9 December 2007

Clearly, the XO’s mission has sailed over these people’s heads like a 747

If you're not familiar with the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) program it is a mission of a non-profit organization to develop a low cost laptop for the world's children.

Some people just don't get it, though.

So what to do? Let's give these kids these little green computers. That will do it! That will solve the poverty problem and everything else, for that matter. Does anyone but me see this as an insulting "let them eat cake" sort of message to the world's poor?

"Sir, our village has no water!" "Jenkins, get these people some glassware!"

But, wait. Think of how cool it would be! Think of how many families will get to experience the friendly spam-ridden Information Super Ad-way laced with Nigerian scams, hoaxes, porn, blogs, wikis, spam, urban folklore, misinformation, sites selling junk from China, bomb-making instructions, jihad initiatives, communist propaganda, Nazi propaganda, exhortations, movie clips of cats playing the piano, advertising, advertising, and more advertising. Do you now feel better about the world's problems, knowing that some poor tribesman's child has a laptop? What African kid doesn't want access to Slashdot?

It's really not about giving away computers. It is an effort to change the world by placing powerful tools in the hands of the "least of these". Yes, the poverty stricken need food, but more important they need to learn how to secure resources, gain knowledge, apply it, build community and nurture mastermind alliances.

Giving food is swell and saves lives, but a permanent resolution lies in addressing the social institutions that are failing their people. Knowledge and education pave the way to defining such entities and provide for greater justice.

I haven't put my hands on an XO laptop but from my research it looks like a super machine for its intended audience.

  • Durable, able to withstand elemental rigors like dropping, dust, and water.
  • Efficient power supply usage and longer life battery.
  • Readable in sunlight, and high DPI (1200 x 900 pixels on a 7.5 inch screen).
  • Not for running Windows and Microsoft Office to crank out spreadsheets. Instead, its Linux OS is intended for creation and play — programming environments, multimedia programs, music programs, painting programs, etc.…
  • Sadly, Dvorak plays the Luddite card, decrying the internet as the bane of existence, while ironically writing this drivel for a computer magazine (which is evolving into a e-zine).

The XO has been in the crosshairs of more than just cranky internet curmudgeons. Major players like Intel and Microsoft have also geared up the attack as they view global markets of unserved computer users as their domain. Intel embarked upon their own "emerging market" solution. And Microsoft wants to mess with the OLPC XO to make it Windows friendly.

Read a more balanced review of the XO.

The Give One, Get One promotion, where you can donate a laptop to child in a developing nation and receive one for a child here runs until December 31.


No comments yet

Add Comment

This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it