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Friday, December 08, 2006

OLPC theft

Posted by: Hammer / 1:20 PM

There may be hidden costs in the One Laptop Per Child program. Some might merit careful consideration. Theft is not such a concern:

While Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has garnered a tremendous amount of support worldwide, it has also become a lightning rod for critics who have questioned the viability of its long-term success and impact. As the OLPC receives its first shipment of laptops and continues to formalize agreements with developing countries, the cost of individual laptops hover at about $130. Critics, however, suggest that the "true cost" may be several times that amount.

Jon Camfield, a writer for OLPC News and master's degree candidate in the International Science and Technology Program at George Washington University, says that once maintenance, training, Internet connectivity, and other factors are taken into account, the actual cost of each laptop rises to more than $970. This, he says, doesn't even take in to account the additional costs associated with theft, loss, or accidental damage. Camfield contends that such an expensive undertaking should at least be field-tested in pilot programs designed to establish the viability of the project before asking countries to invest millions, or perhaps billions, of dollars.

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be concerned about theft at all, but the possibility of theft should not deter anyone from trying to help those in poverty. In a village where so many have nothing, giving one (or a few) something creates an obvious incentive to steal. There's no way around it. In many respects this laptop would be a less attractive target for thieves than livestock or grain, if only because everyone needs to eat but not everyone needs to compute.


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