One Laptop per Child in Gabon: Further Expansion in French Speaking Africa

We just launched a new program in Gabon. From the press release:

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression, announced today that it has launched the project with the Government of the Republic of Gabon to initiate a 1:1 educational computing project for the children in the country.

“We welcome the initiative and leadership of HE First Lady of Gabon, to launch the OLPC project in Gabon and look forward to her continuing support to reach national saturation for primary school children”

The initial phase of the project represents approximately ten percent of the children in Gabon and a total saturation of all primary school children is planned to be completed by 2014.

The OLPC project was initiated by HE First Lady of Gabon, Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba. OLPC will provide full technological, educational and community development training to the Ministry of Education staff responsible for the project’s launch and will provide quarterly ongoing support in the country. The Gabon project will also include the involvement of the Office of the President in planning for countrywide deployment of the OLPC laptops.

“Individual empowerment is the key to the future development of all of Africa and I am very proud that Gabon will demonstrate that educating children through OLPC is the foundation of empowerment,” said HE First Lady of Gabon, Madame Sylvia Bongo Ondimba.

“We welcome the initiative and leadership of HE First Lady of Gabon, to launch the OLPC project in Gabon and look forward to her continuing support to reach national saturation for primary school children,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, CEO of OLPC Association.

A hat tip to the franXOphonie community, including Kaçandre, Bastien, and OLPC France; thanks to them we have the Guide XO Gabon (from an OLPCorps project back in 2009-10) and a French version of the 2011 deployment guide.

A visit to Wonchi: OLPC’s Ethiopian Literacy Project

Evan Szablowski was in Addis Ababa, spending a week meeting Ethiopian entrepreneurs. Michael, one of the tech leads for our literacy project in Ethiopia, was one of the people he met with. He was captivated by the literacy project, and on hearing that Michael was heading to Wonchi (one of the two villages taking part in it), he and his teammates decided to tag along.

While he was there he met some of the students eager to show off how they liked to use the tablets (they are using Motorola Xoom tablets with mainly off-the-shelf Android literacy apps, with a few custom apps and tweaks by OLPC). At some point, one of the children (below) stood up to quiz the others on what they were learning.

Evan wrote up the experience in a beautiful essay on his new blog, illustrated with photos from the day.



While this is just one anecdote from the project, the photo series is priceless, and puts the whole effort in context: the geography of the town, the social setup of the small farming community, and the economic circles of the village and the technicians supporting them.

An overwhelming sense of excitement and optimism overtook us, and we couldn’t stop smiling as we watched. We left with such a feeling of inspiration and optimism, amazed at witnessing two completely different worlds [fuse] with one another… Zach said this was the best thing he has done in a long time, and I agreed.

I hope they realize it someday. I hope that someday one of those kids will say, ‘When I was only 4 years old, the laptop project from MIT came to my village, and it forever changed my future.’ What an amazing perspective that person will have.

This was not foreign aid, or handouts… This was education, and just the first step in enabling them. Enabling the young minds of Africa for brighter futures. For a brighter nation, and a brighter continent.

@Evan: Thank you for sharing the day with us!

Reading and growing up with Nell

Scott posts a quick update on the status of the Nell designs for narrative interfaces and its application to OLPC’s recent literacy project in Ethiopia:

The Literacy Project is a collaboration between four different groups: the One Laptop per Child Foundation (“Nell”), the MIT Media Lab (“Tinkrbook”), the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, and the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University (“Omo”). The goal is to reach children even further from educational infrastructure than OLPC has ventured to date. In particular, the Ethiopia pilots are complete child-led bootstraps, attempting to teach kids to read English (an official language of Ethiopia) who neither speak English nor read in any language yet. There are no teachers in the village, and no literate adults either.

Adapting Nell to this environment has some challenges: how do we guide students through pedagogic material with stories if they don’t yet understand the language of the stories we want to tell? But the essential challenge is the same: we have hundreds of apps and videos on the tablets and need to provide scaffolding and guidance to the bits most appropriate for each child at any given time, just as Nell seeks to guide children through the many activities included in Sugar. In the literacy project there is also a need for automated assessment tools: how can we tell that the project is working? How can we determine what parts of our content are effective in their role?

OLPC Rwanda: building a platform for expression for the whole community

In an Op-Ed in Uganda’s Independent, Andrew Mwenda notes that Rwanda has set itself apart from its neighboring countries in almost every field; including with its tremendous fiberoptic network and olpc laptop program. “building one of the most promising platforms of democratic expression”. He notes:

Kagame has predicated his presidency on performance by his government. Hence, the delivery of public goods and services to all its citizens regardless of their station in life… It is Kagame’s political genius and greatest achievement and is unrivalled in post-independence Africa. But equally it is the greatest source of frustration among elites.

The article is worth a read.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo is in Rwanda this week to thank President Kagame for his amazing work in supporting OLPC for all children in the country, and to learn from the program there.

Rwanda’s next 100,000 laptops arrive this month

Rwanda will have 200,000 children using XOs by the end of the year. They are putting the second phase of their deployment into place over the next few months, in time for the second term this year. The laptops will start to be delivered later this month.

Each participating public school – at least one per sector – will have a school server installed with mathematics, science and English software to enable teachers to teach using laptops. Two teachers at each school are taught to handle troubleshooting hardware and software. Schools with no access to electricity will continue to be connected to solar energy.

The program has been particularly popular among parents of children receiving the laptops. And private schools and individuals can buy laptops for $200 apiece.

Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the head of the initiative, said of the new schools joining the program: “I call upon parents and teachers to support the OLPC project. I am optimistic that the beneficiaries will compete favourably on the labour market after completing their studies.”

Learning to read with One Tablet per Child

Can tablets make a difference to a child learning to read for the first time, without a teacher or traditional classroom structure? That’s the question we are exploring with our reading project, currently underway in Ethiopia.


A few dozen children in two rural villages have been given tablets which they are using for a few months. They are interested in learning to read English, and understand this is something they can learn with the tablets; which also come with hundreds of children’s apps.

They are equipped with software that logs all interactions, building up a clear picture of how each tablet is being used. Data from the tablets is gathered each week and sent back to the research team, which also rolls out new updates to the tablets week by week.

Richard is in Ethiopia this week, to get better first-hand knowledge of how the tablets and other infrastructure are holding up, and a visual sense of how they are being used.

“if a child can learn to read, they can read to learn”

On Kindles and the importance of fixable machines

Kyle Wiens of the Fixers project is tracking how electronics and other gear is used and fixed across Africa — and which things are destined to be landfill. He writes in the Atlantic this month about the challenges of maintaining computers in rural schools.

He looks at a popular Kindle-as-bookreader program, noting how predictable their high levels of breakage were, and how useful it would have been to be able to repair them in the field.

He cites OLPC’s design, public repair guides, and comprehensive list of parts as models for others to follow. And he kindly offers to help projects like Worldreader and others write a good repair manual if they would only do so and ship it with their devices. Take him up on that — he writes well!

Carnegie Mellon team wins Hult Global Case Challenge

The Hult Global Case Challenge concluded over the weekend, recognizing winners in the three categories of education, housing, and energy – with challenges related to the work of OLPC, Habitat for Humanity, and SolarAid.

The education prize went to the team from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College: Reggie Cox, Elizabeth Cullinan, Ketaki Desai, and Tim Kelly.   They took the prize for their “innovative approach to ensure streamlined laptop deployment and to create a global brand for [OLPC]’s open-source software.“  This continues a tradition of CMU support for OLPC – their ETC lab held a game jam in 2007, and other CMU campuses helped organize a 10-day OLPC Rwanda workshop in Kigali in 2010.

The team wrote about their experiences with the case challenge last month, in the Huffington Post.

Team submissions were judged by a panel of judges including: the CEOs of the three organizations whose case challenges were being considered, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, Unilever Chairman Michael Treschow, and social entreperneur Darrell Hammond.  All of the final submissions were excellent.

The challenge has given us many good ideas for how to improve and streamline our mission; just the judging process has been wonderful. The winning teams will share $1M to pursue their ideas; more updates to come as we see how this unfolds.

You can find a press release about the results here.

The Islamic Development Bank will support a 50-school deployment for OLPC Cameroon

Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.

The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroon’s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.

Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.

Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.

How to buy XOs in quantity

We recently posted a wiki page summarizing XO prices (roughly $185-$205 by quantity), and how to get XOs for your own deployment: Buying XOs. The minimum order is 1,000, with occasional exceptions made for orders as small as 100.

In addition to our national partnerships, OLPC regularly sells XOs to groups all over the world who are running pilot programs in their district or community. While we do not often sell in quantities of less than a thousand laptops, exceptions are made for programs that have planned for a successful deployment. (And we feature some of the best-planned grassroots programs here on our blog!)

For groups working in war-torn or post-conflict regions, we may also be in discussions with aid groups who could help support a program. Feel free to get in touch with us if you are planning a sizeable project in these regions. For more information or to place an order, email us at countries@laptop.org.

Ghana Together: building networks of teachers

The non-profit Ghana Together has been repairing and deploying donated XOs in Axim, Ghana for years – now providing over 50 XOs in their Children’s Home. They and work with local techs and a student repair center at the Arts and Technology High School in Marysville, WA. They recently wrote about helping a nearby school that suddenly received XOs.

What about Those One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Computers?

In 2011 the Methodist School was suddenly given 30 OLPCs from the government of Ghana.. .They thought they looked liked toys, not realizing that they are actually very sophisticated “learning machines” for primary school children. The headmistress found out that I was coming to Axim, and asked me to come and do an impromptu two-hour workshop.

Consequently, two teachers worked with me to test and update laptops. I engaged Peter Asuah, one of the original WHH scholars, to help test all the OLPCs, chargers, etc. I left a very complete manual… These guys are computer sophisticated, and I’m sure they will do a good job orienting the children.



Since the machines are designed to be “self-exploratory”, it’s been my experience that once children understand the basic way the computer functions, they do very well on their own. In fact, this hands-on, exploration approach is perfect for these children, because they have been so immersed in rote learning from blackboard and exercise books. The science teachers told me they are trying to get away from that kind of teaching, but up to now, they didn’t have materials to work with… now they have materials and machines.

Later in my visit, when the science teachers came up for the brainstorming session, I spent the first hour on another impromptu workshop, introducing them to the basic workings of the OLPC. They were fascinated…

Meanwhile, if anyone reading this has an OLPC you’d like to donate, we’d like to have it, in working condition or not. The Marysville Club is very skilled — they repair them, or if need be cannibalize them.

Read the full post on the Ghana Together blog.

OLPC Kenya: working towards an education alliance

Sandra Thaxter, who has been working with some of the grassroots programs in Kenya, recently joined with others in the OLPC Kenya volunteer community, for a meeting with the the Kenyan Institute for Education on their digital learning initiatives.

Assistant Minister of Education Calist Mwatela set up a meeting between these groups, and they are planning a series of Skype meetings over the next few weeks. Sandra wrote more about this and her dream of an OLPC Kenya Alliance, as a guest post on the Eshibinga blog.

Keep up the good work!

South Africa: Building grassroots support for access to a modern education

As noted last week, Jackie Lustig has compiled a report from our South African projects. It draws on background data from the country, and highlights work done there over the past four years.

Starting with a gift of 100 laptops from donors on Boston, and expanding through the interest of a number of OLPCorps projects in 2008, South Africa has expanded its OLPC community to almost 1500 students and teachers today.


OLPC South Africa case study, 2008-2012

(This is an 8MB pdf, so may take a moment to load)

Upcoming case study : South Africa

OLPC South Africa is preparing to publish a case study of it’s entirely grassroots growth – from 100 students and mentors in Klipotwn in early 2008 to a network of 1400 students in 5 cities, all sharing training and class experiences.

Support for these programs was a combination of individual donations, local purchases, government support, OLPCorps, and support from other international NGOs.  Some are traditional school projects, while others such as at the Kliptown Youth Project involve a combination of community, school, and peer mentoring.

The full study should be up on Friday.  Here are a few quotes:

South Africa spends a larger share (5-6%) of its GDP on education than any other African nation. Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 7 and 15 (grades 1 to 9) and access to primary education, the UN’s second Millennium Development Goal, is now nearly universal.

However, as recently pointed out by Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s National Planning Minister, South Africa ranks 137 out of 150 countries in math and science and is one of the bottom 25 performers on the African continent.

As of early 2012, there are a total of 1,400 XO laptops in South Africa. The Kliptown Youth Program provides technical and training support for all these deployments.

The first priority was getting people to understand that the XO is not a toy – it is a resource for education. Many children in Kliptown have difficulty learning to read so it is important to get them excited about reading. The children like reading from the XO screen because it makes learning fun and cool.

Stories from Eshibinga II: My father, and the private face of computers

Reposted with permission from the Eshibinga blog:

Last week we got the good news. Our class is soon going to get two more computers. That is great news because we are a class of 40 kids and and increasing… [they] have helped us learn most of the computer basics, writing, recording, games, music, etc etc. Recording activity was my favorite. When I grow up I want to be a photo journalist.

Our dream as a class is to have each kid own his or her own laptop. I think a computer has a private face. As much as computers do lots of public work, but I think and I stand to be corrected, that a computer is also personal. The reason I am saying this is because I have some personal matters in my life which I have typd and recorded on one of the laptop. It is no secret here in Eshibinga that my dad has been living with HIV AIDS. He does not have long to live. Every word he tells me is important. Every smile he gives me is precious, every prayer he makes for me and my three other siblings is memorable. After learning about the recording activity on the xo laptop, I asked Mr. Amunga to give it to me to go with it home. I sat my dad under his favourite tree. And I recorded his voice, his smile his face.

Later I realized that what I had recorded was so important. I don’t want it erased. It may be the only chance for my three sisters and I to hear and see our dad in future.
The advice dad was gave was very personal and very private. I don’t want my classmates to read watch or see the recording I made on the xo laptop. Neither do I want it erased. What do I do? Yesterday teacher announced that will get two more laptops. I want to talk to him to give me this particular one for keeps. It has the face of my dad, my history, my roots. I need to keep this recordings. They are too personal, too private, too precious. A computer has two faces the private and the public.