The One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) will broaden the distribution of its low-cost laptops, originally made for children in developing nations, to destitute students in the United States.
The foundation, which was created three years ago by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte, came under criticism since it did not originally include the U.S. in its distribution of the laptops which are more commonly referred to as XO's
Negroponte's goal was to sell millions of child-friendly laptops to governments in poor countries for $100 apiece in a bid to improve education levels. The main obstacle the program faced was the laptop's manufacturing cost, which was $188, almost twice its planned price point of $100.
The new U.S. division, known as OLPC America, already has a director and a chairman and will most likely be based in Washington D.C., Negroponte confirmed in an interview on the foundation's news website.
The whole thing is merging right now. It will be state-centric. We're trying to do it through the 50 state governments, he said.
He went on to state three reasons for starting OLPC America.
For one thing, we are doing something patriotic, if you will, after all we are and there are poor children in America. The second thing we're doing is building a critical mass. The numbers are going to go up, people will make more software, it will steer a larger development community, Negroponte said.
The third reason is educational, so that children in the U.S. can communicate with kids in developing nations and expand their view on the world outside U.S. borders, he said.
To have the United Sates be the only country that's not in the OLPC agenda would be kind of ridiculous, Negroponte said. The U.S. was not the focus of OLPC in the beginning he said, but it has always been in the plans.
OLPC initially claimed the laptop would not go into production until governments worldwide had placed a total of five million orders. This goal was not met, with only Peru being the program's largest customer by a large margin, having ordered 270,000 laptops. Peruvian children who can't afford books are now surfing the Internet, reading digital texts and taking and sending digital photos.
Around November when the laptops first went into production, OLPC began its holiday-season Give 1 Get 1 drive. This meant that any donor who contributed $399 to the project would receive a complimentary XO, and a second XO would be sent to a poor community, such as Haiti, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Afghanistan.