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The True Cost of One Laptop Per Child 356

An anonymous reader writes "The '$100 laptop' Negroponte is hoping to put in the hands of millions of kids in developing nations may actually be more like the '$900 laptop.' From the article, 'Jon Camfield says...once maintenance, training, Internet connectivity, and other factors are taken into account, the actual cost of each laptop rises to more than $970. This, he says, doesn't even take in to account the additional costs associated with theft, loss, or accidental damage. Camfield contends that such an expensive undertaking should at least be field-tested in pilot programs designed to establish the viability of the project before asking countries to invest millions, or perhaps billions, of dollars.'" Newsforge and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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The True Cost of One Laptop Per Child

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  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:02PM (#17168446)
    ... ask what cannot be done and then go do it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      ... ask what cannot be done and then go do it.

      OK, Mr. Talker. Here's what can't be done: We can't get rid of the corrupt governments that steal all the resources coming into the country. We can't get rid of local crime bosses that steal what's left of that. We can't get rid of the roving gangs that steal the last of it because of the lawlessness.

      So what is your solution?

      Sorry, I'm sure you sincerely care about this, but it's just annoying when people in rich countries do some hand-waving about "well

      • Crime (Score:3, Insightful)

        by simpl3x (238301)
        Crime begins at the very lowest levels of society, and builds upon it. For every person that wants something for nothing, and there are a lot, somebody builds upon it. A job, a favor, free tickets, a free drink...

        Education is probably the best defense against what you describe. I've seen both sides.
        • Education is probably the best defense against what you describe. I've seen both sides.

          I think you may be guilty of what the grandparent was calling hand waving. As described earlier in the thread, crime is a pyramid. Once you rise above the very base level(s) you will find educated people. Crime is not about education, it is often really simple economics (as in microeconomics, how an individual allocates finite resources, time, money, goods, etc). What is the least expensive way that I can satisfy a ne
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Remember back in '89 when the Iron Curtain was collapsing? Wired Magazine and its crowd of influencers argued that what the people over there needed as the best and fastest way to advancement was computers and modems, and everyone in the Western world agreed. And plenty of people took the initiative to send them over as gifts. Seems like now that we're saying the same thing about the Third World poor, the whole idea of knowledge being the best route out of poverty is forgotten.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LifesABeach (234436)
      If one is curious as to what helping on a global scale can accomplish, a minor reading of the Marshal Plan [wikipedia.org] will illuminate several questions. Yes, there were problems, but the benefits far over shadowed the negatives. Causing children to learn how to read helps us all; I refer to this as 'common sense'. That does not mean "give away", it means, "help out".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... the Nigerians won't have any problems paying for theirs.
  • Laptop Worth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Directrix1 (157787) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:05PM (#17168472)
    This is retarded. The laptops cost $100. I don't go around telling people my laptop cost me $1500 bucks when I only spent $700 on it. Training costs money. Duh. But this project is not about training. Its about providing access to a tool.
    • A tool you can't afford to learn how to use or maintain is functionally equivalent to no tool at all. If $100/laptop really just gets these countries a bunch of $100 bricks, it's better that they spend the money on things more useful to them.

      • The entire POINT... (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:25PM (#17168756) Homepage
        ...is to be ABLE to train people on it, so they can learn more valuable skills, and also have access to more information. Further, "internet connectivity" isn't absolutely necessary; rather than run broadband to hundreds of points out in nowhere land, things can get started by setting up an isolated LAN with a single web server. Ship 'em a couple of 250 gig HDs full of goodies, like textbooks and freeware and novels and movies, and they'll be okay until the broadband is in place.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grouchysmurf (989259)

          I understand the ideal and the sentiment, and no doubt in many places it'll work like a charm. But in one of the cities mentioned, Rio, they already have more than enough computers at the childrens center (in Rosina, the largest favela). The bosses of the favelas can't get people to risk the violence (which isn't even around the childrens center) to go give classes and training.

          In Dhaka, another location I've heard mentioned, one of the industries is assembling computers. The problem there is that
          • by tsm_sf (545316) on Friday December 08, 2006 @07:39PM (#17169486) Journal
            I don't personally approve here unless there's more of a plan than hand outs for the cameras. The third world isn't a zoo, and unless the MIT people are going to go the full distance they shouldn't go period, as they'll cause more harm than good to the people they say they want to help.

            Just like the tabloids criticizing celebrities for adopting third-world children. It's fine to question movitation, intent and commitment, but at the end of the day they've done something and you haven't. It's always the people on their asses that seem to worry most about a population's integrity.
        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:55PM (#17169104) Journal
          ... "internet connectivity" isn't absolutely necessary; rather than run broadband to hundreds of points out in nowhere land, things can get started by setting up an isolated LAN with a single web server

          Or good old "sneakernet", where you carry the disk (or memory stick) from one machine to another when you want to transfer some info.

          I was here when broadband was a guy on a bus with a backpack full of floppies, dialing toll-call long-distance from Michigan to Indian Hill Il so I could exchange email (at dollars a call) was a breakthrough in connectivity, and changing resistors on the modem board to raise it from 110 to 300 baud was a major bump in bandwidth. We got a lot of stuff done in those days, too. It was MUCH better than NOTHING. This is the kind of thing people used as they developed stuff that was better.

          Third-world countries have already done "networking" by mounting a battery-powered computer plus WiFi AP on a bike and riding a cricuit from town to town. At each town the local machine(s) swap files (including email) with the one on the bike as it goes by, and one of the towns has a connection to the rest of the world. The latency may be severe but the bandwidth of a big hard disk on a bicycle is more than adequate to support serious networking for a province, while the local skills are developed to put in their own successor network.

          It's not just a toy. Email-by-bike is a major labor saving versus paper mail. That cost saving can be used both to enable more communication and to free hands for creating other value. And by creating a community of users who'd like more an d better, you KNOW that one of the first targets will be to improve it further.

          How long before people in villages connected by "bikenet" decide they want something better, find out how to build pringles-can or big-ugly-dish antennas, and start hopping their WiFi over the hills between? B-)

          That's how WE got the internet in the first place: being unsatisfied with the early, slow, expensive ways of networking and building ever better, faster, cheaper-per-bit upgrades. Why shouldn't people in third world countries be able to do something analogous on their own, once they can get their hands on the necessary technology?
      • by vidarh (309115)
        True. But it is fairly arrogant of a student in the west to assume that he knows so much better than the education ministeries that have decided that this is a good investment for their countries, particularly when his assumptions are badly flawed (such as assuming that these countries can't afford to pay for the OLPC boxes without taking out loans)
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Grouchysmurf (989259)
          This is a fair point. To what extent is it appropriate to ask for accountability from the ministers in famously corrupt countries. If the machines show up in retail stores, or are re-exported, how should MIT respond?
          • by vidarh (309115)
            Depends. If they are purchased at cost, then they shouldn't really care beyond making a complaint and possibly working with local NGO's instead, as it doesn't affect the viability of the project - it should be up to the local government to take care of it. If it's being sold at subsidized prices, they should refuse to deal with those countries governments until they've cleaned up their act.
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)

      --this project is about politicians having access to some publicity. It is very similar tot he Toy Drives: "Bring your new, unopened toys to..." I worked a church charity that collected used toys, fixed and cleaned then distributed to POOR people. The kids were very happy. We did not provide extra room for photo-ops for bureaucrats, nor a form for tax deductions so I guess it was not a real charity. For many years I have fixed up Junker comps I get from co-workers, buy cheap at Goodwill and the like
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:06PM (#17168494)
    once maintenance, training, Internet connectivity, and other factors are taken into account, the actual cost of each laptop rises to more than $970.

    Oh yeah? And if I replace all my locks, give the bum on the corner a buck, rent a whore off the side of the street for 2 hours in my back seat, buy a tank of gas, stop by the bar and buy a round for everyone, and get a bouquet of roses for my wife, I can buy a gallon of milk for $970 too.

    Just kidding, this is /., of course I don't have a wife.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Chosen Reject (842143)
      Not only that, but if the laptops get stolen, then they have less maintenance cost. It's a win in that case.

      A: I got one of those $100 laptops but it's starting to cost me a fortune.
      B: Yeah I had one of those but it was stolen.
      A: That must suck.
      B: Nah man, your laptop cost you $970 in maintenance and stuff, but mine only cost $450 before it was stolen, so it's cheaper than yours.
  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:09PM (#17168534)
    Basically, by rooting for this thing to fail is basically saying you hate children. If you honestly think you can do better, THEN DO IT. This is the only effort on this scale ever attempted to use computers to educate globally. They'd rather kids either not have computers at all or have a full fledged computer that the TCO would be 10,000 dollars (by his metrics). Jesus christ people, if the thing is really as bad as people keep claiming it is, it will fall on its face immediately no thanks to you. You shouldn't want it to fail. However, it seems to be doing pretty well so far. They've got a lot of support from some really smart people. It seems uneducated armchair quarterbacks and competing companies have the biggest beef. Very few people whom complain actually have the goal OLPC does: To make the world a better place.
    • I don't hate children because I think a social project will fail. Throwing technology or money at a problem rarely solves it. Carefully spending money and implementing technology MAY solve a problem. A First World family can purchase a desktop and an Internet connection for a low cost. If desperate, there are computers with an Internet connection in most libraries. How many people take advantage of MIT's online courses to educate themselves? Certainly there are a few, but is it a majority of the popul

  • Averaging the more expensive hardware with the reaming for software, I'm sure the alternative is $2000 or $3000 overall cost per laptop. Thank goodness for open source!
  • yeah and how much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:12PM (#17168584) Journal
    Yeah and how much of that wad will go to local business people who figured out they can make a living off it? why is this a bad thing?
    • Re:yeah and how much (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grcumb (781340) on Friday December 08, 2006 @07:01PM (#17169176) Homepage Journal
      Yeah and how much of that wad will go to local business people who figured out they can make a living off it? why is this a bad thing?

      On behalf of people here in the developing world, I'd like to thank you for having a brain. 8^)

      People in my region are currently negotiating for access to the OLPC project, and you can bet your booties that economic spin-offs are one of the top reasons for the IT community supporting this effort. Just about everyone in the private sector likes the idea expressly because of the fact that these things will require support.

      The way costs are expressed in this article are extremely disingenuous. The $30 Billion price tag, for example, is assumed to be a monolithic extra cost that would unquestionably have to be borrowed, because, apparently, heaven forbid that a nation like China actually allocate some of the largest cash reserves in the world to this project. Likewise, I'm not sure how this would cause Brasil, India or even Thailand to break out the begging bowl.

      Likewise, why is this investment in infrastructure not compared to the huge investments in basic infrastructure that every single developed nation in the world has made - and continues to make? Perish the thought that a developing nation might see the benefit of following the example of every single successful country in the world. Anyone care to make a similar holistic calculation of how much the US, Canada and Western Europe have invested to introduce computers into the classroom?

      Sounds to me like the author slept through economics 101 class. Or like FUD, depending on what you consider the author's motive to be. Whatever this is, it is not science, and it's not logic.

  • by greginnj (891863) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:14PM (#17168606) Homepage Journal
    Pure FUDD... If you follow the nested links to the actual hatin' on the OLPC, you find out that most of the $970 figure is a $542 estimate of the cost of internet access, per laptop, spread over 5 years. The other estimates (training, lossage) may be reasonable, but this knocks it into lala land.
    • by Geof (153857) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @03:16AM (#17171968) Homepage

      Wow, that's a whopper. Because according to Eben Moglen [youtube.com]:

      That OLPC is a hand-powered thick-net router. When you close the lid as a kid and put it in the shelf at night, the main CPU shuts down - but the 80211 gear stays running all night long on the last few pulls of the string. And it routes packets all night long and it keeps the mesh. The village is a mesh when the kids have green or orange or purple boxes. And all you need's a downspout somewhere, and the village is on the Net.

      (Go to 41:54 in the video. Downloadable version also available [archive.org].)

      The rest of his presentation is fantastic, BTW.

  • by mpapet (761907) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:14PM (#17168610) Homepage
    In this case, I wonder if it's to discredit the whole idea, or to inflate the perception of the price so Wintel can compete.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Intel has their "Classmate PC"... which they claim will be $400. Most of the additional expense being the extra hardware needed to run Windows XP... oh and the Trusted Computing TPM that cheap laptops for poor kids absolutely MUST have. After all, what would they do without hardware DRM and iron control by Microsoft/Intel over what can run on the machine?
  • by JimDaGeek (983925) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:15PM (#17168620)

    The "fine" article says

    once maintenance, training,...

    Training?... Uhh, we are talking about poor people here that would _never_ have a computer let alone training. This is not some stupid business expense that we can write off or do some MS-Magic(tm) and make it look like an MS-Solution(tm) would cost less. We are talking about humans that will get a pretty cheap laptop and will... you know... put in the time to learn what they have been given. We are not talking about "rich" Americans or Europeans where having a computer is expected. These laptops are going to people that would never have a laptop... ever.

    It is pretty sick to me that some business idiot would try to justify costs going by typical business expenses.

    I know what is coming next. Some MS-Study(tm) will show how the OLPC will be more "cost effective" if Microsoft were paid their fees instead of using Linux.

    OLPC is pretty cool. I hope they succeed and do well. I hope the corporate greed of MS doesn't get in the way. However, with the recent activity of MS with regards to the OLPC, MS has their sites set on getting a piece of the pie. That can only mean corporate greed will take over the project and poor kids around the world will suffer because of it. :-(

    • He's talking about the support infrastructure. It's my understanding that what Negroponte wants isn't just a device, but also satellite internet and support personnel. I have a hard time believing this would amount to $800, but it will be set up in remote and underdeveloped areas so it's possible that the overhead on that will be high. In this light the suggestion of trials isn't too far off the mark, both to gauge overall feasibility and also to identify kinks early.
  • ... what's the cost of a regular laptop, or the competing project from Intel? Sounds like a Haggard Sony Enthusiast [penny-arcade.com] to me.

  • Some Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:21PM (#17168694)
    Some thoughts:

    "The cost is more like $900 per laptop"

    What was the hidden cost of rolling out a dozen million Apple II and C64 to a population almost entirely untrained in using and maintaining computers? Has the US economy recovered yet?

    "Teachers must be trained on how to use a computer and the internet"
    And this is bad how?
    Gosh, if we give free books to the kids, we will eventually have to teach them to read ! Shudder...

    "Extra money will have to be spent on the network infrastructure"
    Why not spent the money on something useful, like fighter jets, or a new, shiny cathedral ?
    Once this telecoms infrastructure is in place, these kids will compete for our jobs in call-centers and software development.
    Shouldn't we teach them something practical instead, like carving wooden figurines they can sell to tourists?

  • If you RTFA, and then RTFA the article from which the Newsforge article is derived, you'll find that the source is beyond biased - the news they post makes Fox look "fair and balanced," which I don't believe Fox is.

    Newsforge, please allow John Dvorak to do his job. Riling up the geeks is easy to do, but the market isn't that big and John needs to make his paycheck. If John hasn't spouted off about how OLPC will do nothing for the developing world, you can expect him to do so.

    $970 for a laptop. That is one hell of a total cost of ownership (TCO) argument. The number is preposterous, and in my experience, most total cost of ownership arguments are bunk because the cost estimates are so inaccurate as to be useless.


  • by feranick (858651) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:23PM (#17168720)
    Consider this scenario. You are a windows user. You have been convinced to switch to a Mac. Your new Mac laptop may cost about 1000USD. Then you find out that: 1. All your windows software doesn't work. So you need to buy the version for Mac (office, photoshop...). 2. You decide to run windows on it, so you buy a windows license. 3. Training. Count all these options, and the price of your laptop is twice the original. Does it mean the actual price of the laptop is 2000USD? No. The same goes for OLPC laptop. The machine itself costs 140 USD, period. The infrastructure (networking) and training are something different. Similarly, if you want to upgrade a public library, the cost of a book is the price on the cover, not the price of that plus the price of the infrastructure itself (the building, bills, etc).
  • I can buy a decent laptop at Fries Electronics for $450. I'm guessing wholesale has to be around $300. Yes it's three times the price but it's also 10X the machine and it runs Windows which for all it's downsides is the world standard.

    The far bigger problem is what's the point of giving some one starving a $100 laptop then telling them they can't sell it when that much money would feed some poor families for 4 months? Seems criminal in some ways. 90% have zero hope of making a living with computers so it

    • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:34PM (#17168844) Homepage Journal
      Yes it's three times the price but it's also 10X the machine and it runs Windows which for all it's downsides is the world standard.

      It's also: A machine that will break easily (disk drive with mechanical movements), requires far to much electricity to be viable in areas with unreliable electrical supply, isn't rugged enough to withstand rough treatment from children etc.

      The far bigger problem is what's the point of giving some one starving a $100 laptop then telling them they can't sell it when that much money would feed some poor families for 4 months? Seems criminal in some ways. 90% have zero hope of making a living with computers so it seems well intentioned but a real let them eat cake program. Trust me they'd rather have the cake, or some rice, than a computer.

      And you are yet another one of the people falling in the trap of assuming that this is being given to starving people. Get it into your head: ONLY A TINY PERCENTAGE of people in developing countries are starving. MOST have enough to eat. MOST have somewhere to live. This isn't targeted at those who have nothing, but at those who can sustain themselves and who are in a situation where anything that can help their children get a better education to improve their life is high priority.

      NONE of the countries signed up so far have any significant starvation problem. NONE of them are among the most desperately poor.

      All you've done is yet again repeat stereotypes of the developing world that has no root in reality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248)
      Is the off the shelf rugged enough? What happens when they connect to the internet and get a spyware infection? Windows does not have a good reputation in this direction.

      Is windows so entrenched in their region that they could not use OO.org or a lightweight office application? Can they read the screen in the sun? Does the more expensive laptop use it's wireless to automatically link up with other laptops?

      Once the battery is depleted in a couple years, can they get a replacement battery cheaply? Can th
    • I always thought OLPC was a misnomer and it would end up being 1-5 laptops per village. I did think some of the choices were influenced too much by companies involved, but that's the way the world works.
  • It's been said from the beginning that the cost was just for producing the hardware.

    Frankly, I still don't entirely understand why there is such a huge push to distribute laptops to the world. Books are far more durable and require no training or infrastructure (though teachers help). And then there's medicine and other necessities. Even if laptops end up being distributed to many of these locations, I expect the majority of them to go unused either from lack of interest or infrastructure, or simply to b
    • by grcumb (781340)

      Frankly, I still don't entirely understand why there is such a huge push to distribute laptops to the world. Books are far more durable and require no training or infrastructure (though teachers help).

      They are also far more expensive to create, transport and update. There's a reason why we rely on electronic storage and access to data in the developed world. These reasons apply equally to the developing world. More so, in fact, because wireless technology (like the OLPC uses) is cheaper than any other dat

      • They are also far more expensive to create, transport and update. There's a reason why we rely on electronic storage and access to data in the developed world. These reasons apply equally to the developing world. More so, in fact, because wireless technology (like the OLPC uses) is cheaper than any other data transmission technology currently available.

        I agree with the issue of transportation costs. Putting a bunch of books on a boat is far more expensive than elextronically transferring e-copies of the bo
        • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by grcumb (781340) on Friday December 08, 2006 @09:06PM (#17170110) Homepage Journal
          But electronic transport assumes a great deal of infrastructure, plus "one laptop per child" to actually make the data accessible to the community.

          Nonsense. A self-sufficient VSAT/WiFi station can be plunked down just about anywhere for a few thousand bucks. I do IT in the developing world for a living, so I can tell you authoritatively that the cost-effectiveness of electronic data into the village is vastly greater than shipping books. We've checked. This factors in community-based computer-centres, which are actually much heavier (in terms of capital and maintenance costs) than the OLPC model.

          Used college textbooks are generally in reasonable condition, and dating is rarely a problem.

          The big liability with regard to books is that they are difficult to protect. Most buildings in the developing world are, surprise surprise, poor quality. In tropical areas, they often don't have doors or windows, so books often barely last through a single school year. Your assumption about books being in fairly good condition might be true when they're loaded into the container, but it generally doesn't take long before they're in tatters. You'd be amazed, actually, how fast things deteriorate.

          The biggest liability related to computers and electronic communications is usually power generation. Fuel is bulky and even more difficult to transport than books are. That's why OLPC is enlightened, in my opinion: It's the first such project to take autonomous power generation seriously.

    • Frankly, I still don't entirely understand why there is such a huge push to distribute laptops to the world. Books are far more durable and require no training or infrastructure (though teachers help).

      Actually, books do require infrastructure to deliver, and they do require training to use; literacy doesn't just happen on its own.

      Now, admittedly, the laptops require more training, but it may require less logistical burden to deliver content to the laptops, plus new laptops as needed, rather than keep deliv

  • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:25PM (#17168744) Homepage Journal
    Nigeria is one of the countries considering the OLPC. It is not uncommon for people to live on $1/day in Nigeria. A cost of $840 to train and maintain those boxes simply isn't realistic unless major components break on a fairly frequent basis. There'd be an initial training cost to get a core of local people trained on maintaining and using them, of course, but once that's done, local training and maintenance would be extremely cheap even assuming much training would be needed.

    It's typical of adults to underestimate how quickly kids learn to do stuff like that themselves if they have the chance - I was replacing components on my C64 by the time I was 8-9 years old, based purely on having diagrams in the manual, despite the fact it was in English (English is my second language - I didn't know a word of English apart from BASIC keywords at the time). Of course not everyone would learn that way, but you don't need everyone to - just a reasonable percentage.

    I also note that the article repeats the same old bullshit about lack of access to electricity etc. as a hindrance for internet access - blatantly ignoring that this isn't really the case for the countries signed up so far AND the fact that the unit depends on mesh networking of the boxes themselves to expand the reach of the network, and falling back to the hand crank as a last resort for providing electricity to the unit itself exactly to reduce the infrastructure requirements.

    He's also coming out with ignorant statements like "naturally all the countries will be taking out loans to cover this purchase". Ignoring that one of the poorest countries to sign up so far - Nigeria - repaid $10 BILLION in debt over the last couple of years, and as a result got developed nations to forgive another $18 BILLION, saving them many times the cost of the OLPC purchase they'll be making EVERY YEAR in interest payments. The $10 billion was paid back thanks to increasing oil revenue, which is now also freed up for other purposes after the debt repayment is over.

    The countries signed up so far aren't the poorest in the world - they are developing countries with reasonable economies. There's no reason why they'd need to take up loads to cover a purchase costing them a few hundred million.

  • I don't know one way or another whether they can provide $100 laptops to children in third world slums (MIT, right?).

    BUT having spent a fair bit of time in some of the worst places on earth, including favelas and S. Asian slums... I can't see what makes them think this is a good idea. Maybe I'm cynical.

    First, are all those people supposed to just magically pick up a computer and know how to use it? We're talking about very very poor people who make $1-2 a day and can't read or write on average. This fact
    • by nuzak (959558)
      > First, are all those people supposed to just magically pick up a computer and know how to use it?

      With kids, that actually works pretty well. Of course I'm wondering: how the hell do they reinstall the OS when they brick them?

      This whole project just seems to be some fuzzy little dreamland idea of techno-utopianism, and more than a bit condescending. But that's pretty much how the MIT media lab has always worked.
    • by feranick (858651)
      quote: "First, are all those people supposed to just magically pick up a computer and know how to use it?" You could say the same about a book (mostly considering what you are saying later). quote: "Couldn't MIT do a training exchange program instead, or even at the same time?" This is exactly what the program is all about, giving the chance of training the kids. Do you have any idea how a preschool kid learn? If structured as a game, they adsorb everything (a language, how to use a computer etc). THey j
    • by vidarh (309115)
      I could program BASIC before I could read or write my native language (Norwegian). Either you are assuming that kids in the developing world are less intelligent than kids in the developed world - if so you're an asshole - or you have a very limited view of how quickly kids pick up new technology, in which case you're only naive.

      I've seen 3-4 year olds operate computers better than their parents. Most of my friends picked up computer skills at between 5-8, and we very quickly exchanged tips and tricks. A

    • The OLPC project is NOT aimed at every poor person. They are targetting people who have food, water, basic education, but little else. There are a lot of such people, just as there are lots of people in the conditions you describe. Everyone has different needs and gifts. Don't disparage someone just because their gifts, and the people who need them, are different from yours.

      It is not enough to have just food, clothing, and shelter. The US is full of inner city kids with (too much) food, clothing, she

    • Why they _won't_ be stolen:

      When everyone has one, what's the point of stealing one? Who are you going to sell it to?

      Your biggest market would be eBay'ing it to nerds who want to write software for it, because of it's general unavailability in first world countries. This option immediately goes away as soon as they ram production and start providing them for higher (but still low) cost to developers who want one to hack code on/play with.

      Or to put it in Monty Python terms:

      King Arthur: Go and

  • I thought the point was that the kids would be able to teach themselves.
    Wasn`t that the point behind the intuitive Sugar interface?

    And I am not sure how wise it would be to give direct Internet access
    to each child. I thought the laptops were able to create mesh networks,
    so you could just load one laptop with textbook files (on a USB drive?), and
    they would be available to every OLPC in the area.

    Even ignoring the above, high training/Internet costs in these countries are due to the lack
    of infrastructure. Infr
  • by value_added (719364) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:39PM (#17168898)
    Jon Camfield, a writer for OLPC News and master's degree candidate in the International Science and Technology Program at George Washington University, says that once maintenance, training, Internet connectivity, and other factors are taken into account, the actual cost of each laptop rises to more than $970. This, he says, doesn't even take in to account the additional costs associated with theft, loss, or accidental damage.

    To extend the reasoning, we shouldn't give food to the poor, because the cost of kitchen cabinets, cookbooks, culinary training, pots and pans, and refrigeration hasn't been adequately factored in or demonstrated as being cost-effective in a real-world test case.

    We shouldn't give away free books because the cost of opthalmologists and optometrists haven't been considered, let alone the requisite infrastructure of bookshelves, bookmarks and tables and chairs and reading lamps. Also, the health risks of children carrying heavy loads to and from schools, and the economic livelihoods of book publishers may also be adversely impacted.

    It's easy to say something won't work, I guess. On the other hand, I wonder wherein lies the motivation for so many people to go to so much trouble to crush something that offers nothing but endless possibilites. It's fashionable to be a cynic, but when it comes to kids, that kind of thinking should be left at the door.
  • I'm amazed, dumbfounded, dismayed, and flabbergasted at the resistance OLPC is getting in certain circles. If it isn't someone complaining about the "hidden" costs of the thing, it's people whining that these kids would be better off with food and water or medicine or solving the AIDS problem or, etc, etc. Never-mind that these things are really targeted to the much better off but highly neglected second world and not the far more talked-about third.

    And then there's those who try to be all "technical" and
  • Considering it has a unique UI, customized OS, unique networking, unusual capacity (memory and storage), and more I'm sure, I'm wondering where users will find compatible applications?

    I've posted this question to previous OLPC stories, but nobody has really answered it: Where are the applications for this platform?
    • Considering it has a unique UI, customized OS, unique networking, unusual capacity (memory and storage), and more I'm sure, I'm wondering where users will find compatible applications?

      Part of the project is "developing" apps (I'm using that term broadly, to include locating and verifying the functioning of existing open source products), fonts for national languages that aren't currently well supported, open educational content, etc., to accompany the machines. Its not simply a hardware project.

      I've posted

  • From their advert filled page:

    Your independent source for news, information, commentary, and discussion of One Laptop Per Child's computer ...

    Should I take it that they have no connection whatsoever to OLPC?

    Who are they then? Their "People" link has nothing but advertisements.

    Do I smell yet another M$ funded "independent study"? It has all the hallmarks, FUD from an unheard of source with a name very close to one you trust. It's no wonder that this story was submitted by an AC and I'm afraid we w

  • I just made up the negative amount. But if you were going to account for all the other stuff, why not account for what these OLPC laptops were designed to do. And if it does work (big IF), by helping to educate the poor and let them help themselves out of poverty, we will potentially save X amount of aid to those countries.

    And what makes you think all technical support has to come from the west or the government? A quick learning smart kid could grasp the ins and outs of this laptop in say 6 months, and can
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:52PM (#17169074)
    If you factor in all the training costs to teach a child to read, the true cost of a book must be several thousand dollars. So we should stop teaching the children and close all schools.
  • Jon Camfield says...once maintenance, training, Internet connectivity, and other factors are taken into account, the actual cost of each laptop rises to more than $970.

    Perhaps; beyond quibbling with the numbers (and the fact that the OLPC is designed to be useful without regular internet connectivity), so what? If you add those other things on to the cost of a $1,000 laptop, the price goes up substantially, too. "The price of X + some other stuff is greater than the price of X" is hardly surprising.

  • Ok, $970 may be not accurate. But the actual cost of this project is definitely not $100/laptop/child, period. You cannot expect the child to come to the factory doorstep to pick it up, training himself, and be his own sysadmin. It's like North Korea - got TONS of roads but it's all empty. They've no gas nor car/truck.

    To me, I don't love/hate OLPC but questions the cost-effectiveness of the project. Computer+Internet can do a lot, but maybe one PC per 10 child - located in school? It was not very

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damsa (840364)
      OLPC is just a name. Each child will not be getting their own laptop. More likely each child will get 15 minutes or to play with it during the day time shared among other students. It's just like no child left behind program it doens't literally mean no child left behind.
  • by Allnighterking (74212) on Friday December 08, 2006 @08:02PM (#17169644) Homepage
    Yes the information ala 'total cost of ownership' is correct. However the article puts forth this info as if these costs were unique to the 100 dollar laptop and wouldn't apply to a 600 dollar laptop. This is equivalent to saying that my car priced on the lot was 4 times the 24,000 I paid for it and goes up in cost annually at the rate of 10,000 dollars a year. (gas, oil, insurance, repairs and taxes)
    Given this path of logic the faster, you sell you car the lower the cost. right? The more expensive the car is when you buy it the more money you don't loose by selling it fast. The cost of the laptop is 100 dollars. At no time do I recall them claiming that they would lower the cost of ownership, replacement and or repair. The author of the article needs to go back to school to learn on thing.

    Logic no matter how meticulously applied is still false if the opening assumption is wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RexRhino (769423)
      But the whole idea of the $100 dollar laptop is NOT to pay more than $100 for a laptop. You are assuming the choice is between a $600 laptop and a $100 laptop. The choice is often between a max $100 per laptop, and NO laptop. The idea of the $100 laptop is that they are affordable to purchase for millions of kids in third world countries... Once you start talking spending $600-$1000 per laptop, shit even the United States or Western Europe would have a hard time affording that.

      When rich western people in th
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday December 08, 2006 @08:06PM (#17169674) Homepage Journal
    Nah, that's all part of the plan. The plan to insert deceptively cheap laptops in the hands of millions of children not currently in the market for Internet, training, maintenance or other digital services, because they're busy hunting/gathering (sometimes at the dump), or even running from genocidal militias. But once hooked on the PC/Net, they'll even go without food to consume more digital services. And become available as oursource personnel, once India's educated caste saturates and the "developing" world itself needs to outsource to even cheaper labor.

    The Earth's "GPP" (Gross Planetary Product) is about $36T:y in impossible accounting (who would buy all of it from all of us?) With about 6B people. That's average annual productivity of about $6K:y. Since the poorer 50% of humans own only 1% of the world's wealth [scotsman.com], though income is not quite as inequitable, the OLPC kids' parents probably make less than $600:y, leaving maybe $100:y to spend on each kid, tops. So needing $1000 to spend on a laptop that will last maybe 5 years means those kids will consume twice as much just with the new toy. So naturally they'll start producing more, according to well established capitalist laws of supply and demand.

    That is, if the kids don't eat the laptop first.
  • And it's awesome. I want one. It's got the worst keyboard known to mankind though. But the formfactor is excellent.

    The plastic is not cigarette resistant though, that was one of our tests earlier in the pub.
  • Classist Analysis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rubberpaw (202337) on Friday December 08, 2006 @08:21PM (#17169786) Homepage Journal
    Although these issues must be addressed thoughtfully, this suggestion is similar to previous generations' objections to literacy, suffrage, and property rights for "the masses."

    1. Oh no! What will happen if we let the masses have (x)?
    2. How can they know how to manage (x) responsibly? ( by responsibly, they mean: like we prefer them to )
    3. So let's not give it to them!

    Honestly. It's silly to discourage the development of hardware on the basis that training isn't in place. Of course not. There's no hardware! The lack of expertise and training is a reason for developing the technology, not against it.

    Without training, the OLPC experiment will fall flat with a lack of support staff and educational curricula integration. (from the olpc article)

    If you put the equipment into the hands of the people, the street will find uses for things. Black and brown people are not stupid. Like all things in life, it's a choice involving certain levels of personal risk. If people will buy one of these laptops, they're going to want training, especially if they stretched themselves financially to obtain it. They're going to be willing to trade (social and material) goods and services for that training. With increased demand for expertise, people with initiative and talent will learn the needed information and skills. This allows a local tech economy to develop. Cost analysis can't explain this situation, which involves more than payouts into something with no return.

    If you feel obligated to give everyone formal classes, not only are you insulting their intelligence and controlling what they can or ought to know, but you're pre-emptively aborting certain opportunities for local economic development.

    Honestly -- I learned more about computers with Slackware on a 486 (and nothing but the howtos) than most people get in a lot of computer classes. Not everyone can do this (and I'm not suggesting we just throw people in the deep end), but that's the great thing about geeks. They can cut across the traditional socio-economic boundaries because their skills make them useful; it's definitely been the case for me.

    If you look at the OLPC article suggesting $970 as the TCO [olpcnews.com] for one of these machines, you see how silly this really is. Ignore, for the moment, their apparent confusion over whose expenses they're describing. Look instead at their actual figures. Where did they get the $108 for initial setup? Can't you just ghost all the machines automatically? Also, how do they get away with putting a dollar value to the effect of potential future political instability on the cost of internet services?

    Note: In some developing settings, the introduction of mobile phones has been bittersweet, since not everyone makes wise choices (for people in the West, wealth is a blinding, useful buffer for waste and bad choices. The poor have a different margin of error). People will sometimes go into debt to obtain a mobile (they become a status symbol, or people misunderstand their role/value, or because people have a strong desire to stay connected).

    Laptops are bound to create similar issues, but laptops are fundamentally different from mobile phones in their positive, versatile potential. And the introduction of new technology always introduces complex, bittersweet social change.

    But mobile phones have been a positive development. According to an article in The Economist, "the London Business School found that, in a typical developing country, a rise of ten mobile phones per 100 people boosts GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points [economist.com]. Mobile phones are, in short, a classic example of technology that helps people help themselves."

    Muhammad Yunus, one of this year's Nobel Prize winners, has said that "When you [developments.org.uk]
  • by ignavus (213578) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @12:16AM (#17171152)
    I haven't spent any money teaching my 2 children how to use a computer. They picked it up themselves.

    My wife did a course, however, because she was too cautious to learn that way.

    A lot of business expenses for training come from cautious grown-ups who have lost the capacity to learn for themselves.

It is easier to change the specification to fit the program than vice versa.