No more cheap laptops as OLPC project starts crumbling

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OLPCNews reports that key employees have abandoned the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project  – the initiative designed to bring affordable computers to the world’s children.

While the project has been running for more than 8 years, it’s only in the last 18 months that things have started falling apart. First there was a report that the Peruvian branch of OLPC wasn’t doing too well. Then negative reports in the press – which took the organisation 3 days to respond to.

Production delays for the latest model of the OLPC computer. The founder of OLPC suggesting that laptops be airdropped to villages. And a failed attempt at an Android tablet.

And now, the number of important team members that have left the project totals seven. They include the lead software engineer, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer. Those are also just the resignations that are publicly known

It’s sad news for a project that once represented hope for the developing world, where access to affordable computers remains a big problem. Initially the OLPC devices were designed to cost less than $100 (around R1 000), even though that was never realised. The original OLPC device (the XO1) debuted at $200, and subsequent revisions have either not hit that target, or simply not hit store shelves.

In the mean time, though, the world has changed and affordable Android tablets have taken over. In the wake of Google’s success with its mobile operating system it’s also turning out to be quite fortuitous that the most affordable device for young children to be exposed to is based on the technology they’ll be using in the future.


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