[Air-L] OLPC vision versus reality

Katy E. Pearce kpearce at umail.ucsb.edu
Sun Jun 21 15:44:10 PDT 2009

Via Metafilter, One Laptop Per Child Vision Versus Reality


The Metafilter discussion, as usual, is really great.

>From the study itself:
A UC Irvine study finds that "the vision is being overwhelmed by the reality
of business, political, logistics, and competing interests worldwide."

"...the OLPC organization (www.olpc.com/) struggles with key staff
defections, budget cuts, and ideological disillusionment, as it appears to
some that the educational mission has given way to just getting laptops out
the door. In addition, low-cost commercial netbooks from Acer, Asus,
Hewlett-Packard, and other PC vendors have been launched with great early

This study attempts to "...review and analyze the OLPC experience, focusing
on the two most important issues: the successes and failures of OLPC in
understanding and adapting to the developing-country environment and the
unexpectedly aggressive reaction by the PC industry, including superpowers
Intel and Microsoft, to defeat or co-opt the OLPC effort."

And, an interesting comment from a MeFite, allen.spaulding,:
"When Negroponte announced the OLPC, I remember conversations where a number
of people who'd spent years in the ICT for Development community rolled
their eyes. Absolutely nobody at the time thought the problem was a lack of
cheap hardware. Hell, anyone who'd spent any time in the field knew that
there was no way that the project could work exactly as designed - created a
magically intuitive and self-explanatory project that would let the children
of the developing world explore on their own, etc. All of the hard questions
of ICT4D were buried here, with a naive belief that good design could fix
everything. The project's relative lack of focus on delivery, training,
distribution, etc, was immediately apparent from the start. And then it
turned out that having glossed over these extremely hard questions, the
research team itself largely ignored them to focus on the things mentioned
in the article above.
If the project was half as good at its mission as Negroponte was at
self-promotion, then maybe we'd have a massive success on our hands.
Instead, this was always an ill-conceived boondoggle that misallocated
resources and attention away from lesser-heralded ICT4D projects currently
underway. Any gains it has made need to be seen relative to the missed
opportunities that could have been accomplished had these resources gone to
others at MIT, or to the ongoing projects at Cal, CMU, Stanford, and

More information about the Air-L mailing list