Thursday, November 15, 2007

I gave one, I'm getting one

The One Laptop Per Child (OPLC) initiative opened up sales of its laptops to North America on Monday in the form of it's "Give One, Get One" program. Until November 26, if you donate $400 to OLPC they will send one laptop to a child in a developing country and one laptop to you. After waiting (impatiently) since then for payday to come, I finally made my donation early this morning, and my laptop will soon be on its way. I am so excited!

This is one purchase that I thought about extensively before moving forward and it, and the indecision had nothing to do with the price. I considered the selfishness of keeping a laptop for myself instead of donating two laptops. I also took into account how much $200 could help a child if given in monetary form instead of laptop form (a common critique of the OLPC project).

Obviously, I ultimately decided that keeping a laptop for myself is not a bad thing to do. OLPC needs users in the United States to promote its program, both by producing positive media about the program and by contributing to the creation of programs for its new operating system. I may not know how to code in Python, but I can be a decent blogger when I don't have a thesis deadline looming overhead, and thus I think I can contribute to the popularity of this program.

The problem of children being given free laptops instead of free food and water is still a concern of mine. However, I think that education is key to producing adequate food and securing adequate sources of water. And as education is the goal of this program I think it can only help with the more immediate needs of individuals, even if it does take some time.

What was the deciding event in this struggle of conscience? I was reading the reviews of the laptop written by children who use it, and one of the children wrote, "The things we didn't know, we go check on the laptop." That's when it hit me. These kids don't have access to google. They don't have access to wikipedia. They don't have access to all of the internet knowledge tools that I take for granted every day.

So, rather than throw some money at the issue and feel that I've done my part, I chose to become an active part in the project. I want to work with the recipient children to create programs they need, not programs US corporations want to push on them. I don't just want to give them access to websites, I want to be active in making that web experience more educational. Yes I am getting a laptop, but I am also getting a mission, and that is to actively help make OLPC the successful program I know it can be.

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Blogger skierpage said...

Sara, I posted "Gave one, getting one OLPC" on my blog a few days before you. Great minds think similar titles ;-) I'm also in the bay area, I'll check back when I get mine as I want to meet others and see the mesh working.

I hope you enjoy your XO. I can't wait!

(Please excuse the combative tone of my blog, there's a lot of unwarranted negativity around OLPC and XO on the gadget forums.)

November 16, 2007 4:26 PM  

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