By Jessica Lyons
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) was formed in 2005 and, according to Giulia D'Amico, the organization's Vice President of Business Development, the challenge it faced was to create a low-cost device that would still use the best technology available.
'The overall idea behind it (OLPC) was to provide access to education by using technology,' D'Amico said. 'At that time it (sounded) like a crazy idea because computers were not available at a low cost.'
D'Amico said that, since at that time no one was creating the kind of technology OLPC was looking for, they began developing a laptop themselves. The result was the XO Laptop, which now supports 26 languages. It contains 300 free educational applications and more than 1.6 million textbooks and children's literature books.
When determining who would receive the laptops, D'Amico explained that OLPC tried to prioritize by selecting countries that are part of the United Nation's list of least developed countries. In the last few years, they have also started projects in the United States, Canada and Europe. OLPC has made a focused effort to make sure the laptops are spread throughout the world while also selecting areas where they would be most advantageous. Some of the countries that now have laptops are Haiti, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Afghanistan.
'We have deployed, so far, 2.8 million laptops in 60 countries around the world,' D'Amico said. 'We have impacted a population of 15 million people in the overall communities that are around the kids who have the connected device.'
Word about OLPC has spread and now there are countries that are seeking out OLPC and requesting laptops.
OLPC's work goes beyond just providing the laptop and includes developing content and providing training. D'Amico explained that the first step in their process is to work closely with the government and local school system to understand their curriculum.
'We try to customize the laptop, the software specifically, and the keyboard with those languages and content that the locals are looking for in order to make it fit into the local curriculum,' she said. 'We do provide pedagogical and technical training on the ground, and we do build a core team of local people who can then provide all sorts of support.'
Work is also done by OLPC to make sure both the children and the adults understand the laptops and their purpose and benefits.
'There are not only educational benefits but there are social transformation benefits,' D'Amico said.
Some of the many educational benefits include decreases in drop-out rates, increases in school attendance, better test scores and improved reading comprehension. Other advantages include having more children finish primary school and go on to secondary school, and even having students attend universities. D'Amico said that by having a more educated population, more intellectual property will come out of those countries.
While the laptops can lead to Internet literacy, they can also increase social inclusion and help users communicate with family members who may be in different areas or even different countries. D'Amico said that some parents have even been able to create their own small online businesses.
In addition to the XO Laptop, OLPC recently launched their XO Tablet, which they started selling at Walmart. The focus is on the user experience while also trying to make the device as affordable as possible. The tablet contains content gathered from multiple partners.
'We had the opportunity of working very closely with the product development team at Walmart in designing a new type of product that would be suitable for a school environment but at the same time suitable for individual usage,' D'Amico explained.
There are several ways people can help support OLPC's work. In addition to making a monetary donation through their website, donations can also be made by purchasing the XO Tablet, since profits are being redirected to underprivileged communities. Organizations can also donate educational content.
'By supporting our organization, it's a way to support children's education worldwide, and this is what we're really interested in,' D'Amico said.
Study.com has made a donation to help One Laptop Per Child fulfill its mission. You can be a part of their efforts too. Find out how you can support OLPC's work.
Another organization that's bringing education and technology to communities around the world is World Possible.