The Inter-American Development Bank and ICT4Edu

Today's IADB event, Reinventing the Classroom, brought together thought-leaders, practitioners and government officials to discuss the role of technology in education in Latin America. In sum, it was a lot of preaching to the choir. This particular choir, however, hailed from many different churches, temples, cathedrals, and bazaars.

Everyone present believed in the importance of technology in education, but there was enough differences in opinion and methodologies to keep it interesting. It ranged from presentations on real-world experiences of projects in Portugal using a variation of the Intel Classmate to projects in Brazil and Argentina to the amazing Plan CEIBAL of Uruguay, using the OLPC XO. Presenters extolled the virtues of free and open source software as well as the familiar Windows XP.

By the end of the day-long seminar, I felt an odd mix of hope and despair.

In Defense of the Laptop Jon Wed, 09/09/2009 - 16:32

Reading Alanna Shaikh's writeup on the OLPC Program as a failure in the UNDispatch and clicking through to Timothy Ogden's harsh commentary, I began to feel a bit defensive for OLPC. I know, it's a bit out of character, but not really.

SJ Preaching to the Open Source Choir

Perhaps this is because SJ reminded me of some of the core good things that remain part of OLPC during his talk at the OLPC Learning Club / seminar Tuesday night. SJ went off on tangents on the value of open hardware in society, and the simple concept for learners when they realize that they have complete ownership and ability to open up and modify not only the tools inside the apps on the OLPC laptop, but the code that creates the tools, the code that is the operating system underneath those tools, and the hardware itself that the OS is running on top of. This is empowering and fundamentally and importantly different from a Microsoft environment, where everything is closed and locked down once you try to step outside the walled gardens.

ICTs in the Classroom: Next Thursday at the IADB

Next Thursday at the IADB is a huge event delving into the role of ICTs in the classroom, with heavy-hitters including Nicholas Negroponte of OLPC, Tabaré Vázquez, the Uruguayan President (no doubt discussing CEIBAL), and Mike Trucano of InfoDev, who has been spearheading a cool-headed data-driven look at ICTs -- See the full schedule and RSVP at

CEIBAL (Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea) is a laptop program for public schools in Uruguay, and one of the largest and most active OLPC deployments.

I'll be there asking annoying questions about total costs for ICTs versus teacher salaries, problems with software licensing costs, and the importance of enabling technology, and taking notes on my cute little OLPC XO laptop.

And no, I don't see that being incongruous.

OLPC TCO Deathmatch (2 of 4)

Let's talk Total Costs of Ownership of One Laptop Per Child. Taking our set of different OLPC implementation cost calculators, as well as actual numbers that have bubbled up over the years, like IADB's Project HA-T1093 with 13,200 students plus 500 teachers (with a budget of USD $5.1M), we can try to settle on some generalities so we can compare apples to apples.

XO in rwanda
How much does this cost RITA?

Common Basic Assumptions

Let's start with how long the project will run, and what number of laptops we'll need to replace (due to age, damage, loss, hardware failure, and so on) during that time frame. That should be easy, right?

Five seems to be the magic number when talking TCOs, which is convenient when projected OLPC lifespans are also five years. Reality may disagree with that (and certainly GeSCI and Vital Wave wisely do).

So let's plan for five years, and drop re-purchasing of the whole batch within that period (see below for why this becomes relevant). We'll instead presume some per-year replacements (damage, theft, environmental problems, and "normal" wear-and-tear), but even this gets harrowing.

Different Lifespan Calculations

The OLPC Deployment Guide handily provides numbers for expected monthly repair frequencies, which they project at .083% risk of bricking per laptop per month - 1% failure over the course of a year.


Site Updates now has a mobile-friendly site at -check it out on your computer or phone (it's not WAP, just lighter and linear).

Also, I'm closing comments on a rolling quarterly basis; sneaking, Mollom-defeating comment spam on some of my older posts was becoming too much of a hassle.

Mobile Social Networks

Something is still missing in the world of mobiles and social networks.

I strongly believe in the power of social networks in development, be they online or offline. They create communities of practice from the local to the global level, which promotes better understanding of what a best practice is versus what is just a good theory that doesn't reliably work. You also have amazing, unprecedented access through mobile phones and SMS.

But there's nothing solidly connecting the two (unless I'm missing something?)

It's Raining OLPC TCOs (1 of 4)

Update: Hello readers from Alanna's post on the OLPC at UNDispatch - You should check my original article on the OLPC TCO - written back in 2006 - over at

If you poke around enough on the wiki, you find a few interesting corners. Linked from their work in creating a training and reference document for OLPCCorps, a link to an Excel spreadsheet to calculate OLPC-specific costs for a deployment, which has been created and maintained by OLPC's John Watlington

Social Networks (including Facebook) and Technology Transfer Jon Wed, 07/29/2009 - 14:10

In Social Networks (not Facebook) and Development I covered the relevance of local social networks and social capital / trust for successful, long-term community and economic development.

Finding, engaging an empowering local social networks is the first step. I believe connecting these networks to the global communities of interest and practice on the Internet can provide a multiplier effect.

In the recent Technology Salon on Malawian health ICT systems, it was discussed how hiring recent Malawian college grads and connecting them to the global community of open source coders gave them an immense resource to draw on as they began their work; and they were soon contributing as peers and mentors to other programmers around the world.

That's power, and that's the 21st century version of technology transfer.

Social Networks (not Facebook) and Development

World-wandering BoingBoing editor Xeni Jardin writes about a video from the "What Would the Poor Say: Debates in Aid Evaluation," NYU conference, where Leonard Wantchekoz presents on the importance of trust in development:

Video: "If You Don't Trust People You Know, It's Over."Leonard Wantchekon on the Lack of Intra-Community Trust in Benin from DRI on Vimeo.