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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Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.