[Olpc-open] Great article about kids repairing their XO's in Nigeria

Seth Woodworth seth at isforinsects.com
Tue Feb 12 19:19:06 EST 2008


Nigerian 5-Year-Olds Repair OLPCs in "Hospital" Affordable Laptops Are
Simple to Repair

At the Greener Gadgets
New York City, former One
Laptop Per Child <http://laptop.org/> (OLPC) CTO Mary Lou Jepsen explained
that the discount laptops have met with a number of roadbumps in Nigeria,
Africa's most populous nation. Part of the problem has been wavering
lawmakers there and negative local press. But part of the problem has
been literal bumps.

Jepsen explained that children in Nigeria learn at metal desks that are
bolted together in pairs. They are supposed to seat two young learners, but
more typically seat five in common crowding conditions. This means the desks
are constantly getting jostled around, and the brand-new XO OLPCs get
knocked to the floor. Even though they were built to be extremely rugged,
occasionally a screen or other component will get broken.

In the developing world, a consumer can't just drive to the nearest repair
shop. That's why Jepsen and team designed the XO to be so easily repairable
(it even comes with embedded extra screws). The key components can be easily
swapped out with a screwdriver, including the $1 backlight for the LCD
display (something that usually cannot be readily replaced on typical
laptops). Even motherboards can be swapped out easily, though actually
repairing one takes some expertise — about as much as repairing a TV,
suggested Jepsen, depending on what's wrong.

How simple is it? In Nigeria a 5-year-old girl with a can-do spirit took it
upon herself to troubleshoot and repair the OLPCs of her classmates, said
Jepsen. A teacher encouraged her, and the class set up a "Laptop Hospital,"
where the kids learn to repair their own hardware.

How is this green? Shipping is greatly reduced if people can fix their own
gadgets on site. Jepsen pointed out that communities in Peru that now have
OLPCs take 20 days to reach via roads from major cities. Instead of tossing
whole products that have one or two problems, people can swap out individual
pieces, leading to much less resource use.

Plus, the whole reason for the OLPC was to serve as a powerful educational
tool. When young people, or any consumers, learn better how things work, and
take responsibility for them, their experience is enriched. And they learn
to take care of things better, which leads to longer life, and less resource

Plus, part of the OLPC's ease of repairing also translates to its ease of
recycling, which is a big bonus for the planet. Too many devices are
difficult to break down into reusable materials.

The OLPC also wins praise for it's incredibly low power use (2 watts,
compared with 30 to 40 watts for a typical laptop). It was designed to work
with alternative sources, since so many parts of the developing world don't
have reliable, or affordable, grid electricity. Jepsen said power sources
being deployed include simple hand cranks, $10 solar panel kits, wind
turbines, stationary bike motors, and even a device that harnesses the power
of cows walking in a pasture.
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