Enormous props to the people at One Laptop Per Child, who so perfectly express the growing phenomenon of social entrepreneurship (do good, do well).
They’ve worked for years to perfect the XO laptop, which can be manufactured at a price that actually makes computer technology accessible to children in the developing world. In each era, some forms of literacy are required to enter into the Great Conversation encircling the planet, enabling each person to have a say in what happens to one’s own community or country. Without the ability to write, as the great Brazilian educator Paulo Freire definitively demonstrated, people are objects of history—doomed to be acted upon by those who have mastered the tools of written communication—rather than subjects in history, making their own stamp on the world. In our time, computer literacy has become the entry-point. I am filled with admiration for MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte and his colleagues, who have opened this door to the world, and will have helped to change the world as a result.
They are also wonderfully shrewd entrepreneurs. Starting yesterday (and ending November 26th), they have made it possible for people like you and me to support this campaign and reap a substantial personal benefit. Give One Get One is a program that allows one to purchase two XO laptops for $399 ($200 of which is tax-deductible). One is sent to a child in a developing nation, and the other one becomes your (or your child’s) new computer: light, compact, wi-fi ready, able to perform all the usual computer functions, and to automatically network with all the other XOs in the vicinity. There’s even a year of free T-Mobile hotspot access thrown in.
Money is super-tight at my house, but I’ve noticed that both my husband and I are working overtime to rationalize this purchase, which would be motivated in equal parts by techno-lust and do-gooderism. (In fact, my husband is lobbying so hard for me to get one, I’m half expecting a surprise package in the mail, though I’ve steadfastly demurred on budgetary grounds.) I have a hunch the same discussion is going on in many households. There’s something quite delicious about the way the One Laptop folks have cheerfully accepted the twinning of self-interest and altruism, capitalizing on the alchemy of giving and receiving.
Even if I can’t do it myself, I have a voyeuristic (and altruistic) yen to know if any of you makes the purchase. Let me know, will you?