[Olpc-open] Why is G1G1 program ending?

Jim Sayre jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca
Sat Dec 29 02:42:07 EST 2007

I think the key is for project management to remember that the OLPC 
project is a revolutionary idea to shift from paper-based learning to 
digital learning, with the XO is just one very early tool that will 
begin that process.  It's ability to replace a conventional laptop is 
besides the point, since it has a completely different core purpose. 

Having said that, though, the project is missing a huge potential 
benefit by cancelling G1G1, rather than remarketing it as a way for 
people in developed countries to contribute to the project's core 
purposes.  While using the internet is just one (and not the most 
important) educational activity students will use the XO for, it can add 
a great deal of value to the tool, and at the same time help to solve 
(rather than create) problems. 

An earlier thread suggested pairing students in G1G1 families with 
students in the recipient countries.  There's no reason why such pairing 
requires both students to have XO computers, but it would be a nice 
touch, and would help the donor student understand what the recipient 
could and could not do.  But a major benefit of such pairing would be to 
develop a large community of knowledgeable volunteers to serve as 
helpers for the recipient students.  I've seen a couple of comments 
along those lines, and I agree with them.  I'm on the Board of a 
non-profit community network with over 10,000 users and only one 
employed tech person; we manage almost everything through volunteers.  
The OLPC project is a far more attractive and manageable way to 
contribute some time than to coach users with a variety of old and maybe 
defective equipment through a variety of connection problems. 

Similarly, our volunteers manage most of our membership and donation 
activities.  A great deal of the volunteering is done online, and I 
can't see any reason why the OLPC project, with the level of commitment 
it already has (and more on way with each new G1G1 unit that gets into 
circulation) can't do the same.  Volunteers could keep track of the 
payments, maintain a database or donors who would be offered chances to 
volunteer, ensure that delivery problems are explained and resolved, 
pair interested students, find suitable volunteer jobs for donors 
willing to contribute, and so on.  The amazing levels of coordination 
achieved by the open source software community proves that none of those 
things are impossible. 

In addition to the one to one relationships that would be created, each 
donor family is a potential evangelist for the project.  The elementary 
school which my daughter attended beginning about 10 years ago had only 
a stand-alone computer lab with maybe 20 Macs.  Classes would rotate 
into the room once a week for an hour or so of computer learning, which 
was by design and necessity an entirely separate subject from the rest 
of the schooling.   During all those years, I had to pay up to $100 per 
year in "supply fees" because our school board, despite all its tax 
support, couldn't make ends meet otherwise.  The parent association came 
up with the funds for the computer lab, and even much of the playground 
equipment.  If someone had shown the parents that for $150 each (in the 
first year) the school could provide every child with their own 
computer, making digital learning an integral part of the whole 
educational process, I think they'd have overwhelmingly supported it.  
Of course, in those days laptops were more like $2000, so it wouldn't 
have been practical, but now it is.  And the benefits of creating such 
educational clusters of OLPC users throughout the developed world are 
enormous - to foster volunteers, donations, political support, and (by 
the way) better educated kids. 

G1G1 is a win win idea if there ever was one.  I don't see why 
manufacturing should be an issue.  If the capacity is there to fill a 
country's order, it can be used to built a reasonable number of units 
for donor families.  The donation portion of the cost would presumably 
be held until there's enough to fund (or supplement) an order for 3rd 
world use.  In the meantime, the pairing would be with recipient kids 
who already have the XO; I agree that trying to identify the individual 
child whose computer was donated by the family would make it very hard 
to manage, and while some charities find that sort of thing good for 
advertising, I don't think it's necessary.  This isn't a project to 
adopt a child, it's to foster a better means of education.


PS:  While educational uses should be by far the main focus, aspects of 
the XO have great potential benefits for other purposes.  Have you ever 
tried to use a conventional laptop in your car on a sunny day.  If the 
screen technology really allows for use in bright sunlight, it would be 
a better tool for many travelling users (and even those who just want to 
do email on their patio in the summer). 

Probably the most innovative feature is the built-in mesh networking.  
Companies have to hire consultants to set up  internal networks, and 
maintaining them is a constant expense.  Our community network is 
beginning to experiment with mesh as a means of allowing residents in a 
housing complex (low-income public housing in particular) to share just 
a few broadband internet connections, and in the process enable all of 
the kids to have the benefits of home computing.  But just buying an 
add-on mesh device and configuring it will cost a substantial chunk of 
the XO's price tag, and it has mesh built-in and pre-configured as part 
of the OS.  Now that's a option that not even top end computers 
currently offer.  The military has some projects to use mesh on the 
battlefield, but no one else is doing it on a large scale for useful 
purposes.  The XO could be a technology leader in this area, and if 
classes in developed countries begin to adopt it, and realize its 
benefits, so will the parents.  Think of the good publicity that would 
generate for the project.

Steve Holton wrote:
> I must *strongly* recommend *against* ending the G1G1 program. Or at 
> least replace it with some mechanism for maintaining white market 
> availability of growth systems and spares.
> The availability of hardware is the one of the last chokepoints which 
> would allow an adversary to kill-off the OLPC mission and North 
> American success. (The other is mission creep: changing the OLPC 
> mission from one of developing an educational platform into one of 
> competing in the North American laptop computer market.) And the 
> adversaries know this.
> The market price point is proven.
> The community is proven.
> The infrastructure problems (a huge hurdle) for distribution channel, 
> customer service, support, etc. have been largely worked through. 
> (quite to my own disbelief)
> The next chokepoint would be to drain the market of hardware through:
> - natural attrition of hardware failures.
> - tying-up the manufacturing facilities by offering lucrative 
> contracts to Quanta to build something else.
> - market removal (buying-up systems offered on eBay, offering a 
> trade-in allowance, etc).
> As long as OLPC can maintain the availability of spare parts and new 
> systems for growth, both the XONA (XO North America, using the XO as a 
> laptop computer) and the XOEE (XO Educational Endeavor) will grow.
> This could be accomplished:
> - short term:  make a committment to the availability of new systems 
> and spares (price point is unimportant, enthusiasts being what they 
> are) through an 'Official OLPC program'.
> - long term: multi-source hardware availability.
> On Dec 28, 2007 1:29 PM, Seth Woodworth <seth at isforinsects.com 
> <mailto:seth at isforinsects.com>> wrote:
>     I *think* that it is ending for the following reasons:
>     1.) Quanta can only make so many machines per month, and there is
>     a backlog of orders for target nations.
> Agreed, but the competition knows that.
> Constricted manufacturing channels are only a factor if a component is 
> single source, and then only when hard deadlines (like 'ship before 
> the holidays') are in play. OLPC supporters will gladly wait 2 months 
> to get systems if they understand the wait up front.  (Many already 
> have...)
>     2.) It is a a *lot* harder to ship 10,000 laptops to 10,000 people
>     than 10,000 to one country.  Selling laptops retail isn't the
>     business that OLPC really needs to be in. 
> Agreed 100%.  That was a tactical mistake on the part of OLPC.  If 
> they had marketed XO's strictly as an educational tool, (they actually 
> did a pretty good job) it would have gone a long way toward answering 
> the inevitable questions like "how do I install Flash, why can't I 
> connect to every imaginable wireless access point, etc.) The community 
> would have found answers to those anyway (as proven) and OLPC wouldn't 
> have been on the hook to do so.
> However, the hard part of building the infrastructure to ship 1 system 
> to 1,000,000 different people has largely been built. Sunk cost at 
> this point.
>     3.) They need to stop G1G1 in the US and Canada so they can start
>     to scale up for Europe and Asia G1G1 sales.
> Europe and Asia deserve a chance to G1G1, too. (A mistake, IMHO, to 
> try to exclude them from G1G1, but there may have been logistical 
> considerations I don't understand) But if making them available in 
> Europe comes at the cost of availability in North America, I'm going 
> to be arranging to purchase my spares through GreyMarketEurope.
>     Good question, and not an intuitive answer.  This belongs on the
>     wiki somewhere.
>     Seth
>     On Dec 28, 2007 8:00 AM, Josh Cogliati <jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com
>     <mailto:jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com>> wrote:
>         Why is the give one get one program ending?  The
>         program has brought millions of dollars of donations
>         to OLPC.  As well it provides a good way to get
>         hardware if you are undecided on developing for the
>         machine.  Plus it provides a price ceiling on ebay
>         sales.  So, why is the program ending?
>         Josh Cogliati
>         _______________________________________________
>         Olpc-open mailing list
>         Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org <mailto:Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org>
>         http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/olpc-open
>     _______________________________________________
>     Olpc-open mailing list
>     Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org <mailto:Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org>
>     http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/olpc-open
> -- 
> Steve Holton
> sph0lt0n at gmail.com <mailto:sph0lt0n at gmail.com> 
> !DSPAM:528,477556e786771405164501!
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> Olpc-open mailing list
> Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org
> http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/olpc-open
> !DSPAM:528,477556e786771405164501!


Jim Sayre
jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca

More information about the Olpc-open mailing list