John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

OLPC Foundation Annouces “Keep One, Fire One” Employee Drive

Since its launch four years ago, the One Laptop Per Child foundation has fallen far short of its initial goal of supplying Third World countries with 150 million laptops by the end of 2008. To date, little more than 500,000 children have received laptops. Though a noble idea, providing $100 $200 laptops to children in developing nations clearly hasn’t quite caught on.

So it was only a matter of time before the project was forced to rejigger its operations, which it did this week. Just weeks after administering its “Give One, Get One” holiday season drive, the OLPC slashed its workforce by half, reduced salaries for its remaining staff and began restructuring operations.
Like many other nonprofits facing tough economic times, One Laptop Per Child must downsize in order to keep costs in line with fewer financial resources,” OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte said in a post to the foundation’s Web log. “While we are saddened by this development, we remain firmly committed to our mission of getting laptops to children in developing countries.”

That’s nice to hear, I suppose. But given the OLPC’s track record with social innovation–and business realities–it’s difficult to put much faith in such assertions. “OLPC promised a product, a sub-$100 laptop, it simply can’t deliver based on underlying economics of the computer industry,” a spokesperson for OLPC competitor Ncomputing told CRN. “And it asks governments already unable to provide basic services to not just buy these laptops but pay to ship them from the factory in China, truck them throughout the countryside to the schools and then support and maintain them. The hidden costs were a nightmare.”