Talk:Laptop Service Program Ideas


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I'm glad to see that discussion has started on this issue! When I look at the scale of the proposed rollout, it looks like service and repair will be a serious challenge. Several different countries at varying levels of development from Greece (high) to Nigeria (very, very low) are included in the plans. Developing and implementing a service program in more developed countries should be fairly straightforward in theory: train technicians who either visit communities where laptops were distributed on a regular basis or have "service depots" that owners can send laptops to if needed. Some sort of "free shipping" would be needed.

I have absolutely no idea how this could be implemented in a place like Nigeria. I hope the developers of this program have traveled to or plan to travel to Nigeria to see how chaotic it is. While Nigeria is probably the worst example of a poorly developed country rife with corruption, other subsaharan African countries with the exception of South Africa are similar.

After living in Africa for several years and a frequent traveler there now, There are many problems that I envision with this program. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great idea but I've seen too many "development" projects fail due to lack of careful thought about the long-term sustainability of the program. Here are some of the hurdles that i envision would have to be addressed with both a service program and the entire idea of OLPC, at least in sub-saharan Africa:

1. lack of transportation - for example, Congo has only a couple hundred miles of paved roads in the entire country! How would people get their broken laptops somewhere to fix them? How would service technicians move from community to community in places where there are no roads and no public transport? Motorcycles?

To repair hardware is not very difficult and can be done by a teacher.
But to get the spare parts is a problem.

2. lack of postal system in rural areas - how would a child in a village package and mail a laptop? How could he/she afford this?

3. corruption - the program description says that the laptops will be sold to governments then distributed to children. In Nigeria? The most corrupt country in the world where billions of foreign aid dollars have been pocketed by government "officials"? The laptops would have to be delivered directly to children and bypass any beauracracy so they don't "disappear"; once they are in the hands of children, unfortunately, the odds are high that they would be stolen.

If there is no commercial version of this laptop and the case is very different
to commercial products it should be easy to identify stolen laptops.

4. duties and taxes - some countries have exhorbitant import duties - up to 100 percent - that would increase the cost of the laptops substantially. Negotiations to remove these would need to be carried out with fairly high level government officials.

5. training - what are the plans to train the children on the use of the laptops? some of them have never even switched on a light in their lives and have no experience using electrical gadgets or tools. What about plans to train service technicians?

6. networking - first, the discussions that I've read here about wireless networking are unworkable in most situations in Africa. Most areas outside of major cities have no electricity and no telephone lines (well these will be made obsolete by cell phones anyways and people in some countries steal the wires to make bracelets to sell to tourists). There is no reliable source of electricity in these areas and no one has a generator. Even cell phones are not feasible as electricity is needed to charge them. Unless there are plans to donate generators, the diesel to run them continually or money to purchase the diesel and a way to guarantee that's what the money would be spent on, money to fix the generator when it breaks down, as well as money to repair the network when it goes down. One alternative is solar panels but these are very expensive and would have to be provided with each laptop!

The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up)

7. communication - how would a child get word to a technician that his/her laptop was broken with no phones in the community?

These are some of the things that need to be thought out before implementing this program, and there are many others. With all of this taken into consideration the $100 laptop may end up costing $1000! I hope the planners of this program have thought of these issues and are prepared to address them!

Laura Hendrix

> I hope the planners of this program have thought of these issues and are prepared to address them!

It may well be that, because of the openness of the way that the management of the project have instituted this wiki for the project and that replies to questions are often supplied by them, that in effect you are one of the planners of this programme and that your contribution is already being made by your thinking of the issues and bringing them to the attention of people reading this wiki. Please continue raising issues, those readers who so choose can try to think out solutions and maybe, just maybe, the combined experience and creativity of everyone who joins in the thinking process will produce a sparklingly workable infrastructure.

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