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OLPC announces production delays for XO laptop

When the non-profit group One Laptop per Child Foundation first announced it intended to build an ultra-low cost laptop for children in developing nations, the plan struck a chord with many fans of technology. The target price for what came to be known as the XO Laptop was $100.

Recently price increases have forced the string-pulley powered XO laptop from the originally planned $100 price tag to a cost of $175. Shortly after the first price increase the One Laptop per Child Foundation announced another price increase bringing the planned $100 laptop to a price of $188. With the last price increase to $188, the foundation also announced that prices for the XO laptop would vary by country.

Now, Yahoo! News is reporting that production of the XO laptop has been delayed. The XO was supposed to head to manufacturing in a Chinese plant in October, which didn’t happen. Production is now reportedly scheduled to begin on November 12 according to Mary Lou Jepsen, CTO for the One Laptop per Child Foundation.

Jepsen told Reuters, “We had some last-minute bugs. We've resolved them." The foundation had expected to produce 100,000 XO laptops this year. This delay will make meeting shipment deadlines to Peru and Uruguay, the first countries to order the XO difficult.

The delay will also make it difficult to get enough laptops to the United States for the planned Give 1 Get 1 promotion over the holidays were you could buy an XO Laptop for $400 and provide a second machine to a child overseas. The foundation will begin accepting orders for the XO Laptop on November 12.
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RE: Losing the game?
By Ringold on 10/25/2007 8:41:11 PM , Rating: 2
I never bought in to how this helps anyone except the donors to feel good for giving to charity, to be honest.

What do developing countries need, that's the question.

Part of the answer is human capital. Do these have a measurable impact on the efficacy of education, or, as another DT article suggested, are they pornoputers? If the impact is noticeable, is there a good reason why its not seen in the developed world and is it large enough to justify the expense? Also, does this keep children enrolled in school longer? The average developing world girl gets something like 2 to 3 years of schooling total.

They also need capital and investment. Can these make money? Not unless they're picked up by Nigerian spam masters. These also don't create investment directly -- but could down the line. The social rate of return on primary education investment in the developing world is significant.. but this goes back to the education question. Directly, though, no additional investment or capital comes in.

What's desperately needed as well is social capital. People must be able to walk through their town and not be worried about getting mugged, raped, or hit by a random mortar. Government needs to be trustworthy and working for its people. Citizens must be able to take advantage of microfinance, for example, and be secure knowing that a small business won't be confiscated or destroyed. As long as corruption is rampant and chaos reigns, these kids could be Einsteins to no good end. Having laptops shoved down their pipes by yet another white man who thinks he knows what's best for Afrikans does nothing for governance. Zimbabwe doesn't need laptops, it needs a revolution.

Meanwhile, the private economy begins producing similar technology at similar prices. And thus, the vicious cycle of poverty screams on, except now a small number of kids will be able to watch porn while living on $2 a day and a handful of millionairs and billionaires can brag that at least they tried with those backward people.

Also, look at some of the customers. Argentina? Uruguay? WTF? These places aren't disney land but they rank above the UAE, for example, on the HDI (Human Development Index, 2004 data). Brazil, while medium ranking, is absolutely opulent compared to real developing countries and thus needs no help. Rwanda at least ranks on the low end of the scale, and thus makes at least some sense. All those places have seen impressive growth as well since 2004, thus making even less sense. This is exactly the questionable behavior that has people wondering what the World Bank exists for if the bulk of its business goes to countries that've already broken out of abject poverty.

Lets say they sell 50m of these, thats 9.4 billion USD. IMHO, risking 9.4b to back some commercial ventures to set up factories or invest in making some farms of Western quality and in a little infrastructure so that these farms have access to global markets would pay much better dividends. Increased agricultural productivity is historically the first step on the road to being China; it's not glamorous, but.. since when has economics ever been glamorous.


RE: Losing the game?
By rudy on 10/25/2007 10:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think the idea is by allowing cheap long lasting communication tools free of energy strings, education will flow in. Think about how much we access the internet through wikipedia or elsewhere to find information now. Even scientist at the highest levels are using it while not admitting to it. If you try to buy a school book you are looking at probably at least $25 plus getting it to them, many books cost at least $100 so this one device if really under $200 could give them access to hundreds of these books which amounts to thousands of dollars. It may really be a cheaper solution then trying to use traditional education. Through 1 computer a single good teacher in a country could teach to thousands of kids instead of a class of 30 in his home town.

I don't know if it will work out that good but at least if people are given such a product organizations that usually take donations for school materials may start looking to this as an actually cheaper option. I don't expect the government of corrupt countries to do any of this I really see more hope in charities NGOs, and NPOs stepping in when and if the product is available and reliable.


RE: Losing the game?
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 10/26/2007 8:35:21 AM , Rating: 2
I think the failing idea here that you are getting stuck on is the education material problem. It's pretty far fetched to think that by giving them access to the internet they will learn more. I can go on the internet and find out that the holocaust was faked, that stalin was reborn, that madonna is the second coming and more. The internet is also full of TONS of incorrect and unlikely information. How will some 3rd world kid know the difference between what is credible and what isn't? Exactly.

You can give them laptops all you want, but it won't change anything. You need to affect their economies and laptops as school books isn't how you do it. You need to go in with a team of agriculture experts and figure out ways to develop their food production, and export it. This gives you an economy that can function on its own and serve as a stable source of revenue. This revenue can be reinvested into more agriculture or to develop other areas of their economy.

quote:
I think the idea is by allowing cheap long lasting communication tools free of energy strings, education will flow in. Think about how much we access the internet through wikipedia or elsewhere to find information now.

I think your going out on a very thin limb here. How will this laptop allow education to flow in? What kind of education will flow in? Have you stopped to consider that the vast majority of people learn by doing, and thus reading it on wikipedia won't help them much as they don't understand what they are reading.

quote:
If you try to buy a school book you are looking at probably at least $25 plus getting it to them, many books cost at least $100 so this one device if really under $200 could give them access to hundreds of these books which amounts to thousands of dollars. It may really be a cheaper solution then trying to use traditional education.

In the U.S. it costs $100. You can print a text book for close to 5 dollars in raw materials, we just tack on a nice margin to satisfy profit requirements. This would be more economical and long lasting. Books out last electronics especially if they aren't well maintained.

quote:
Through 1 computer a single good teacher in a country could teach to thousands of kids instead of a class of 30 in his home town.

This is wishful thinking. One teacher will teach a class of roughly 50. So we will say 100 kids per year, to make your 1000 number it would take 10 years and the laptop won't last that long. Nice try though, a book would!

quote:
I don't expect the government of corrupt countries to do any of this I really see more hope in charities NGOs, and NPOs stepping in when and if the product is available and reliable.

I hope to see more charities grow a brain and spend money more intelligently instead of trying to throw cutting edge solutions at the problems rather than using effecient long term solutions.


RE: Losing the game?
By Grigi on 10/26/2007 10:35:52 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe all they need to learn, is to separate the FUD from fact, or at least get a good feel for it.

Handing the XO out indiscriminately will never work, but giving them access to the XO to practice, say programming or using the Wikipedia reference material that will be on there, that will be usefull.

Personally I think a person needs to struggle with the computer a bit, before one becomes computer literate. So the XO with internet access only at the school, will be fine, I think.

You cannot replace teachers, but a computer can be a valuable learning tool.


RE: Losing the game?
By Ringold on 10/26/2007 10:11:48 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Maybe all they need to learn, is to separate the FUD from fact, or at least get a good feel for it.


LOL, we expect them to do something we can't? :P


RE: Losing the game?
By TomZ on 10/26/2007 9:08:51 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with Master Kenobi's statements above, but I would like to make my point in a simple equation:

education ? information

In other words, giving kids access to the Internet gives them access to all sorts of information, but education by contrast is a structured process of learning how things work, learning relationships, practicing, being evaluated. And that's just the academic side. Kids in school also develop social skills, exercise and develop motor skills, learn about music, practice art, do science experiments, etc.

I'm personally fine with OLPC as long as it is never seen as a substitute for real schools and teachers. And looking at countries where education resources are limited, it is my opinion that in many of these countries, spending incremental dollars on traditional educational costs will deliver far better returns than giving away OLPCs. In other words (for Ringold) the opportunity cost of having the OLPCs might be that fewer schools are built and fewer teachers are hired. I don't see the sense in that.


RE: Losing the game?
By TomZ on 10/26/2007 9:11:15 AM , Rating: 2
Let me try the equation again in flat ASCII:

education != information

(I had put in a nice Unicode "not equals" symbol, which showed up fine in the preview, but got changed to a '?' after the post was finally displayed.)


RE: Losing the game?
By Grigi on 10/26/2007 5:10:08 AM , Rating: 2
Some countries you mentioned such as Zimbabwe definitely does need a revolution, it is really sad how far they have fallen under Mugabe.
But I think the South-American countries you mentioned is ideal for this. I have been to Brazil for a while, and the situation there is somewhat like here in South Africa.

The middle class is getting good education, and the lower class is getting some mediocre education. On the lower class the most significant improvement in education is to make sure that the kids have the nutrients needed to grow and concentrate (Their families are a bit poor, or they might have less than ideal parents). So the OLPC does not make so much sense there. But their middle-class students would definitely benefit from having computers at school.

I went to a middle class government school, and we were provided the basics, books,stationary, reasonable teachers. But the school wanted to better itself, so by doing LOTS & LOTS of fund raising, they managed to buy computers, hire extra computer-science teachers, hale that little bit of money to just give us, the students that extra edge.

Funny thing is the apparent conversion rate from Matric(Finishing high school) to graduates are in the region of 2-3%, but from my school and another handful of schools in the region that did similar tactics, there is a graduate conversion rate of 20-30%. This tenfold increase was only because we had slightly better tools to develop our minds.

So I really do think that providing the XO to students in the middle-class would be able to help them tremendously.


RE: Losing the game?
By TomZ on 10/26/2007 9:31:16 AM , Rating: 1
But your school didn't give a laptop to each child, did they? Instead they funded computers and placed them in the school and hired more teachers. So I don't see how you can say that the success your school saw gives you an indication that OLPC would give you the same result, since it's an entirely different situation.

I think that if anything, your situation potentially exactly disproves OLPC. In other words, a relatively small incremental amount of resources applied to giving the school better equipment and more teachers appears to have generated a very large net result. If you instead applied those same resources to giving kids cheap laptops, you would lose the benefits you saw, in exchange for some unproven/unknown benefit due to the OLPC program.


RE: Losing the game?
By Ringold on 10/26/2007 10:27:09 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's also worth pointing out that every scientist and engineer at the vanguard of their respective specialized fields gained their elite training and knowledge not by mindlessly accessing Wikipedia but by doing something scarcely done in universities today -- reading textbooks, using the library, and using hand-powered slide rule. Never before in history has education required this kind of access to information.

Following up on your teachers point, I'm not sure how far I am willing to defend this idea but for at least some courses in developing worlds so long as teacher training is sufficient none may be needed beyond a chalk board. If Mugabe had me at gun point and told me to teach some high school kids some basic econ, I could do it. If I myself had a textbook, or even was just allowed to borrow one long enough to take some notes, I could easily do it. No mountain of textbooks needed such as in our schools, which get sent home to unappreciative children and suffer the damage of neglect despite scarce use. Material also doesn't change much, so years could pass between updating course material.

At any rate, I see room for massive amounts of parsimony in education, at least by looking at our own system and how our private schools save mountains of cash while producing comparable results to public ones.

Again, I dont care to defend all of that too heavily, but an idea.


RE: Losing the game?
By wordsworm on 10/26/2007 5:43:34 AM , Rating: 2
There are kids in America and Canada who don't have enough money for these things. Does that mean they should be denied the access to higher learning tools because they live in Canada, let alone a much less wealthy countries like Brazil or Argentina? That is truly obtuse.


RE: Losing the game?
By TomZ on 10/26/2007 9:36:09 AM , Rating: 2
Are you trying to say that every child in the world has a "right" to a laptop? I guess I don't understand your point.


“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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