Buy 2 Laptops for $399 – The One Laptop Per Child Project

You’ve probably heard of the One Laptop Per Child project (a.k.a., the hundred dollar laptop). It’s a brilliant idea; provide children in developing nations with inexpensive laptops that can easily connect to the internet.

The laptop is the size of a textbook, lighter than a lunch box, durable, highly water resistant, uses 1/10th the power of a standard laptop, recharges by a hand-crank, can be read in direct sunlight, has no internal moving parts, and runs Linux. This thing is awesome.

You’re probably thinking the same thing I did when I first heard about it: “Where can I get one?”

The original plan was to require a minimum order of 250,000 units with the intent of selling directly to developing nations. Once they had a million or so orders the production price would drop to around $100. But things haven’t worked out as planned due to the hesitation people have buying an unproven product.

That’s where we come in. For two weeks in November, starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child will have a “Give 1 Get 1” Program where anyone can purchase 2 of these laptops for $399 – one will be sent to the purchaser, and 1 to a child in a developing nation. If you want to receive an email reminder when they are available, click here.

I am definitely buying.

As Seth Godin put it:

“…when you give a kid a net connection, access to wikipedia and to the rest of the world, things change fast. Things you wouldn’t necessarily predict. Like a ten year old who can diagnose his dad’s illness. Or a farmer that can ask his daughter to find out where to get a new part for the tractor.”

This could be big.

[tags]laptop, olpc, hundred dollar laptop[/tags]

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12 comments ↓

#1 Justin Etheredge on 10.29.07 at 4:44 pm

I completely agree with you. A lot of people are talking down the concept saying that there are a lot of things that these people need more than a laptop and in certain cases it is true (food, water, shelter). But giving them laptops is not just teaching them how to fish, it is giving them the whole manual on fishing and then throwing in the manual for the boat as well! I just wish that the United States (where I am located) could get a program like this going with our underprivileged youth.

#2 Barend on 10.30.07 at 5:47 am

Very noble of you Rob, but I can tell you now, coming from someone living in a so-called “developing” country (South Africa), those laptops will probably never get to the kids.

A farmer here that can afford a tractor, can also afford to buy a top-of-the-range anything he wants.

The underprivileged people mainly do subsistence farming with their hands, and they cannot read or write, never mind operate a laptop. They also do not have access to electricity in a lot of the rural areas, so there will be no recharging of batteries, and with no electricity I can assure you there is no infrastructure for internet connectivity. Even if that was sorted out, the cost of bandwidth here makes me, and I earn a decent salary, think twice about connectivity.

Then you have the problem of crime. With crime as it is in most African countries, the laptops will be stolen in transit by organised crime syndicates and sold on the black market.

But that’s just my realistic view of things here.

#3 Rob on 10.30.07 at 7:20 am

@Barend – You make a good point. In my experience of traveling and working in Africa and Central America, there are different types of poverty: urban poverty and country poverty (“country” meaning “not the city”). I think you are speaking of urban poverty.

My experience of country poverty was one-room schoolhouses and kids who were getting educations without books or any of the fancy implements we’re used to.

In these cases it seems that laptops would be helpful. Without internet connectivity the laptops still form a “mesh network” and will automatically talk to each other, allowing students to share information and documents between one another, even working collaboratively.

The lack of electricity isn’t a major issue as the laptops can be charged using a hand-crank, or a number of other means.

The lack of internet connectivity is an issue that remains to be solved. I know the laptops have a very long range for wireless connections, but your point is taken.

Also, and this is from my limited experience, out in the country the crime rate is far less due to the size and more tight-knit nature of the communities. Much different than near a city.

One other thing to realize (and I hope the OLPC people realize this) – these laptops can’t be placed on a ship and sent off into oblivion. The laptops need to be delivered by people who will ensure they arrive in tact and then spend time getting the kids and teachers trained using the machines. Human involvement is definitely needed upon delivery or they will become expensive doorstops.

Again, the above is from my isolated experience of short term travels (4-8 weeks) in Ghana and Central America, so I won’t pretend I can generalize this to every situation.

Thanks for your thoughts.

#4 John Lee on 11.07.07 at 10:34 am

I really like this program…. It is great! I used to travel a lot. Down to Mexico / Central America… I wish I can help more :(.

May be someday my wife and I will join the Peace Corps…

#5 Sammy on 11.07.07 at 11:44 pm

Haha noble, but unfortunately the Asus Eee PC has gotten my attention, and I don’t have two $400s to spend!

Its a very hard choice. Tough+Handcrank+Good Cause VS Cheap Full Fledged 7″ UMPC+More Options?

Also, both are running on linux so its not simply a matter of buy-against-the-M$-monopoly….

#6 Rob on 11.08.07 at 8:11 am

@Sammy – The ASUS looks sharp – it has a lot of the same basic features and a faster processor, but as you mentioned it doesn’t have most of the features that make the OLPC laptop unique. I agree, it’s a tough call. If you wind up purchasing an ASUS I’d like to hear what you think of it.

Also, I wanted to point out that the OLPC laptop is $399 for 2 of them, not $399 each.

#7 James Todd on 11.20.07 at 9:32 am

How do I buy……

#8 Rob on 11.27.07 at 8:36 am

You can buy between now and December 31 at http://laptopgiving.org/en/give-one-get-one.php.

#9 One Laptop Per Child: “You are Part of Something Big” | Software by Rob on 11.29.07 at 9:08 am

[…] my recent post on the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC), I mentioned they were selling the laptops to the general public for a limited time starting […]

#10 Adjua on 01.24.08 at 1:46 pm

Hi Rob, I am an american living in The Gambia, and this is a great tool for students, while I am only an individual, I really like the product and will look into getting one or two or more if I can afford. What are the possibilities of linking with tech jobs in this country, I’ve had a hard time trying to track any, if you know of anything let me know.
Thanks

#11 Rob on 01.28.08 at 10:42 pm

@Adjua – I don’t know of any job boards serving that area of the world. You may want to contact these bloggers: http://whiteafrican.com/ and http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com/.

#12 killercatish on 04.11.08 at 12:26 pm

Hey guys, Ive been trying to see if I can still get one of these. I want to bring it with me into the peace corps.

Thanks!