“Two billion children in developing countries do not have or have very limited access to schooling,” Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop Per Child, told a crowd of hopeful social entrepreneurs at NYU on Thursday. He is changing that alarming statistic with his non-profit organization.
The mission of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is to provide children from developing countries access to education through their very own laptop. The laptop, XO, is usually issued through governments and then distributed throughout the country. The current price is extremely low at $185 but don’t let the price deter you from its capability. These computers are amazing little pieces of technology.
- Capabilities: Ability to read e-books, game playing, camera, video and voice recording, and more
- Durable: Use in extreme temperatures, dust-resistant, water-resistant keyboard, and very rugged
- Connectivity: Besides being wireless the antennas allow connection to other computers for group interactivity
- Charge: Energy efficient computer with a battery that charges 25% faster and option to charge through solar energy.
In order to keep the price low, OLPC has open-source software, limited the features, and does not make a profit off the XO. The video below provides a visual overview of the XO Laptop.
As Negroponte discussed OLPC, the highlights or stories are what I believe drive social entrepreneurs to make the world a better place. Negronponte told us about how excited families were to have computers in their electricity-free home as it provided a bright light, how a girl that was behind in school chose to shoot a cow giving birth for her cattle assignment and received well over 100,000 hits on YouTube, and the fact children are teaching their parents and grandparents to read and write. All were touching and inspirational.
As the audience sat enthralled, Negroponte did offer a bit of advice—before thinking big, start on a smaller scale to gain experience, which is exactly what he did. Before launching OLPC, a friend urged Negroponte to build a few schools in Cambodia with the goal of providing every child a computer. When the schools were a success, Negroponte asked, “If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked?” This question became part of the OLPC mission statement.
Currently, OLPC has provided 2.5 million computers to children, 300,000 are in route, and another 300,000 are backordered. Even with such an amazing impact, Negroponte wants to do more.
An XO tablet computer is in development for OLPC, and we were lucky enough to see the model. It did feel heavy, but again the versatility of the tablet outweighed any weight issue. Besides the new model, comes a new concept for OLPC: build on a collective nature instead of the original singular teaching model. Negroponte also wants to measure the success of this new model and build off of it.
As Negronponte wrapped up, I couldn’t help but feel excited for the aspiring entrepreneurs. The world right now is in mayhem, and I couldn’t think of a better time to start making a difference.
David Pogue reviews the XO laptop
[All images via Flickr]