Will XO Laptops Wake Up Dell and HP to the Needs of Our Kids?

Affordable "XO" laptops, custom-built for the developing world, are going into larger production runs, according to a Wall Street Journal article "Laptop Charity Seeks Help From Home Market" by Jessica E. Vascellaro, September 24, 2007.

Bigger news may be that these same laptops will go on sale in North America, with a "twist," according to Vascellaro. "Buyers here must purchase two computers -- one for themselves and one for a child in the developing world, for a combined cost of $399, some of which is tax-deductible." The article reports that the "program also is talking to more than a dozen governors and numerous school districts about bulk orders, according to Walter Bender, president for software and content for the One Laptop per Child Foundation, of Cambridge, Mass. Offering the computers in the U.S., he says, will help finance overseas deployments and raise awareness about the project among U.S. students and teachers." Laptops from the first batch will be available to North American consumers for two weeks, starting Nov. 12 by phone or at the Web site XOgiving.org.

Obviously we are all for laptops in the developing world. But what about the yawning need for people, especially young people, to cross the digital divide right here in the United States?

As a board member of the local community college's foundation, Jefferson Community and Technical College, I have researched sources of donated or inexpensive laptops to help meet the need of a minimum of 1,000 new computers (preferably laptops) and an ideal of 3,000 laptops per year to help this certifiably needy demographic group cross the digital divide.

Ben Hecht, from One Economy Corporation told me a year ago that no computer manufacturer in this country offered such a program! (Read more about One Economy's National Blueprint for Technology and the Public Good)

Google "laptops for school kids" and you get a bunch of articles about this initiative from the past several years and you get a sponsored link from Dell called "Notebook for College." Six clicks in and I still don't have a price. I look again at the tag trail at the top of the screen, USA > Higher Education > Notebooks > Inspiron, and cannot find anything that suggests what this product has to do with higher education. Now I'm nine clicks in and there is a price of $1,239.89 with twenty, yes twenty, categories of customization features and add-ons I have to choose from before I have the privilege of buying.

Another sponsored link on the Google search result is HP/Compaq, which does a bit better after only three clicks by showing an option for $499 after rebate.

On the home page of Dell and HP, there should a button for community groups, donors, board members and kids themselves to push to find extreme bulk discounts and other kinds of programs to help ensure that every kid in our schools can get connected to the Internet and the world. Wake up, guys!

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 10:00 PM, Sep 26, 2007 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Education | Scaling Philanthropy | Youth | Permalink | Comments (1)


We need to get them not only the laptops but the high speed internet access at an affordable price as well. Real time access to after school study groups is just one example fo applications to help our kids.

The Communications Workers Of America's project, Speed Matters is working towards the goal of high speed access for all Americans.

Check out our website at www.speedmatters.org

Posted by: Roger Osburne