With the tagline, “It’s not a laptop project. It’s an education project,” the One Laptop per Child initiative aims to revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. In January 2005, the MIT Media Lab launched the research initiative to develop a $100 laptop. This lead to the development of the One Laptop per Child association.
Most of the nearly two billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade. Many developing countries have insufficient resources to devote to education; according to OLPC, some spend less than $20 per year per child (compared to an average of $7,500 in the United States). By giving children their very own connected laptop, OLPC hopes to give them a window to the outside world with access to vast amounts of information and a way to connect with each other.
The XO is designed for the use of children of ages 6 to 12 - covering the years of the elementary school. OLPC has created the XO laptop to be very low cost, robust and powerful. Notably, they had to cover three unique conditions: low power, sunlight readability, and automatic connectivity. Low power is key. Most children do not have electricity at home. Therefore, a laptop needs to run on both human power and long-life batteries. Sunlight-readable displays are important for outdoor use as well as power conservation. Lastly, connectivity cannot assume DSL, WiFi hotspots, or the like. Instead, the laptops collectively have to make a network automatically, without child or teacher intervention. Roughly 500 children should be able to share a single point of back haul to the Internet.
In May 2008, it was announced that OLPC laptops would ship with a special version of Windows. Previously the laptops only ran Linux.