Fans of the One Laptop Per Child program were shocked and saddened to hear of the organisation's imminent demise this week. There's only one problem: OLPC isn't actually dead. Despite what some blogs are reporting, the organisation is alive and well… just not as alive and well as it once was.
On Tuesday, Wayan Vota made the dismal declaration on the OLPC News blog. (OLPC News is not the official OLPC blog, but it is a dependable source of information about OLPC.) Vota writes:
Yet let us be honest with ourselves. The great excitement, energy, and enthusiasm that brought us together is gone. OLPC is dead. In its place, is the reality that technology is a force in education, and we all need to be vigilant about when, where, and how it's used. …
So take a moment to mourn the loss of OLPC…
[moment of silence]
That sounds very grave, but it is not entirely correct. We reached out to OLPC to ask about the organisation's apparent demise. They're still alive! However, it does sound like they have scaled back operations significantly since first making headlines nearly a decade ago. OLPC executive vice president Giulia D'Amico told Gizmodo that the organisation just finished distributing laptops at schools in Costa Rica and will deliver the first 50,000 units of the XO-4 Touch tablet which runs Android. They're also selling the tablet at big box shops like Amazon, Toys'R'Us, and Walmart.
D'Amico also offered a vague explanation of OLPC's shift in momentum:
OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organisation is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values — education. As an example, we've partnered with the Smithsonian Museum to bring feature-rich, interactive and more targeted content to our young learners.
We have more exciting things planned in the horizon including the implementation of very large scale projects in several regions of the world, so be sure to stay tuned.
So wait, what? OLPC is dead, but OLPC projects are ongoing? This is all a little confusing. It's probably safe to say that the organisation's once-bombastic mission to put a laptop in the hands of every child is evolving. OLPC been opting for tablets for some time now, and it sounds like the organisation is more focused on partnerships than building cheap laptops.
So OLPC is a little bit dead. If you really thought the organisation's cheap technology was going to change the world, sorry for your loss. On the other hand, if you believe that the best way to help kids in the developing world is through curing diseases and building infrastructure, you're probably not so disappointed. [OLPC]
Full OLPC Statement: