One Laptop Per Child, Sugar Labs, Earth Treasury, and their partners have initiated a global education and communications project as a basis for global economic development. Our full vision includes the end of poverty, war, and oppression worldwide. Sugar Labs is particularly responsible for designing, developing, extending, and porting Sugar educational software.
- The OLPC XO laptop and the Sugar software suite are just the beginning in the development of new modes of communication for collaboration among students and their communities within the classroom and around the world.
- XO laptops include mesh networking hardware and software so that they can connect fully even in the absence of any other network, with no requirement for a central base station.
- The mesh network relays communications, so that entire communities can connect, even when some are too far away for direct connections.
- The educational applications, known as Activities in Sugar, are being designed and implemented so that multiple users can participate in using each. For example, multiple cursors with multiple users typing in a word processing document; multiple brushes on a "canvas"; multiple instruments playing music together; shared display of data acquisition and visualization; and much more.
- In the presence of an OLPC XS school server with an Internet connection, all of the XOs in a mesh are on the Internet together.
- Students in different communities, even in different parts of the world, will be able to form communities of interest using the World-Wide Web, Jabber servers, and other facilities.
- Online communities of students, teachers, parents and others will be able to share their issues and their solutions, in addition to learning languages together and sharing homework.
- Teachers and textbook publishers will be able to work together to take advantage of the new opportunities in interactive textbooks. Communities of translators are forming in numerous languages, coming in part from the very active Free Software localization communities in dozens of languages.
- Our software and educational content developers and our users communicate in numerous mailing lists, IRC channels, and online forums. A regular topic of discussion is how to expand these communities, and how to create and open up yet more channels of communication. For example, we are considering how to create a "walled garden" on the Web or using some other communications and security protocols, so that children around the world can connect without fear of encountering predatory adults.
- More than half a million XO laptops are currently in use, as the property of individual schoolchildren, in numerous countries, and tens of thousands are in the hands of individuals outside school systems. The target market is nearly a billion children of school age, plus teachers, parents, and interested developers and contributors.
- Several organizations are cooperating to redesign the idea of a textbook online by integrating interactive, collaborative software into them, and in time to rework curricula in every country to take full advantage of these new capabilities. We have begun recruiting many more organizations into a research consortium on these matters, including Ministries of Education, universities, teachers' colleges, educational research institutions, textbook publishers, and more.
- Some of our partners plan to create communications networks and services to extend broadband Internet even to the poorest and most remote villages on earth, and to the slums of the cities. We are investigating what else will be needed in order to make the entire program a success, and recruiting further partners to deal with each of these issues. Recent advances in communication among governments, NGOs, and others, including social networking sites and WiserEarth.org, are speeding up the process of discovery and deployment of proven solutions, and making it possible to take an integrated approach to all of the issues together, rather than addressing them piecemeal.
- Individual XO users have banded together into local clubs to share ideas and promote XO use. Some of them are looking further, into creating a mass movement to get XOs into schools and transform education in the developed countries as well.
How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities?
The innovations in communication technology and organization from this project have been described above. They can be thought of in several ways.
- Enabling collaboration among students on classwork and homework.
- Enabling development of greatly improved teaching materials at lower cost.
- Enabling data gathering by students for mapping by GIS professionals.
- Enabling students and their communities to form alliances and to go into business together.
- Building civil society institutions
- Increasing international cooperation and understanding
- Enabling communities that were previously cut off to get their news and information out to the world
How is your idea innovative?
The XO laptop and Sugar software are the most disruptive technologies currently deployed. They have already created a new market segment, ultraportable laptops under $400. Within that segment, about half of the offerings run Linux, and half Windows. This is unheard of outside the server market. The idea is to remake education completely, top to bottom, using collaborative discovery and creation as the foundation, rather than the factory automation principles that have predominated since the late 18th century--every child learning the same lesson from the same textbook on the same day, one book per course, and the teacher in possession of all of the right answers.
What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project?
One Laptop Per Child began at the MIT Media Lab. It is sponsored by Google, Red Hat, eBay, and others, some of whom contribute personnel and collaborative projects of their own in addition to funding. For example, XO/Sugar projects have been done in Google Summer of Code. We have thousands of volunteers, including hardware engineers, software developers, localizers, teachers, education researchers, and others, who have created more than a hundred Sugar activities so far, and are taking on hundreds of new development projects. The XO-1 is in production and in large-scale deployments, and he XO-2 is in design. Although one can never say that a hardware/software project is finished, the XO and Sugar are well advanced toward their original design goals, and have opened up a multitude of others.
What unmet need does your proposal answer?
Education for all, resulting in possibilities for
- Economic development for all
- Health care for all
- Reining in corruption and establishing the rule of law
- All the rest of the UN Millennium Development Goals
- The end of poverty entire
- A path to the end of war and oppression