyone has bothered to read is that along with the cheap laptop is a very clever wireless network design that will allow these tools to become a true mesh network … a sort of mini Internet. You won’t necessarily need an Internet connection in every school … it’s not set up as a commercial model where the plan is to see how much needs to be bought it’s set up as a cooperative model to see how much can get done.

    It’s really interesting to me that Yuga puts out a call for sponsors for some kind of a blog awards thingie and immediately gets so many responses he has to put things on hold … yet who has ever even asked for sponsors for this program?

  • Meaning that laptops can connect to the internet by piggybacking on other $100 laptops closer to the base station. A visual example can be found here, click on the PC’s to deploy the mesh network.

  • rcorrino

    I don’t really think giving individual children access to the internet is a good idea. Students kindergarten to grade 6 have no real pressing need for constant internet access. What do they need it for. Chatting? E-mail? Viewing Porn?

    I think it would be more productive for these children to have computers that are LAN not WAN connected. This way, they can communicate and exchange ideas with their classmates but limit the distraction the internet offers. If they need to do research or surf educational sites, several moderated computers can be put on the LAN that are WAN capable.

    But I think it boils down to this. Before handing laptop to any child in the more poverty stricken areas of our country, we should first provide food and clothing. A law prohibiting child labor. Punishing the parents or guardians of children who are not in school and better qualified teachers and more schools. It does not even have to be a cement structure. Just a place where children and teachers can gather to learn from each other. Give a child the basics and laptop or no laptop he or she will be competitive in the first or any world.

    Just my P2…….

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  • Regarding rcorrino’s comment, “I don’t really think giving individual children access to the internet is a good idea.”

    Why don’t you think that students (learners) should have access to trillions of bits of information spread around the world, accessible via the internet?

    Do you think that the public school students must always rely on worn-out, dog-eared textbooks missing pages and containing myriad proven errors? And teachers who spout falsehoods and myths?

    “Students kindergarten to grade 6 have no real pressing need for constant internet access. What do they need it for. Chatting? E-mail? Viewing Porn?”

    Who said that they must have CONSTANT internet access, in school or in their homes?
    Secondly, access to the world wide web within wireless range of a school’s internet router is for research, learning and education, not pornography.

    “I think it would be more productive for these children to have computers that are LAN not WAN connected. This way, they can communicate and exchange ideas with their classmates but limit the distraction the internet offers.”

    The XO laptops are wirelessly connected to each other for “mesh networks” (LAN) for collaboration!

    The Republic of the Philippines leadership, including Her Highness, doesn’t care much about educating the poor.
    The Department of Science And Technology, whose website I can’t even load, doesn’t need to be involved. DepEd does.
    But DepEd won’t issue computers to teachers and classrooms, because it is so backward and grossly incompetent. It won’t even replace defective textbooks and broken furniture.

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