If You Want to Change the World, You've Got to Buy Big

One of the distinctive — and perhaps, most successful — aspects of the One Laptop Per Child Program is the level to which individuals have been able to effect change on a global scale. The project's Open Source offerings are, of course, a prime example of this, but so too are the financial offerings that have put the program's product in the hands of some half-million users. The era of individual-based change is coming to an end, however, as an email leaked last week has revealed the end of the program's small-scale giving, known — ironically enough — as "Change the World."

The "Change the World" program, variously known as "Give a School" and "Give 100, Give 1000," offered individuals and groups the opportunity to donate one hundred or more laptops to children in the developing world, and designate where they should be deployed. Through the program, those with ties to particular areas — a sister organization in a developing nation, for example — were given the opportunity to have their donation directly affect children in that area. Morgan Collett, a developer at OLPC, was among the first to report the news, and wrote that several hundred XOs have already been deployed in South Africa through the program, with more in the works.

The email announcing the elimination of "Change the World" was sent to the project's private "Support Gang" list — a list for volunteers who help field email/phone inquiries and provide technical support to XO owners — and forwarded by a list member to the public grassroots list, to quite an outraged response. According to the original message, from Julia Reynolds, Assistant to OLPC's Learning Team, the "Change the World" program was discontinued in order to "refocus back to large-scale deployments that create change in a major way." At the time the message was sent on Thursday, the only thing that remained to be done was for the "Change the World" information to be removed from laptop.org, which has now been completed.

Though Reynolds did not cite a specific order minimum in her message, speculation suggests the project will return to its 10,000-minimum for orders, a threshold that — with all the other recent troubles at the organization — may prove difficult to come by.


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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Please enlighten me

El Perro Loco's picture

Aren't those laptops being shipped with some crippled Windows XP version (kind of a pleonasm) ? Or am I confused, or misinformed?

If the OLPC program will enslave underprivileged children to M$, its success may barely be cause for celebration. OTOH, if those children get an early taste of liberty and freedom - via Free Software and Open Source - then we should be happy about them.

The present financial crisis is showing us what greedy companies and institutions are all about - and that's not people.