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News Link • Technology: Computer Hardware

OLPC’s Negroponte Offers To Help India Realize $35 Tablet

• Ryan Paul via WIRED
In an open letter to the government of India, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project founder Nicholas Negroponte expressed enthusiasm for the country’s recently announced $35 tablet effort and offered to assist by making his organization’s technology and expertise available.

The offer of collaboration is the latest odd twist in OLPC’s erratic relationship with India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The real significance of Negroponte’s offer, however, is that it reflects OLPC’s evolving views about the value of collaboration.

OLPC designs low-cost education computing devices for developing countries. The project aimed to produce a ubiquitous $100 laptop that would bring constructivist learning theory to the developing world. The project has fallen far short of fulfilling its initial goals due to serious setbacks, ranging from technical and logistical failures to divisive ideological conflicts. OLPC was forced to reorganize and downsize much of its development staff last year as its funds dwindled. Despite these cuts, the organization was able to continue moving forward by narrowing its focus and pursuing a less ambitious strategy.

When the OLPC project first launched, Negroponte argued that OLPC’s agenda could only be achieved by harnessing economies of scale. The laptops would be sold to governments in massive quantities in order to reduce overall manufacturing costs. Negroponte contended that competing efforts and alternative low-cost laptop products were harmful to OLPC’s vision because they would fragment the market and undermine OLPC’s ability to achieve the level of scale that he believed was necessary for success.

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