Last week, I mentioned in passing the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, actually as part of a post about the brilliant Pull-Cord Generator. Of the latter, I also said that I thought it was a great shame that they weren’t rolling these out commercially, as I was sure they’d be hot gadgets just before Christmas. I also posted about the wonderful BOGO solar flashlight a while ago – sadly I don’t have any news on its distribution worldwide yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

I think the BOGO model is brilliant commercially – Buy One, Give One is viable on a low profit margin, high turnover basis, and so suits itself excellently to philanthropic consumerism. The products in each case are designed environmentally through necessity, in that they are energy efficient, recyclable, robust and compact to suit their actual target of the developing world. At the same time, though, these design principles represent the highest standards that developed world shoppers are looking for.


OLPC’s XO, for instance, is a near perfect design as a chunky, fun, cheap and actually very powerful laptop for a child. It is low energy, using about one tenth of that used by most laptops, and incorporates almost unbelievable ingenuity. It has no hard disk, since this is the component most likely to fail, and no energy-hungry fans. The NiMH battery can be recharged by hand crank, pedal or pull-cord, but it can also be recharged from a car battery. It runs on Linux, and the entirely free and open-source software is chosen to run with the minimum CPU demand. With wireless connectivity straight out of the box, the full-time wireless router has a range several time that of most laptops. Much-touted as the $100 laptop, distribution takes it a little above this, but it makes it still incredibly attractive commercially as well as its main purpose, to bring education and communication to children in the developing world. It’s no surprise that the XO won this year’s Index design award.


For more information about the XO itself, there is an excellent wiki, while the OLPC website has news and lots of great information about the project, and the children who have benefited.


It’s very exciting, then, that for a very short time starting on 12th November, you can sign up to their Give 1 Get 1 Program deal – for $399, you can send a laptop to a child in the developing world, and you can receive one yourself. You can only do this through their website, by signing up, and I’m predicting that there’ll be much more demand than they can satisfy.




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