[Olpc-open] Why is G1G1 program ending?

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky znmeb at cesmail.net
Sat Dec 29 14:23:52 EST 2007

Antoine van Gelder wrote:
> Goal of corporation: "Make money now and in the future"
> Measurement of corporation: $$$.Number.of
> Goal of OLPC: "Educating children now and in the future"
> Measurement of OLPC: ChildrenEducated.Number.of
> The OLPC goal is a little bit more complex than the corporate goal! :-D

1. At least here in the USA, the accounting rules for a for-profit
corporation are quite complex, and those for non-profit organizations
not much less complex. Both sets of rules govern how you can acquire and
disburse money.

2. There are corporations and divisions of corporations with an
educational goal, product and market. One particularly relevant one in
my mind, since I'm a mathematician, is Texas Instruments, which sells a
line of calculators designed to help improve math SAT scores.

P.S.: I have a couple of those TI calculators and they compute an
incorrect derivative of 1/(1-U^m) with respect to U. The HP-49, Maxima,
Axiom, Yacas and Derive all get the right answer. :)

In short, a corporation can make money by educating children, and OLPC
can not operate without paying attention to finances.


> Beyond a certain point G1G1 works against the goal of OLPC by:


>    . Threatening (or being perceived as threatening) the market of
>      manufacturers of low cost computers. Possibly getting OLPC
>      entangled in distracting arguments about who has the cheapest,
>      lowest-cost computer rather than who has the laptop which can
>      _measurably_ increase the pass rate of children at school and
>      which can _certifiably_ deliver education to children without
>      any schools at all.

1. The XO is decidedly not a threat to "manufacturers of low cost
computers". Said manufacturers aren't threatened at all -- they have the
resources to build a $200 laptop with essentially the same technologies
or even better ones than the XO. They *also* have the resources to build
iPhones, iPods, ASUS Eees, Nintendo GameBoys, Sharp Zaurii, Windows CE
Pocket PCs, cell phones with cameras and stereo music players built into
them, three different "game consoles", and Blue Genes. :)

2. I'm not sure the goals of OLPC have been quantitatively stated in
terms of pass rates, nor have I seen any measurements of those in
statistically controlled studies. If someone on this list knows of any
such studies, I'd love to read them. As a working statistician, I'm
always interested in such reports. And going back to my previous note,
I'm *sure* TI has such reports for the SAT product lines. :)

>    . There may potentially be production capacity issues, although
>      to be fair, most folk given a choice between solving production
>      capacity problems by increasing production capacity or by
>      rate-limiting sales are not as short-sighted as South African
>      business executives.

That's a cheap shot, and not a particularly accurate portrayal of what
quantitative marketing is all about, whether you're a for-profit or
not-for-profit organization.

>    . Distracting OLPC staff who should be thinking about marketing
>      issues (how do we explain to government ministers that they're
>      going to be heroes when the teachers are no longer responsible
>      for spending 100% of their time holding pupil attentions and
>      will now be able to spend the bulk of that time answering the
>      questions of pupils who have specific problems) into thinking
>      about supply-chain issues (how do we get a XO-1 from Taiwan to
>      Newcastle faster than Steve Jobs can get a Macbook from a
>      regional warehouse to lower-Poughkeepsie.)

Well, another cheap shot ... but given that many of the staff are
volunteers, as are many developers, this really is important. Once
again, the distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit isn't
really relevant here in my view except for the fact that for-profits
generally don't have unpaid staff.

By the way, the old cliche about finding a job that you love so much
that you'd do it without getting paid for it is bogus. If you don't
believe me, try walking into an interview and telling an interviewer
that. You can only do that in non-profits.

> /me tosses his vote for Ed Cherlin as President for G1G1 International 
> in the hat and idly wonders how long it takes to arrange a credit note 
> for half a billion dollars these days.

It depends on what you want to spend it on. Right now, I'm more
interested in a KVM switch that will work on a decent LCD monitor with
Linux. :)

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