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What is One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a charitable organization which is focused on providing educational tools to the developing world. The organization attracted a lot of press attention in 2007, with the commercial production of its XO laptop, which is designed for deployment in developing nations. OLPC hopes that by providing innovative educational technology such as laptops, the organization can improve overall educational standards in the developing world.

OLPC's main project is the so-called “$100 laptop,” which was announced in 2005 at the World Economic Forum in a keynote speech by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC. Negroponte hoped to gain international support and funding for the project by announcing it in such a public forum, and he succeeded, garnering pledges of assistance from international companies and aid organizations. OLPC has also been backed by the United Nations, which supports the goal of improving access to educational tools in developing nations.

Working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Negroponte developed the XO laptop, an innovative low cost laptop which began to be deployed to schools in the developing world in late 2007. The XO has a number of unique traits which make it well suited to the goals of the organization, which include individual child ownership, open source, connectivity, saturation, and low ages for users. The XO is extremely rugged, with a Linux-based operating system called Sugar which is designed to foster exploration and educational development.

The work of OLPC has been made possible through the support of numerous innovators in the technology sector, who developed tools which make the XO quite distinctive. The small laptop may not be very powerful, but it can withstand water, hard knocks, and dust storms. It is also capable of mesh networking with other XOs, allowing children to communicate with each other and collaborate on projects. The mesh networking also extends the laptop's access to the internet, by allowing laptops to piggy back on each other.

The rise of OLPC led to the emergence of several competitors in the field, and not all of these competitors are nonprofit organizations. Some companies are creating low cost educational laptops for use in the developed world, arguing that the core goals of OLPC could also be extended to educational systems in places like the United States. It is hoped that the proliferation of affordable technology could make a major difference in the world by empowering children.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Terrificli — On Jun 23, 2014

@Vincenzo -- agreed, and this is a good time to remind people they can donate to the project. Search for the organization on the Internet, hit the donate link on the Website and give as much or as little as you can. The world will be better off for it.

By Vincenzo — On Jun 22, 2014

This is a great project that proves that open source software, something significantly less powerful than cutting edge technology and the cooperation of companies that want to make a difference can produce something revolutionary. Give kids the hardware and the software they need and they could make a difference in their parts of the world.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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