Jimmy Wales on the One Laptop Per Child Project

Question: Would you ever partner with the One Laptop per Child Project?

Jimmy Wales:  Well, so we actually-- they’ve named Wikipedia as one of the key content pieces that they’re gonna be distributing on the laptop in whatever relevant language there is.  But yeah, not so much.  I’m a bit of a skeptic, actually, of the one laptop per child project.  I love the idea.  There’re really great people who’re working on it, but I’m not sure that it’s the right technology.  And I’ve been quite critical of their past very top down approach to marketing it.  I’m not so sure that it’s such a great idea to convince some of the poorest governments in the world to buy one million units at $100 each.  And anyway it’s not $100 now, it’s $173 or whatever they’ve gotten it down to.  But to spend $173 million on laptops, I’m not sure that’s the best use of funds.  And I get that from my experiences in talking to educators in the developing world.  I visited schools in India where the tuition for a kindergartner is about two US dollars a month.  And then it goes up to maybe four dollars a month-- four or five dollars a month for seventh and eighth grade.  Well, you realize at two dollars a month, you can get a lot of months of kindergarten.  A live teacher, real hands-on day-to-day instruction for the price of that laptop.  And so it’s not clear to me that this technology is the right technology in that location.  And that’s not to say that there aren’t other locations where that is the right technology.  Where, you know, actually this would be just the prime time that they could use some advance like this; but I’m not so convinced.  And I would much prefer them to use a much more market-oriented model of getting these things out there.  I mean, if they’re really valuable for kids, well, sell them on the open market.  People will buy them.  I think there’s huge opportunities.  You know, because of Moore’s law, because computing power gets cheaper and cheaper, we’re seeing cell phones, for example, the penetration of mobile devices in the developing world is amazing, and increasing all the time.  And we’re also seeing, you know, computers now reaching further and further down that hierarchy.  I think it’s a great thing for people to push in that direction.  I think it’s a lot more sustainable if we don’t think of this as a purely charitable project, but as actually an opportunity.  Certainly, if somebody can build a laptop for $100 and sell it for $120, wow, there’s a whole business to be done there.  And then we don’t have to hope and wish that this will happen; it just will happen.  The same way it just has happened that the mobile devices are getting in there.  So well, you know, I wish them the best, but I am a little skeptical, and I’m not sure it’s the right approach.

Question: Is the best approach to let the market handle it?

Jimmy Wales:  Maybe, maybe not, right?  I guess what I would say is that if someone is a philanthropist, and they are interested in not just waiting, but actually pushing this forward, I think that they really should still be very cognizant of the market, and really thinking of ways to subsidize the eventual market adoption of these things.  I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that we should think about funding indefinitely as just a charitable project.  I don’t think it makes sense to do that.  But this kind of reflects a broader view that I have on aid philosophy, which is-- can be summed up with the old saying of, “Give a man a fish, and you’ve fed him for a day; teach him how to fish, you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”  That kind of thinking is really what I think we should be looking at.  And so it’s like, “Give someone a computer, and well, they’ve got a computer for a couple of years until it breaks; but build a sustainable infrastructure around local entrepreneurs being able to make a living buying and selling these devices, well, now you’ve really changed the game.”  And I think there’s nothing wrong with people who want to do philanthropy saying, “Look, I actually think this is worth doing, and I want to put my money behind pushing in this direction.  And that’s very different from being too sort of top-down oriented.

Recorded on: 4/30/08

Ultimately, Wales says, that money would be better spent elsewhere.

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Water may be an inevitable result of the process that forms rocky planets

New research identifies an unexpected source for some of earth's water.

Surprising Science
  • A lot of Earth's water is asteroidal in origin, but some of it may come from dissolved solar nebula gas.
  • Our planet hides majority of its water inside: two oceans in the mantle and 4–5 in the core.
  • New reason to suspect that water is abundant throughout the universe.
Keep reading Show less