One Laptop Per Child Isn't Quite Dead Yet

Fans of the One Laptop Per Child program were shocked and saddened to hear of the organization's imminent demise this week. There's only one problem: OLPC isn't actually dead. Despite what some blogs are reporting, the organization 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 organization's apparent demise. They're still alive! However, it does sound like they've scaled back operations significantly since first making headlines nearly a decade ago. OLPC executive vice president Giulia D'Amico told Gizmodo that the organization 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 organization 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 organization'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 organization is more focused on partnerships than building cheap laptops.

So OLPC is a little bit dead. If you really thought the organization'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:

OLPC's mission to empower the world's children through education is far from over. OLPC is thriving and making more inroads at bringing education to those who can't easily access it. OLPC recently formed a strategic alliance with the Zamora Teran family through many of their enterprises and their philanthropic foundation, the "Fundación Zamora Teran to deliver XO laptops not only to Central and South America, but also to Africa.

Aside from distributing more laptops in several schools in Costa Rica, Uruguay is receiving its first 50k units of the XO-4 Touch (running Android) in a few weeks' time. In addition, the XO Tablet is currently available directly through governments and NGOs, as well as in Europe and Canada and through all major retail outlets in the United States including Walmart, Amazon, Toys 'R Us among the others.

OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization 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.