OLPC:Five principles

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OLPC's Five Principles

Child Ownership

OLPC has created the XO laptop to be low cost, robust and powerful, beautiful and friendly. It was designed for elementary school children, the first of its kind.

A laptop can be transformed into a mobile school: a portable learning and teaching environment. A connected laptop is more than a tool. It is a new human environment of a digital kind. An essential aspect of OLPC is the free use of the laptop at home, where the child and the family together can greatly increase the practice time normally available at a school lab or library.

The ownership of the XO is a basic right, coupled with new duties and responsibilities: including protecting, caring for, and sharing this creative environment.

Low Ages

The XO is designed for the use of children ages 6 to 12 — covering the years of elementary school — but nothing precludes its use earlier or later in life. Children do not need to know how to write or read to enjoy and learn with an XO. Playing is the basis of human learning, and the digital activities on an XO help with acquisition of reading and writing.

Every year a new class of students will be incorporated into the program. The assessment of the OLPC program should be intrinsic to each class, and every student will have an individual portfolio or journal with the history of his or her learning paths in the many disciplines at school. Small children with learning, motor or sensory disabilities may use the computer as a prosthesis to read, write, calculate, and communicate.


OLPC is committed to elementary education in developing countries. To attain this objective we aim to reach “digital saturation” in a given population. The key point is to choose the best scale in each circumstance. It can be a country, a region, a municipality or a village, in which every child and teacher will own a connected laptop.

As with vaccinations, digital saturation implies a commitment to maintaining these tools as part of primary education over time. With it, the whole community becomes responsible for this focus on shared education, and the children and teachers receive support from the many institutions, individuals and groups around them. Universal connectivity helps these different communities grow together and expand in many directions, in both time and space. Over time, the education network becomes solid and robust, without a digital divide.


The XO has been designed to provide an engaging wireless network. The laptops are connected to others nearby automatically. Children in the neighborhood are permanently connected to chat, sharing information on the local network or web, making music together, editing texts, or using collaborative games.

The laptop can be charged by solar or mechanical power, or through special bulk-chargers at school. The unique XO display allows the use of the laptop under a bright sun. All of this makes it easy for children in a community to connect to one another almost anywhere.

This connectivity will be as ubiquitous as a formal or informal learning environment permits. We propose a new kind of school, an “expanded school” which grows beyond the walls of the classroom. Last but not least, this connectivity ensures a dialogue among generations, nations and cultures. The OLPC network will speak every language.

Free and Open Source

All children are learners and teachers, and this spirit of collaboration is amplified by free and open source tools.

A child with an XO is not a passive consumer of knowledge, but an active participant in a learning community. As children and teachers grow and pursue new ideas, their software, content, resources, and tools should be able to grow with them. The global nature of OLPC requires locally-driven growth, driven in part by the children themselves. Each child with an XO can leverage the learning of other children. They can teach each other, share ideas, and support each other's growth.

There is no inherent external dependency in being able to localize software into their language, fix the software to remove bugs, and repurpose the software to fit their needs. Nor is there any restriction in regard to redistribution; OLPC cannot know and should not control how the tools we create will be re-purposed in the future.

OLPC's goals require a world of great software and content, both open and proprietary. Children and teachers need the chance to choose from all of it. In the context of learning, knowledge should be free. Further, every child has something to contribute; we need a free and open framework that supports the human need to express and share.

Other principles

See also the list of Hardware Principles.