Not the OLPC: Sustainable computing for the masses
Dukker's opposition to the OLPC project is, he says, not based on the fact that it could compete with his product; as he puts it, the "unrealistic expectations" created by the project could well lead to governments in the developing world, which are now inclined to be receptive to accepting PCs as viable educational tools, changing their minds because things go wrong.
"The OLPC has no business model on how to buy, manage and support the hardware," Dukker said. "The role of the technology company is trivialised, even though this entity is part of the ecosystem playing a vital role in maintenance and logistics.
"OLPC gives the user an incorrect idea of the actual cost - it is akin to giving a person a laptop at the distribution point in Shenzhen, China, and a pat on the back as a good luck guarantee. It misrepresents the actual cost."
Dukker says the option provided by his company - where there is technical support for three years from a local partner - not only provides much-needed backup but also ends up being cheaper and more sustainable in the long run.
He points to the fact that the OLPC has a newly developed operating environment, new hardware and no support structure apart from the government agencies which are involved. And, he asks, who will administer the application of software patches or repairs to hardware?
Dukker believes that using a computer in a lab environment is much better from an educational perspective than letting a child have a laptop round the clock. Given the limited number of laptop trials in the US, he feels it is better to use the lab environment in other countries too.
And he is afraid that if a scheme like OLPC is accepted by a country and fails, then it will queer the pitch for businesses like his which are, effectively, trying to do the same thing.
Dukker says right now governments are receptive to the idea of using computers in education but that may change if things don't work out as outlined by those bringing in the technology.
One could well say his arguments are aimed at self-preservation. I doubt he would take issue with that. He's not aiming at big bucks either but while he has no private jet, he does drive a BMW, a station wagon.
Essentially what he's trying to convey is that one can "do good" and "do well" at the same time. He doesn't want to rely on charity to succeed; rather what he's done is develop a business model that allows the entire supply chain to gain from selling NComputing solutions.
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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.