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How will those societies that adopt the laptop be affected?

We acknowledge that the laptop will have an impact on social, economic, and political issues and that in some instances it may have a negative impact. We plan to work closely with our partner countries to monitor the impact, highlighting examples of best practice. We remain steadfast in our belief that learning is fundamental to positive change and that the laptop will afford opportunities for learning where they did not previously exist.

What are the pros and cons of OLPC?

The "pro" of one laptop per child is that to the degree that we are successful, more children will have an opportunity for learning. The worst case is that more children will have access to connected computers. The "cons" of OLPC seem to vary depending upon whom one asks. There are criticisms in the Wikipedia articles about the laptop and the mission.

What potential negative impacts do the project organizer's foresee?

As with any technology, there are opportunities for abuse; undoubtedly, some of the laptops will be stolen; some will never reach the children; some will be used for rote instruction; some won't be used at all. However, our experiences in virtually every pilot we have either studied or run over the past 40 years suggests that the impact of empowering children, their teachers, families, and communities with computers and communication has a net positive impact on learning, social cohesion, local economies, etc.

Governments and schools—a Western construct

Schools are nothing more than a Western construct that the developed world seems hellbent on imposing on the developing world even if the result is social destruction. Governments of all complections have a vested interest in exploiting this project. It seems to me that there is a desperate need to develop a new pedagogy involving non-traditional formal educational structures, possibly working with NGOs. Governments in developing countries will go the same way as many Western governments and impose a nationalized curriculum that will be delivered via these laptops.

OLPC is not developing new schools to be delivered to these countries. We are developing laptop computers to be delivered to children. The laptops themselves will be a rich educational environment even in the absence of teachers. In addition, the philosophy that we follow is a constructionist educational philosophy that focuses on leading the child to discover knowledge for themselves. --Memracom 05:45, 13 January 2007 (EST)

Does OLPC not serve to widen the gap between the haves and have nots?

By not supporting any of the common technologies in the First World and forcing a unique paradigm of user interface and technology, how is it that these disadvantaged societies will become more "advantaged"? It seems that a proprietary system will only serve to make a greater distinction between the poor and the rich. --Ryan Cameron, Haberman Educational Foundation

The OLPC laptop and its Sugar user interface are NOT proprietary systems. The technologies are open source and built on a tried and tested Linux kernel and operating system (which is seeing rapid growth of adoption in the First World). OLPC's use of free and open-source software will serve to ensure that children are free to shape their own futures: children are being given a computer where nothing is hidden from them, the internals of the operating system are there for them to inspect, learn from, and hopefully learn to improve. The Sugar UI only serves to simplify things for the children until they are ready to look further into the OS and see what makes it tick. These children will potentially have an understanding of computers that greatly exceeds the children using a proprietary paradigm of computing.
Understanding sugar code was written to educate people like you on how you can get into the guts of an OLPC laptop. Any children who have an OLPC could potentially do exactly that, and learn a lot about computing at a very low level. OLPC volunteers will develop curriculum in all languages, in civic, sciences, and arts. This is an opportunity to diminish the divide. -Jeff

What are the costs of implementation/not implementing?

The costs of implementation are just those you'd expect: infrastructure, hardware, distribution, etc. I'm not sure what you're asking about "economic costs of not implementing"; the thesis is that economic benefits of education vastly outweigh the costs of the laptops themselves. National governments will pay, for the moment, though other schemes, such as one nation helping to pay for another's laptops, etc. are being explored as well. --Jacobolus 19:34, 17 February 2007 (EST)

This is a very to the point question that we should drill to the bottom, i.e. some spreadsheet where numbers can be filled out and it can be shown - calculated - what are the revenues-costs=benefits to the country. The starting concept is that poorly educated people will generate less revenues in taxes for the government than those same people having benefitted from a great education, well connected to the internet, having great access to data and knowledge, etc. Obviously such a population will be able to generate a lot quicker and easier and more additional value, set-up companies, etc. that will result on a certain moment in more revenues from taxes to the government on goods and services these people are using.

Let's say that an OLPC XO-XS + portable PhotoVoltaic Panel costs about 190€ (anno 2013). If we can demonstrate that an XO-XS deployment will generate in say 6-12-18 years time more than say 190 € in additional tax revenues, the OLPC deployment would have paid for itself, right?

We have a spreadsheet calculator to calculate how much to foresee for implementing an OLPC XO-XS deployment. As Jacobolus mentioned: where costs for infrastructure, hardware, distribution, etc. - I want to add training, electricity generation and consumption, etc. - can all be introduced there and figures come out in how that translates into costs per laptop or child. Enfin, the tool gives you several ball-mark figures that are indispensable for a serious discussion.

We are still looking to bring people from the right disciplines together to make a calculator to demonstrate what are the revenues - returns in additional tax revenues from implementing an OLPC XO-XS project. If you google around a bit, you will find e.g. publications based upon such calculators developed by teams but for the mobile phone sector. These are typical university level people in the economics departments, who are specialised in making such models / calculators. There is a consensus on the fork of additional revenues in taxes that bring mobile phone infrastructure deployments. So these calculators ask you to go look for country specific data, like number of people reached, average literacy of these groups that will be able to capture a gsm signal, purchasing power, access to micro-finance, male-female, adults-kids distributions, etc. and then when you input that data, you get ball mark figures to show to investors and the relevant ministers and president, but also IMF/Development Banks and similar, to get a loan. And that's what we need at OLPC: the better we can show that an olpc xo-xs implementation pays itself back within 7 years - average life-span of the XO's - the more helpful it will be to a minister of education U minister of finance U prime minister U president, to go to these IMF/Development Banks together with an OLPC delegation to obtain a loan. It becomes a financing issue then as it can be calculated / shown on a spreadsheet that the olpc xo-xs implementation will generate additional tax revenues with which the government can pay back the loan. All that it needs is a grace period for say 7 years. After all that's what a loan is for: give me a lump sum now, so I can build/buy/implement something now, that will start generating revenues, so that I can start paying back with an interest provided you give me some time to implement the machine/build the house/building etc. and I can actually start selling, generating revenues. And through some calculation: Revenues - costs = benefits, you can show - at least on paper already - that you can pay back the loan in so many years without any danger of going bankrupt meanwhile. At least you have a calculator - a model - with figures and data, a group of people can look at and base a discussion upon. It then becomes a discussion on : do you believe that parameter, what if you be a bit more conservative on that parameter, how does that influence the additional tax revenues generation and pay-back time. How certain are we about the data that's fed into the calculator. Does the uncertainty around the parameters and model balance the risk for the loan. Certain banks - like the IMF/Development Banks can allow loans to projects that are based upon models that are a bit less certain, private banks won't be allowed - according to their statutes - to give a loan to such project. So very to the point question. Where to go from here?

  1. Make a page on this wiki. Write to all the Universities - Economics Facultaties and propose the professors there to propose their students to collaborate in developing an Economic Model and Calculator capable of calculating what are the Additional Tax Revenues from an OLPC XO-XS deployment. List what universities you've contacted, who's responded, aks the olpc community to help you with the follow-up of all these emails, etc.
  2. Make a page on this wiki: we have to find these teams that have made these models on mobile phone implementations. Contact the federation of mobile phone companies. They're typically the ones that would order and have such studies and models/calculators developed.
  3. This is where we are at the moment. Please contact me to take up things to the next level. olpc is an open community project, so it needs you and your network to take things to the next level. --SvenAERTS 11:45, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

How will the social, economic, and political impacts be monitored?

We are helping the pilot countries to develop a wide range of metrics for measuring the impact of the project: everything from standardized test scores, to truancy rates, to economic development (Please see Our Mission#Metrics).

What role will these impacts play in shaping the project?

The project is not being implemented as an “open loop”; rather we expect to feed back into the project course corrections as we move forward. Will things happen the same in Brazil as in China? At the macro-level, probably not. But at the micro-level, we expect children to learn learning through independent and social interaction and exploration.

Should these impacts be studied before the laptops are released?

We have been studying the impact of technology (specifically access to computation) on learning for more than 40 years. While there is no way to truly know the specific impact of the OLPC laptops before they are in use, there have been lessons learned from numerous 1-to-1 computing projects around the world and there is every expectation that lessons learned in the early deployment will provide feedback as the project rolls out more widely.

OLPC potential to foster self-sustainable development

Rhythm of Hope is looking for opportunities to facilitate the fostering of self-sustainable development in Brazil, India and possibly Africa. Will OLPC consider providing training and collaborating on providing resources to set up remote "in other country" production shop in a slum ('favela' in Brazil) or poor rural community? This would provide jobs, which are as immediately important as (if not more so than) computers. --Phillip Wagner, founder and director of Rhythm of Hope in Brazil

The jobs associated with assembly are few and menial. We'd rather work with you on a broader range of jobs, such as software and content development, support, etc.

How will family, community, and religious structures that have existed for generations be impacted?

There will be change; however, we are making every effort to make the laptop an instrument of change that is under local control, so that family and community dictate, to the extent possible, the character of that change. One specific change will be that children will be more empowered within their communities, since they will rapidly become expert users of computing and communications systems.

Social impact of completely computerizing small villages

Previous attempts at bringing small communities up to speed with the rest of the world have been disastrous on family, existing social norms and community ties. For example, some forays into taking previously entirely communal areas dependent on agriculture that were deemed "backward" through standard measures of yearly income and daily caloric intake were in fact highly successful and ideal with regard to satisfactions of personal, family and community life. Commercial transactions were introduced where previous common growing areas existed. Some crops were then discarded in favor of more profitable ones, traditional bartering disappeared, rituals surrounding the harvest and preparation of foods also were eliminated, the extended family dependence and home life virtually disappeared. Has ANYONE looked at this?

I'm not sure about other groups, but presumably the individual ministries of education are investigating it in their pilot studies. They are the ones best able to assess the effects of the project on their culture, since they are the most familiar with their culture. They are also the ones paying for the laptops, so they have the most to lose if they do not consider both the educational and cultural effects of their decision. Of course, that will only detect problems on a small scale; it is quite impossible to predict what will happen with many years and many laptops. After all, we are still discovering weekly new social consequences—both good and bad—of the U.S. government's decision to research the Internet in the 1970's. —Joe 20:55, 4 June 2007 (EDT)

One laptop per family ?

With 3–5 children in a typical family in developing countries, wouldn't it be better to distribute the computers to a 3–5 times larger section of the country by limiting the distribution to one unit per family? Supply 100% of the school districts instead of 20–33%? One pupil should not sit the whole day in front of the computer, anyhow. Use by the brothers/sisters in the meantime would also be a safeguard against theft, e.g. when the other child is working on the family´s crop grounds. That would also be a small incentive against population increase, when parents with more children do not get more laptops for their families free of charge. Schools may decide to work with computers on alternating days with boys and girls, to avoid that always the boys pick the laptops. Sure, the distribution method is not the decision of OLPC organization but made by the governments. I suggest one laptop per family only as an interim solution as long as and where one laptop for every child in the whole country is too expensive. When kids (and their finger size) grow out of the original OLPCs, their smaller brethren may inherit the machines for their own. by Joa

How will the project affect relationships between generations or traditional social structures based on age?

Children have always been the earliest adopters of new and developing technology due to their ability to quickly learn and adapt to new stimulus and circumstances. Comparatively, adults are often more set in their ways and adapt to new technology less quickly. The older generations may be less likely to embrace and become part of the technological revolutions that are occurring in third world societies.

While the younger generations, who are affected by this project, become more computer literate and technologically developed in a modern sense, they will gain more social leverage within their society. The formative years of childhood and the education received during that time contribute to a holistic result. There will be a tremendous contrast between those who have been given a computer-based education and those who have not.

The children who have been introduced to computer-based learning through the OLPC will have more clout and compatibility with the developed world than their elders, which will affect the way that their community politics are conducted.

What are the potential consequences of reversing the social clout of children and elders in these societies?

Hopefully better treatment of children and more intergenerational respect.

How will the native languages in these countries be affected?

The primary impact that we can foresee is that these languages will become more usable on computers and computer networks. OLPC volunteers are creating fonts so that more languages are available for OLPC users. And this will drive an increase in digitized content in these native languages. However, the ultimate fate of every language depends on what the native speakers want to do with it. Over this we have no direct influence.

Will there be versions in Mandarin Chinese, Swahili, or other languages the children are likely to know?

The goal is for everything to be available in the local languages of the countries where the OLPCs will be distributed. This means that machines distributed in Thailand will fully support Thai. Machines in India will support the local languages of India (Please see OLPC keyboard layouts).

Although we hope many do, the children are not required to ever see the insides of the development environment, the OS, or the application source code. It is no harder to develop internationalized Python applications in Japanese than it is in English.

Background in pedagogy?

Do any of the OLPC designers have experience with teaching young children, especially ones in the third world?

Please see the biography page on our website. Our senior advisor regarding learning is Seymour Papert, who is "widely known for focusing on the impact of new technologies on learning in general and in schools as learning organizations in particular." Another senior advisor is Alan Kay, who has dedicated his distinguished career "to children, learning, and advanced software development."
The question was to try to find out to what extent unusual aspects of the system (Sugar, social chat-oriented software) were validated by experience teaching young children. From what I have seen of the OLPC staff backgrounds, they're generally university people, surely a very different demographic.
Seymour Papert has been involved in elementary school classroom software for decades. See his book Mindstorms. Alan Kay managed the design of computers suitable for children at Xerox PARC in the 1970s. His Alto computer and Smalltalk software were the original GUI system that became the model for the Apple Macintosh, the X windowing system for UNIX, and Microsoft Windows. There are other educational software developers and classroom teachers in OLPC.

Support for Self-Learners

However, what about those children who cannot attend to schools and have no teachers, which is not uncommon in really poor 3rd world countries? I still cannot imagine how illiterate kids (probably having illiterate parents) teach themselves the usage of the OLPC laptop and moreover teach themselves basic reading, writing and math.

The goal of the project is to create a laptop that is (financially) cheap enough to be massively distributed to children while being powerful enough to do enable them to engage in serious learning. While governments and NGOs will in large part decide how they will be deployed (as long as they are within keeping of our core principles, what content will be included (and/or developed), etc., we have a Learning Vision whereby children are both learners and teachers.
Please refer to the Hole In The Wall Project as an example of children uses a computer for learning in the absence of teachers.

When the manufacturer was chosen, how much consideration was given to avoiding exploitative labor?

The computers will be manufactured in China by Quanta. Quanta, the world's largest manufacturer of laptops, follows fair trade practices.

This is almost certainly an abuse of the term "fair trade", which has a very specific meaning (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade). What evidence is there to support this claim? Is Quanta fair trade certified? Does some external auditor verify this claim or is it simple what Quanta's PR department says? Widespread abuses in producing electronics are well documented. It seems pretty ironic that a project supposedly designed to help those in poverty would not ensure and publicize that it was not exploiting the poor in the process of its manufacturing.


Have there been studies done monitoring the progress that these laptops are making?

Yes. The larger deployments e.g. in Uruguay, Peru, but also in Fiji are monitored and audited by independent organizations. A couple of conclusions:

  1. the monitoring and evaluation techniques used in the educational landscape to measure to what extend kids can read, write, do calculations, etc. are well established and can be applied in olpc xo-xs deployments. Just one conclusion from Peru where all kids aged 5 to 15 have an XO since 2010, is that they are in a span of 3 years, they are 5 months ahead in reading skills in comparison with kids that don't have the XO's.
  2. it is noted that new monitoring sets have to be developed, as the traditional monitoring and evaluation techniques don't capture data that is very relevant to Ministers of Education, Grant / Loan providers: e.g. does an olpc xo-xs deployment result in better and more entrepreneurs and revenues to the families so that the country gets more tax revenues that pay-back the olpx xo-xs deployment? Does an olpc xo-xs deployment make kids happier, do they feel safer, better prepared for the future, like they can better contribute to their families, do they have a better understanding of the world? Etc. Many of these questions or parameters are not queried for by the auditors.
  3. You can find reports from OLPC pilot studies here and here.
  4. Note: There are also studies of other, smaller-scale laptop deployments.


How many kids have been given the hardware, and for how long on average?

We have put about 7000 units (A-Test, B1, B2, and B4) into the field over the past 18 months. About 50% of those units have gone to developers and 50% to various school trials: in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, and the United States. Additional trials are being organized in Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Macedonia, Romania, and South Africa.

How many laptops have failed from abuse?

We are not aware of any laptops failing from abuse.

How many laptops have failed from manufacturing and software defects?

We don't have exact numbers, but the nature of alpha and beta testing is to identify problems. We've learned from our trials (and the developers) and have a better laptop as a result.

How many laptops have been stolen?

We are not aware of any laptops being stolen.

Any other failures and losses?

There are details of various failures in the bug tracking system and in the [Educators country trial reports] in the wiki.

Are here any articles showing these test and results of OLPC in its theory phase?

What test have been done to see if giving a child the laptop will increase their education and to what extent?

There are trials in schools in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, etc. Each of these trials is being run by a local organization, most often in conjunction with the ministry of education or a university department of education.

There is a further discussion of pedagogy and metrics on the Our Mission page. Some results from the field can be found in the [Educators country trial reports].

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