The Associated Press is now reporting that Intel and MIT’s One Laptop Per Child initiative have reached an accord. The two entities have been bashing each other in the press for some time now, dissing each other’s technology like an east coast-west coast rap war. Now, the AP says that Intel will actually be joining the OLPC board and contribute funding to the development of its so-called $100 laptop.
More from the AP:
Under their new partnership, Intel and One Laptop Per Child might seek ways to package their computers together for overseas governments. For example, Intel’s Classmate, which has to be plugged in, might be an option for urban settings, while the XO laptops, which use very little power and can be mechanically recharged by hand, could go into rural districts.
“There are an awful lot of educational scenarios between K and 12,” said William Swope, Intel’s director of corporate affairs. “We don’t think all those are going to be served by any one form factor, by any one technology, by any one product.”
Walter Bender, who oversees software and content for One Laptop Per Child, said the biggest benefit for his group would be Intel’s work with the project on future technical developments. That will deepen the pool of software and hardware designers available to perfect the XO machines.
“It’s a big problem, more than 15 people at OLPC can do all by themselves,” Bender said. “Getting more talent lined up to help us is only a plus.”
All I can say is this: Hallelujah.
For several years now, I’ve been screaming a particular mantra. When it comes to global development, different tools work best in different circumstances. There is no one single magic bullet, technological or otherwise, that will solve the ills of poverty, corruption or educational inequity. Sure, mobile phones have spread like wildfire throughout the developing world and are helping countries make important leaps. But that doesn’t mean those countries shouldn’t explore using telecentres or low-cost laptops for different situations. Try telling a small-business owner in Ghana that they can only use their mobile phone for all of their productivity needs. And sometimes technology isn’t the answer at all, either – we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that when that’s the case.
Similarly, you can’t expect a single branded device, even one created by entities as talented as Intel or MIT, to suit the needs of every development challenge in a particular country. Like the AP article notes, technological needs in an urban context differ from tech needs in a rural context. Classroom settings and business settings are different. The needs of an NGO working in a refugee camp are different from the needs of officials working in a governmental office headquarters.
With Intel and OLPC coming together and acknowledging that their devices will have pros and cons depending on the circumstance, countries that embrace their technologies will hopefully be able to make smarter, more strategic choices. Less time will be wasted in debating whether a government should by this tool or that one as the sole answer to all of their needs, simply because the person pitching the tool is well-resourced or charismatic. Imagine if we could get mobile phone manufacturers, Microsoft, free/open source advocates, etc., to adopt similar mindsets.
Different tools for different circumstances. Perhaps we’re making some progress. -andy