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Summary of "One Laptop per Child" Open Forum Event

Nicholas Negroponte, Founder and Chairman of One Laptop Per Child Association
Summary of remarks made to the Secretary's Open Forum
Washington, DC
November 15, 2006

[One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit, humanitarian effort to provide the poorest and remote children in the world with general purpose, rugged, powerful, connected laptops for learning. A $100 laptop has been designed, of which 5,000 will be testing in the field over the next 90 days. Initial launch in 2007 is anticipated in Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Libya and Thailand.]

Nicholas Negroponte explained that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project resulted from his work since the late 1960s with how children learn.  He stressed that teaching is only one way of learning – that children learn how to walk and talk without teachers by interacting with the environment.   OLPC has three key points: Learning Learning; Teaching is only one way; and Leverage children themselves.

Professor Negroponte said that he made a decision a year and a half ago to build a $100 laptop as a non-profit humanitarian effort.  He stressed that the project has to be a non-profit mainly to strengthen credibility with the countries involved.  He described OLPC as a non-profit entity with $25 million funding for non-recurring engineering costs. 

He stressed that there are two keys to success for OLPC: scale and global reach.  Scale is important in order to change corporate strategy for laptop manufacturers.   Being global is crucial as he wants to maximize the number of laptops that get in the hands of children.  He plans to launch 3-5 million in 2007; 50-150 million in 2008 and in more than five large diverse countries.  His goal is to provide the laptops to children – to own, to take home, and to use seamlessly.

Professor Negroponte listed the OLPC partners as follows: Quanta, Chi Mei, AMD, News Corp, Google, Brightstar, Red Hat, Nortell, Marvell, eBay, SES/Astra, Citigroup, Real Networks, Seagate, Adobe, the United Nations, and IADB.  He described Quanta as making over 40% of laptops in the world; and when Quanta agreed to build the laptops, this improved the credibility of the project.  The question became not if but when and how much of the laptop project will happen.

He showed a model of the laptop that he described as follows:

500 Mhz AMD x86 processor
128M DRAM
512M FLASH
Less than 2 watt nominal and can be human powered
3 USB ports
Stereo sound, with 2 audio out
WiFi mesh network
Rugged
Dual mode display
Camera, full resolution, and video

Professor Negroponte then showed a color-coded map of the world – green for launch countries; red for countries in discussion; yellow for countries in which the head of state has expressed direct interest; and brown for lots of interest on the ground but not necessarily by the central government. 

He listed the launch countries as follows: Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, and Thailand.  He is in discussion with: China, Pakistan, Turkey, Mexico, Bangladesh, the Palestinian Territories, Uruguay, and Central American states as a group.

Professor Negroponte made the following laptop price commitment:

n      $100 target price end of 2008

n      Price will float based on currency, memory, nickel, cobalt

n      $148 anticipated in 2007

n      Price will be constantly lowering

n      $50 target price in 2010.

He acknowledged that there are gray market issues but those are being solved.

Initially, the launch will be central government funded with single big orders.  Subsequently, the picture will change as he envisions one country paying for another and one child paying for a laptop for another child.  He talked of a child in the US paying for two laptops and only receiving one while the other laptop is given to another child in a developing country.  He also envisions commercial subsidy, micro-philanthropy, etc.

Professor Negroponte concluded by summarizing the following side effects of OLPC:

n      Linux on the desktop

n      No caps lock key

n      Power consciousness – more human power

n      No bloated software – stop featuritis

n      Viral telecommunications

n      Peer-to-peer everything

n      Learning by doing.

During the discussion period, Professor Negroponte discussed the various criticisms levied against the OLPC project.  One criticism is that if children are starving, giving kids laptops at $100 is not what we should be doing.  He said that criticism is completely eliminated if the discussion substituted the word education for laptop.  The second criticism is that cellphones not laptops should be the ones distributed.  He responded that the form factor is crucial for it does not make sense for kids to look at the postage stamp of a cellphone.  He stressed that the laptops could be made into e-books and that cellphones cannot serve that purpose – that books have a certain size for a reason.  

For comments on programs of the Secretary’s Open Forum, please email the Chairperson, Ms. Corazon Sandoval Foley at foleycs@state.gov.



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