OLPC project and India: My observations
Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Information Systems Department
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA 94132 USA
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You have a choice. Vote with your fingers.
● I do not work for OLPC!
● Volunteer, enthusiast, researcher, developer
● Free and Open Source Software and Content
● User Interface Design
● IT Sustainability
● Culturally and politically diverse
● School vs. education
● Plenty of “strawmen”
● Rampant misinformation
● Corruption at all levels
● Remnants of colonialism
Education or training?
● India's IT industry
– Glorified labor (development stage of software
development life cycle)
● Skillsbased (Java, .NET, SAP etc)
– Little existence of critical thinking or problem solving
in IT projects.
● Note: Indians are very creative in everyday life.
● DO NOT talk to the “Computer Teacher”
– The computer will become extra curricular
● India: 28 states and 7 union territories
– The Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages
1. Assamese 9. Konkani 17. Sanskrit
2. Bengali 10. Maithili 18. Santhali
3. Bodo 11. Malayalam 19. Sindhi
4. Dogri 12. Manipuri 20. Tamil
5. Gujarati 13. Marathi 21. Telugu
6. Hindi 14. Nepali 22. Urdu
7. Kannada 15. Oriya
8. Kashmiri 16. Punjabi
Ethnicity and Religion
● Most do not understand (or do not wish to address)
the distinctions between religion and ethnicity, let
alone the intricacies between languages and scripts.
– Ramayana in Urdu/Nastaliq
– Punjabi in Nastaliq
Hinduism accounts for 80% of the population of India. The second largest
religion is Islam, at about thirteen percent of the population.
Other native Indian religions are Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism.
About two percent of Indians adhere to Christianity. Zoroastrianism and
Judaism have an ancient history in India and each has several thousand Indian
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_India Ramayana in Urdu
● Began in September 2007 in Khairat village,
District Raigad, Maharashtra, India
● One teacher, thirty children, one room school
● Limited electricity
● Limited Internet access (currently broken)
● Quite remote and relatively difficult to approach
from Mumbai or Pune.
● Reliance Communications
– Initiated the Khairat pilot
– Focus on micro deployments and grassroots
– Digital Bridge Foundation, part of the Dhirubhai
Ambani Knowledge Trust
● Other micro deployments
● Mr. Satish Jha, President OLPC India
● Sales and marketing office in New Delhi
– Logistics and sales are significant challenges
– Making some headway
● Focus on large numbers (50k?)
● Donation leads to position on advisory board
OLPC Advocacy in India
● Lack of understanding about OLPC.
– Most common comment: “Its a cheap laptop”
● Media misinformation (surprise, surprise!)
● Need for local translations
● Local content, short stories, imagery, cultural
and ethnic icons
– Indian national anthem in Browse, TamTamJam
Kabirdas dohas, children's short stories, etc.
OLPC Advocacy in India
● Piggyback on the Indian education system
– Colleges and Universities
– IITs, State Universities, Colleges
– Class projects+OLPC = Google SoC model.
● Linux User Groups
– No need to preach to the choir!
– 33 Linux User Groups
● Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu
● Presentation to faculty and students in
Computer Engineering department
● Faculty were excited. May help with advocacy.
● Students with FOSS background were excited.
Others weren't sure about what the can do
● Pair up with student chapter of ACM, IEEE etc?
Electricity and Internet Access
● Unreliable grid
– Some times it works...
– ...mostly it doesn't
● Limited electricity
– Scheduled breaks
– Battery inverters
● Internet access is expensive
– Offline Moodle and Wikislice will be very important
– Offline content will be critical to the project's
success (currently an undersold point).
Under a tree model
Mesh “under a tree” model.
See slide 7 at http://wiki.laptop.org/images/a/a3/Country_Technical_Support.pdf
● Harishchandra Research Institute
– Part of the Department of Atomic Energy, India
● All Linux shop!
● Resident expertise
● Interested in the project
● IEEE Computer Society
● International Institute of Information Technology
● Hyderabad Linux User Group
● Get a SIG going?
● Tremendous potential
● Trojan horse approach
– Ebook reader + camera, followed by Internet
● Who will foot the bill?
– India is not a poor country
– Its a resource distribution problem.
– Corporate Social Responsibility
No “ifs”, only “when”
This project must succeed