For those of you who do not already know, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was established by MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte with the stated mission of developing and providing a means for “learning, self-expression and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education.” The means for accomplishing this mission? Place a low-cost, functional, durable, networked, laptop computer in the hands of each of these children. The result? The XO laptop computer. While the XO did not meet the initial $100 per laptop target price tag set by OLPC (the XO comes in at around $188), it is quite impressive in its own right. And, yes, the software stack on the XO is comprised entirely of free and open source software — allowing children who choose to freely modify, build and innovate on top of the software installed on their machines.
In part to help offset the increased cost of the XO, OLPC announced today a “Give 1 Get 1” Program. Under the program, U.S. donors will be able to buy two laptops, one for themselves and one to be shipped to a child in either Afghanistan, Cambodia, Hati or Rwanda. The program is scheduled to run for only two weeks starting Nov. 12. More information is available on the Program web site.
While OLPC has garnered its share of criticism, I for one am hoping that they prove their critics wrong. As someone far wiser than me once said, “Knowledge is power, but shared knowledge empowers,” and I can think of few things more empowering than sharing this much knowledge with the world. I encourage you all to check out OLPC and the Give1 Get 1 Program. In the meantime, you can also “give” an XO laptop right now by making a $200 donation to OLPC or get involved as a volunteer.