Friday, January 4, 2008

Best Headline Today (OLPC are douchebags)

From CNet news (the 'C' is for Cynical):

OLPC fires back at Intel, children learn nothing

Nothing warms the soul more than watching two organizations try to simultaneously claim the moral high ground while belittling the goals and methods of their rival, all in the name of the children.

I've been wanting to talk about OLPC for quite some time, but they cause me grief. If you don't know about the project, its a non-profit venture with the goal of creating, producing, and supplying a very cheap ($100) laptop to children in developing countries. A wonderful goal! I'm behind it 100%, I have been known to call it the greatest project I have ever heard of.

However.

Their politics are a little strange to me, to say the least. They refuse to operate like a business, so they won't sell the laptops privately. I would really like one, so this is frustrating. They did do a thing a little while ago where you pay double the price and get one laptop and a tax receipt for another one... I didn't get one because I disagree with their other practices as well.

They also refuse to let a private group handle the distribution to children, or to do the distribution themselves. They will only provide laptops where the government of that country agrees to buy and distribute the machines. This is totally backwards. When you're dealing with, say, Nigeria, the last thing you want is to go through the government. You want private donors to fund you, and private volunteer groups to distribute. Developing nations are famous for corrupt governments that don't care about their citizens interests.

Now comes more bad news. See the article linked above. OLPC is fucking with Intel, trying to get them to work exclusively on their project instead of potential competitors. Good for Intel for telling them to screw off.

I can understand greedy capitalism. If you're in it for the money, great. Make a great product, market the hell out of it, and sell it for a huge profit. I can also understand charity. If your goal is to get computers in the hands of poor children to help them learn and develop, then you toil in obscurity to achieve that end any way you can - including supporting your competitors if their goal is the same. OLPC is doing neither of these things. They hamstring their own project by refusing to make money, and then they try to stop their competitors from achieving the social goal they pretend to want so badly. Seems to me they only care about the accolades and awards. As long as they get a Nobel Peace Prize out of it, then fuck the children, right?

I'm still following this, because I want so badly to support the project. Hopefully they can turn it around somehow, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

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