OLPC’s XO Plan Faces Many Challenges

November 28th, 2007 - 12:24 am ICT by admin  

“Give One. Get One.” That’s the slogan for the two-for-one program by One Laptop Per Child, an organization set up to promote and distribute the innovative, low-cost, Linux-based XO laptop computer developed by former MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte and other members of the school’s Media Lab.

In early November, OLPC announced a two-week program to allow members of the general public to purchase two XO laptops for $399; one laptop is shipped to the purchaser, and the second is donated to a child in a developing nation. In addition to getting an XO laptop, the purchaser also receives a $200 tax credit for the donation of the second laptop and, thanks to T-Mobile, a year of free Wi-Fi access.

Due to interest in the program, OLPC announced that it is extending the offer through December 31, 2007. After that date, consumers will be able to obtain a laptop for themselves or their children only by donating 100 or more XO laptops.

Political, Manufacturing Challenges

Despite the laudable effort, the OLPC initiative has run into some challenging economic and political roadblocks that might hobble Negroponte’s bold vision of millions of meshed computers in developing nations.

From the start, the OLPC program has faced daunting challenges in persuading government officials to invest in the laptops. Many of those challenges have stemmed from a classic Catch-22 manufacturing problem: Negroponte originally billed the XO as a $100 laptop, but the low number of orders so far has prevented the program from realizing economies of scale. Mass production of the device (spurred in part by the “Give One, Get One” offer) began just three weeks ago.

The XO’s cost is still remarkably low — just $188 — but still high enough to cool the interest of possible large-volume purchasers such as Nigeria and Libya, both of which were considering purchasing a…

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