Friday, October 3, 2008

Mary Lou Jepsen's Keynote

Mary Lou Jepsen is the CEO of Pixel Qi, a for-profit spin-off from the One Laptop per Child project. Mary Lou began her talk by discussing children in developing companies and why giving them laptops increases their opportunities in life. Children and teachers reported that they love their laptops, with one child saying "I love my laptop more than my life".

Challenges to providing laptops such as OLPC are:
  • price: needs to be low
  • low power: many places in the developing world often don't have power sources that most laptops require
  • network: these places often aren't connected to the internet either
  • other infrastructure
  • lifetime: it will need to last
  • distribution: how to get the laptops to the children/schools?
One other interesting thing Mary Lou showed us was that GDP climbs when teledensity, or the density of cellphones in a population, increases.

Mary Lou also discussed some of the technical challenges, especially with respect to power consumption. Using a Linux OS is 160th the size of Vista, so using that required less hardware to run. They also found a way to turn off the CPU in 1/10th of a second, and wake it back up in the same time with a keyboard event or packet from the internet.

One major problem the laptops faced when first mass-produced was that they didn't ever come out of hibernation! Luckily they were able to fix the problem within three weeks, and since then, about 1 million have been deployed, with millions more ready to go.

The price of the laptop is expected to drop to $100 by next year. I've always wanted an OLPC, but haven't got one yet. Do you have an OLPC? If so, what are you using it for? Do you like it? Let us know in the comments below - maybe you can convince some of us to buy one!


Valerie said...

I know, after seeing this, now I'd really like one! Anyone else actually have one?

Meena said...

I have one. I bought one for myself when they had a program: Buy one and donate one. Its very cool for children, though my son grew out of it very fast!

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