Negroponte Outlines the Future of OLPC—Hints at Paperlike Design for Third Generation Laptop

11/2/09Follow @wroush

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clearly and professionally with sales, support and deployment. The Foundation, by contrast, is more focused on advocacy, engineering and humanitarian missions.

X: What’s up on the deployment front? You had set goals to spin off Latin America as a separate support unit, make sub-Saharan Africa a major learning, hub, and put a major focus on the Middle East, Afghanistan, and northwestern Pakistan.

NN: The Latin American spin off has morphed into OLPCA and is now worldwide, including Africa. Rwanda has been our learning hub since June. Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan continue to be a major focus. More recently, we received permission to ship laptops in Gaza, so that now is a deployment.

X: You had a 500,000-machine manufacturing backlog. Where does that stand now?

NN: The precise numbers today are 1.1 million [laptops] out and a back-log of 400,000-700,000, depending on how you count. More importantly, the numbers mean less, like the books. In fact, a far more interesting number is that as much as 1/3 of the current worldwide production of laptops is netbooks.

[Editor's comment: Negroponte is referring to the surge in popularity over the last two years of small, low-cost laptop computers; some observers have credited OLPC for inspiring interest in this category among consumers in developed countries.]

X: Generally, what other progress have you made in your vision of OLPC taking orders and circulating them to various operating regions for fulfillment?

NN: The progress (I am repeating myself) is not measured by orders or fulfillment, but beliefs. People no longer question olpc as a concept. It is accepted. There is only one question and everybody asks it. That is: how do we pay for it? Turns out that is not hard, because the total cost of ownership, including buying the laptop, maintaining it and connecting it, is $1 per week, per child. While that is high for the poorest nations, it is not outrageous. The issue is how to front the money.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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