Dell, OLPC affordable laptop bout only hurts users

High-profile initiatives, such as the OLPC, were unlikely to live in harmony for long

Intel, on the other hand, is clearly a for-profit entity, and a highly successful one at that. However, its "World Ahead Program" -- where the Classmate resides -- falls under its Education Initiative, which is funded by the Intel Foundation and Intel. According to its Web site:

The Intel World Ahead Program aims to enhance lives by accelerating access to uncompromised technology for everyone, everywhere. Focused on developing communities, it integrates and extends our efforts to use technology to help people improve their lives, societies, and economies.

Not a million miles apart, are they? Although the two initiatives have things in common, it's the differences that have sadly emerged dominant. In one corner is OLPC, the new kid on the block, the non-profit organization building a product on open standards, talking in the hundreds of thousands (minimum orders stand at 250,000 units). In the other corner we have Intel, the pioneering for-profit company building a machine based on proprietary technologies, talking about orders in the thousands (although it admits the need to sell literally millions of these things if it's to work).

Of course, children in Nigeria or Uruguay doesn't particularly care where their laptop comes from, what principles were applied in its design or development or who's right or wrong in the "battle of the paradigms." All they want is an education, ideally aided by the occasional brush with computer technology in some shape or form.

Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves of the bigger picture. And it doesn't get much bigger than this, whichever corner you're standing in.

Ken Banks, founder of, specializes in the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. He combines over 22 years in IT with over 14 years experience living and working throughout Africa in countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. His vision is to empower others to create social change, and he does this by developing and providing tools to mostly grassroots organizations that seek to better use technology in their work.

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