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Thursday Keynote: One Laptop Per Child

Nicholas Negroponte is the chairman of the One Laptop Per Child project which aims to produce a $100 laptop that can be purchased by underdeveloped countries etc. So far, it’s turned out to be a $130 laptop, but the price is expected to drop as producion begins.

One Laptop Per ChildI’m interested in hearing his vision for how he believes the laptops should used by those that receive them…as an educator, I obviously have some ideas. And those that have read Friedman‘s book will have ideas about how adding these individual voices to the global economy will impact their immediate as well as long-term future.

He begins talking about how Seymour Papert first described how students could use computer programming to think more deeply about concepts…because they would have to understand more clearly what was happening in a process to understand how to program. Move forward a bit…he has travelled to developing countries to find students in bare-bones schools being taught Word or Excel with one computer. Like that is going to make a difference to them

Three basic principles of the OLPC project:

  • Use technology to learn learning, not to learn something
  • Teaching is one but not the only way to achieve learning
  • Leverage children themselves (there’s not enough time to train enough teachers…students will have to help each other.

Cambodia, Costa Rica, India…they’ve had success in these places. The problem is not the telecommunications, it’s the laptop.

Interesting story about Cambodia…the students bring their own laptops home and it’s the only light in the house so the parents love it. 😉 The first English word they speak is Google.

Scale is key…not so that components are cheaper…but because scale is what will change corporate thinking.

What’s the laptop besides Sales, Marketing, and Profit? There’s the display ($35-$40)…and then there’s everything else that supports the feature-rich software of today’s computers. So let’s get rid of the bells and whistles…and the speed is going to be awesome because it’s paired down.

Here’s the full hardware specs. Key features:

  • <2 watts needed…so it can be human powered
  • Wifi mesh network…so that laptops can share a single access point connected laptop to laptop to laptop. Kids have to be at least 600 meters from another laptop or booster.
  • Uses flash media for storage
  • Dual Mode Display…changes from a backlit display that’s nice to a reflective, sunlight readable display. Therefore can be used indoors and out!
  • Open source software
  • Maintenance by kids…but they don’t break because the kids own them and take care of them…they’re cherished. They’re going to allocate 500 units to be crash tested for their ruggedness.
  • The laptops are convertible from a laptop to a tablet. Also available will be a !100 server, dvd drives, printers, projectors, etc.


The launch will be global…about December with these countries for sure.

  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Thailand
  • Argentina

Why not the USA? The problems of teachers, power and telcom do not exist here.

Side Effects

  • Linux on the desktop
  • No caps lock key
  • No bloated software
  • Peer to peer everything
  • Learning by doing

There will be a working laptop here at the conference at some point…it got stuck in customs. Any ideas can be posted at the OLPC wiki.


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