Concerns and criticism

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Some sections were removed from the Educational ideas page because they didn't fit the flow.
for more analysis and feedback, see Category:Feedback and Category:Opposing views

Some people object to the OLPC plan, giving a wide variety of reasons. This page lists the most articulate objections, and various background and answers. Some of this information is also gathered on Wikipedia.

We have to be able to solve any real problems and answer any real objections, but a lot of the objections come out of ignorance, and a lot more seem to come from people who want the idea to fail. I don't understand that. --Mokurai 00:47, 11 January 2007 (EST)

Teaching, Social, and Religious Barriers

Teaching Barriers

Moved to separate page.

Social and Religious Barriers

One social barrier might be that governments would only make such laptops available to public school students and not those students that attend school which are religious. It might be wise to allow alternative means for religious schools to be able to provide laptops for the students they serve. This would be more difficult, because it would possibly have to be done on a district by district, or even school by school basis.

Teaching, Institutional and Professional Barriers

Long section moved to its own page.

Evaluating Laptop Programs

Long section moved to its own page.

Critical remarks and essays

Herein find the views of those opposed to the project for various reasons, and those who, while they may agree with the project goals, disagree with the means the project proposes to achieve those goals.

"Your independent source for news, information, commentary, and discussion of One Laptop Per Child's computer, the OLPC Children's Machine XO, developed by MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte... OLPC News is published by... Wayan Vota (Director of Geekcorps) who... celebrates the ability of One Laptop Per Child to bring technology to the forefront of economic development, and can't wait to have a OLPC XO himself, but [who] fears the lack of a defined implementation strategy and realistic cost estimates will create great waste and disillusionment with technology."

  • Alternative educational (and even non-educational) uses for money spent for the OLPC project are examined in a primer on Comparative_education.

Alternative systems

Some concerns and criticisms are raised by the developers of alternative tools for similar targets -- laptops for children, or tools for education, or infrastructure for reducing poverty.

  • Intel's Classmate PC is sometimes held out as an alternative to the OLPC system. Articles mentioning the Classmate PC include the following:
    CNet 2006 July 15
    Fortune 2006 October 24 (This article says in part: Any project this grand is sure to have its detractors. The most vociferous is Intel...)
    IHT(AP) 2006 December 5 (Note on the issue of shipping costs raised in this article: Annenberg Media's 2002 Workshop number 8 for US grade 7-12 geography teachers, described here, includes a video which makes the following claim: In just the last 15 years, the cost of shipping a VCR across the Pacific was reduced 95% from $30 to about $1.50.)

Q. Why would Intel's Classmate PC be an opposing view? Lots of ink/bits could be wasted arguing about it, but as Nicholas Negroponte said: "It's an education project, not a laptop project." So if it gets the job done reasonably well (all OLPC, Intel, governments, schools and kids are going to have to make concessions), I would support it just the same. My 'fears' about Intel's project are relative to its committement level and that competition could turn into attrition... Currently, I like OLPC's spirit much better... ;) --Xavi 07:50, 13 December 2006 (EST)

A. The hopelessly naive Minister of Education says the following to the Intel marketing representative:
We don't have enough money to buy into both the OLPC project and another project which uses Intel's Classmate PC reference design. How should we use our money?
What do you think the Minister is told? Intel could conceivably offer the continuing OLPC project a suitable microprocessor or other ICs in the future; but for now they are offering an entirely different system for school use. - Docdtv 04:50, 14 December 2006 (EST)

The lion now lies down with the lamb: Intel has just joined the OLPC Board! - Docdtv 17:56, 13 July 2007 (EDT)

And then Intel quit again. 2008-1-4



It is no surprise when competitors diss a product.


Some of the active critics (some constructive) or opponents of the project:

  • John Wood, founder of Room to Read, claims that his project costs less and delivers more. The claim is that for $4 per child, schools get some number of printed books. This contrasts with $189 per child for XOs (less than the cost of printed textbooks that Room to Read will not supply) and all the riches of the Internet in addition to software for collaborative discovery.
  • Wayan Vota, founder of OLPC News Not affiliated with OLPC. Wayan Vota is a supporter of the laptop concept and a severe critic of the program's implementation and of Nicholas Negroponte in particular.
  • Theo de Raadt, OpenBSD. Letter to OLPC complaining about the Marvell microkernel (supplied to OLPC through Marvell, but not owned by them, so they can't relicense it). "I am extremely dissapointed (sic) you have chosen to work against the very obvious goals of "open", and I hope that in time you are made to feel ashamed of the choice you have made." In fact, replacement of this microkernel with Free Software has long been planned, and some people are working on it.
  • Bruce Perens, the original author of the Open Source definition used by Debian and tireless activist for Linux, has a conspiracy theory about Microsoft and OLPC. Ivan Krstić has written a refutation. Perens agrees that he was wrong. (Personal communication to Mokurai)
  • Dr. Steve Eskow, who works with NGOs in Ghana, has concluded that OLPC is "snake oil", and has been saying so at length on the BytesForAll mailing list, ignoring all corrections to his misstatements of fact, and denouncing Edward Mokurai Cherlin, his opponent in these exchanges, as a religious zealot who ignores all evidence.

Potential problems