Help Change the World with OLPC

Posted on Tuesday 13 November 2007

There is a great Chinese quote out there, the original by Lao Tzu, I think:

Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

I actually went searching for a slightly modified version of this, which many of todays great teachers use in their training.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to teach a man how to fish and you change the world.

This is absolutely true, and while I have been picked up by a few anal types thinking that there should be yet another “teach a man to teach a man” portion in there, but the bottom line is This Will Work!

I have been following a story of late, of an amazing team led by Nicholas Negroponte, and their goal to change the world. This man is no dummy. He is an Chairman Emeritus of MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab.

He took leave from MIT so that he could create an organization whose goal can very well change the world. The organization’s mission is wrapped up in it’s name OLPC or One Laptop Per Child

“Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade … Any nation’s most precious natural resource is its children. We believe the emerging world must leverage this resource by tapping into the children’s innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own. Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children’s machine designed for “learning learning.”
(Click Here for the complete mission statement)

This is an amazing piece of technology, designed specifically with children in mind usable in any location and even comes with it’s own hand cranked power for those areas where no power is available.

This isn’t something that was decided on a whim. It has been proposed and studied since before 1980, before most people reading this article even had a computer themselves! You can follow its entire history here – but here is just an excerpt…

1982 – In a French government-sponsored pilot project, Papert and Negroponte distribute Apple II microcomputers to school children in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal. The experience confirms one of Papert’s central assumptions: children in remote, rural, and poor regions of the world take to computers as easily and naturally as children anywhere.

OLPCs’ goal is to develop a rugged, durable and child friendly machine (usable by even small children). The organization brought on some of the largest IT organizations and brightest technical minds of our era. The result was the XO laptop computer. It’s an amazing and affordable laptop that ANY child can use.

Unfortunately, according to what I have been reading in ZDnet’s news blogs about the XO, even though the computer is now ready it isn’t being adopted quickly, if at all, by the governments of those countries who can benefit most.

So OLPC did one better, they started a Give 1 Get 1 plan.

Between November 12 and November 26, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. This is the first time the revolutionary XO laptop has been made available to the general public. For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. $200 of your donation is tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).

What you just read is correct – TWO Laptops for under $400. One for a child you know, and one for a child in need. Once again the charity of North America is being called on to help those countries less in need and if you have young children of your own, or just want to keep the kids off your own computer this is the best time ever to help those who need it!

I also need to add or rant a bit here, because unfortunately there is a bit of negative press being published about this deal. Complaints about how there isn’t a help desk available to call, how it doesn’t run Microsoft Windows, there is no support for it, etc, etc, etc. I guess some people are just never happy. Remember – this computer is a child’s laptop. To be used in remote places where there would be no help anyway! For childtren to use as a tool and to explore with. It is made to be intuitive and need little in advanced training or support and no it isn’t designed to run the latest mega graphic video game out there. It is designed for children to learn on, with and about.

Check out the XO Laptop website at if you can afford it and have kids or grandkids get one or two and help the world and your kids at the same time. If you want to just buy a laptop for a third world country (and not get one sent to anyone here in North America) then they will do that too and your donation will then be 100% tax deductible.

Since man first walked upright, he has always depended upon learning and improving his mind. Since he first started living in communities he has used education to improve the lives of both himself and others.

Our planet is rapidly getting smaller and smaller and wouldn’t it be great if we could erase and eradicate the phrase “The 3rd world” and make it just “Our world”. This really could be one of the great leaps of mankind. All it needs is a little help from us…


Click on the XO Computer to Find out MoreWant to keep abreast of the latest news on OLPC and the XO Laptop? Click Here.

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