Christoph Derndorfer recently interviewed Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia, about their plans for the coming year. An excerpt:
You recently launched a new initiative called “One Education” and received $11.7 Million in government funding… Can you tell us more about these developments?
We pitched to the Australian government to kick-off a pilot for 50,000 XOs… a $20m project that would including funding from schools, corporations as well as from government. The program will also provide at least 15 hours of teacher professional development (via moodle) to over 2,500 teachers [to] kick-start a movement to make OLPC the program of choice for primary school children.
What are the biggest challenges that you need to address before you can turn OLPC Australia’s vision into a reality?
Scaling our operations to meet the demand (2 months ago we were a 2,500 XO an year organisation, now we are proposing to do 50,000 in one year) that will be coming through our very small offices in the next 12-18 months. In Australia there are high expectations for service delivery/support.
Sridhar Dhanapalan is giving a talk next week about OLPC Australia, pitching it as “Australia’s toughest Linux deployment“. It certainly is that. He notes their aim to reach each of the 300,000 children and teachers in remote parts of Australia, over the next three years.
From his abstract:
OLPC Australia aims to create a sustainable and comprehensive programme to enhance opportunities for every child in remote Australia… by 2014.
[T]he most remote areas of the continent are typically not economically viable for a business to service, hence the need for a not-for-profit in the space.
This talk will outline how OLPC Australia has developed a solution to suit Australian scenarios. Comparisons and contrasts will be made with other “computers in schools” programmes, OLPC deployments around the world and corporate IT projects.
By promoting flexibility and ease of use, the programme can achieve sustainability by enabling management at the grass-roots level. The XO laptops themselves are… repairable in the field, with minimal skill required. Training is conducted online, and an online community allows participants nationwide to share resources.
Key to the ongoing success of the programme is active engagement with all stakeholders, and a recognition of the total cost of ownership over a five-year life cycle.
Last year, Telstra worked with OLPC to develop a media campaign promoting OLPC in Australia, and raising money for 500 XOs to be sent to aboriginal communities. This month they took home an award from the Cannes Lions festival for media, in recognition of the excellence of that campaign. See the Cannes entry for images and screenshots of their designs.
Rumour has it that the followup this year will be astonishing — I can’t wait to see it.
OLPC Australia is in the middle of providing 300 children and teachers with XOs in Doomadgee, Queensland. This continues their work in Aboriginal regions across the continent (see their amazing school-by-school map). I always look forward to the updates of that particular map – which colors every school deployment by whether it is completed or not.