Wednesday, November 01, 2006

OLPC ... who would buy the laptop at which price?

Gerard just passed me this link: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/01/0239245 and yes, that post interests me a lot, because we are working on a multilingual dictionary for the OLPC laptop.

So someone promised to pay USD 300 if other 100.000 people would promise to do the same. Well, that was a very difficult goal, because without the right surroundings, without having the possibility to really be able to use that laptop, who promised this did it probably out of an ideological mindset.

Considering my situation (having two kids of 4 1/2 years who already play and surf with mom's old PC) and that of many other people - considering the prices you pay for an e-book reader of a certain kind - I am sure that high turn arounds, diffusion and therefore refinancing of the project can be achieved quite well.

Consider to have kids in the States and in Europe who have parents with a PC and WiFi. For these kids having such a laptop would be an advantage. Consider schools that have computers where kids only can work about 2 hours a week ... what if instead of buying many single PCs they buy a server that holds data (e-books, dictionaries, exercises) etc. at disposal and kids can load it from there, read, play games, communicate through e-mail and instant messaging with their friends, teachers and parents, do their exercises (and if needed also additional ones) etc. That would make sense. Why?

Well, kids in our times read less and reading on their laptop could be perceived as fun. Books could become somewhat interactive .... instead of having to buy all the classical books they can be downloaded from the school's server or the internet ... and so at a certain stage the laptop would pay for itself. Please consider also that such a laptop can break and that if it is used at school it could then be necessary to repair it or buy a new one.

Therefore it is all about marketing and have people adopt the system for everyday use. That mans: if you ask for a price of approx. 100 EUR which corresponds to 120-130 USD you will find a much wider potential customer group than having it at 300 USD, which is definitely too much, since again the poorer families would be excluded, and here I am talking about Europe and the United States and not the really "poor" countries. Many families today cannot afford to pay for an adequate education for their kids - getting one OLPC laptop and having servers in schools would help even here in Europe and in the USA to assure that kids get a real chance in life.

Of course to pay 1 laptop for a poor country you need to sell 5 laptops ... but: consider all the classes in the whole world.

Distribution can go through the schools, but I would not be surprised that even chains of supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi in Germany could be a good option - maybe adding an external USB CD reader/writer (that is sold separately) - so kids could have some kind of storage device. This year we are to late - but consider Christmas next year: the parents buy the laptop, the grandparents any USB device + aunts etc. CDs and similar things.

I excluded some more possibilities, because they will not be possible in all cities ... but with a little imagination for sure you will understand how much potential is behind this project.

All this and much more is possible - it is "only" a matter of evangelizing the project properly. Be sure I will do my part - please also do yours.

How you can do your part? Inform yourself about the project. If you are a developer: think about fun software for kids that help them to learn (plase always keep in mind that any software needs to be localised). You are a writer of kids stories? Well: write them :-). You are a designer? Help to create some characters which can be used for stories to tell, everyday stories, so that culture among kids can be exchanged. You know more than one language? Then you can join the OLPC Children's dictionary project or consider to be part of the localisation teams that will grow step by step in future.

You have plenty of money of course the OLPC project would be glad about donations - oh, you don't want to just donate it and prefer to contribute it to a specific project? Well contact people - also me: I can get you in touch with the right ones :-)

And of course: if you have ideas: tell us.
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