Dispatch from Kigali: On OLPC’s Future

June 18, 2009 at 7:26 am Leave a comment

As the workshop comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the future of OLPC in light of what we heard from OLPC’s senior staff.

OLPC has historically avoided taking a hands on approach in specific countries, prefering to act simply as a manufacturer of low cost laptops and an ideological proponent of laptops in learning. David Caviello and Nicholas Negroponte both made it abundantly clear that, with the XO 2.0, OLPC intends to move away from manufacturing computers and instead take a more hands on role in specific deployment countries.

Given that industry has made huge advances in terms of producing low cost netbooks that are more powerful than the XO and could be easily modified for the developing world, this approach definitely seems necessary in order to prevent the XO (and possibly OLPC) from becoming outdated. This should also give OLPC the opportunity to see a few key deployments through from start to ‘finish’. These highly successful deployments could then create a network of experienced individuals who could, without central direction from OLPC, oversee a grassroot explosion of deployments (based on diffuse hardware and self-directed initiatives).

Although OLPC’s departure from the laptop manufacturing arena is several years away, and OLPC is still dedicated to developing and releasing the XO 1.5 (which will be twice as powerful, but cost the same, as the current iteration), it has already taken several concrete steps to begin the process of emphasizing learning. The most important of these seems to be the launch of the OLPC Learning Center in Kigali (which will house the entire learning team that was formerly based in Cambridge as well as lots of local staff). Hopefully, this combination will allow OLPC to adapt its learning techniques to the local demands of Rwanda (and elsewhere in the developing world) while simultaneously putting OLPC central staff in a position to be accountable for that specific deployment.

-Mike

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School visits (pt. 1) Dispatch from Kigali: Thoughts on Our Deployment

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