[iDC] One Laptop Per Child

Steve Cisler sacisler at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 29 21:01:07 UTC 2008

Geert Lovink forwarded the great post about the whole
situation in Malawi to the incommunicado list. I read
the January idc archives on the OLPC and then joined
this list.

I am a librarian and have been doing tech projects
with big outfits like Library of Congress and the
Smithsonian as well as indigenous groups in the U.S.
(Zuni, Oneida of New York, some California tribes)
Guatemala (Kich'e) Thailand (Akha) and also worked in
Ecuador, Jordan, and Uganda.  I have written about why
my technology projects fail, and I have hung around
with technophobes at the Second Luddite Congress and
visited Amish who are very careful about what adopt. I
spent most of 2004 offline talking to people in the
U.S. and Mexico who did not seem to need the Internet
(computers, maybe), and I now work on building a
network of social entrepreneurs at the Center for
Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara U.

I'm interested in the XO project (the name used for
the OLPC machine) because of several reasons: the
hype, the intense discussions going on at country
level, on a variety of lists such as this,
olpcnews.com whose owner is not connected with Intel
and can be described as a zealous supporter of the XO
but quite critical of the role played by Negroponte.
It is home to a lot of arguments from all parts of the
spectrum except for much if any talk like that of the
Filipina who sees the project as a bad thing. You
won't find colonizing the mind--Albert Memmi's term,
hegemony, imperialism, capitalism, etc. mentioned. It
prides itself on its geekiness.  

Second of all, it's a pretty transparent project,
compared to what we know about the development of
something like the iPhone.  This will provide some
basis for understanding what happens over the next few
years. I don't know if anyone is planning a
longitudinal evaluation of the project or just in one
of the countries in Latin America where most of the
purchases have been.  On our advisory board is the
director of the educational arm of Carlos Slim's
foundation. They have ordered 250,000 (some say only
50,000) machines which are destined for schools and
tech centers and, I believe, libraries in certain
parts of the country. Even at this early stage there
is talk of failure and success. One of the valuable
roles this list might play is to try and define what
success might be from a local community viewpoint.
It's probably going to vary greatly from country to

On a personal note I have had an XO since
mid-december. Geert posted my message about this from
the incommunicado list. I have not used it as much as
I thought, even for taking notes in a meeting (small
keyboard), but we did get the mesh networking but had
to go online to find out how, so we used my office Mac
for that. The ebook function is good but could be
better. Ideally it should handle something like the
Internet Archive flip books
open formats, and text. A drawback for many people is
that you need to use the terminal program and linux
command to do a lot of extra activities, and I
envision some primary school teacher in an Andean
village with poor connectivity trying to learn to use
the XO and trying to answer questions from kids who
are exploring their machines.  It's going to be hard.

Anyway, I look forward to following this list.

Steve Cisler

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