Google, Unicef and One Laptop Per Child Tell Our Stories

Dennis Faas's picture

On Friday, Unicef, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), and Google announced a project to help create a greater understanding of different cultures and experiences through an online community. A new web site called "Our Stories" ( will serve as a vehicle to share the histories and identities of cultures around the world.

Using OLPC's XO laptop and other devices, children will record the experiences of elders, friends and family members in their native language, and then upload them to the web where the stories will be accessible by clicking on a Google Map. "Information technologies can help young people around the world learn more about each other," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "Our Stories will promote dialogue across borders and cultures and give young people a voice on a wide range of issues."

This announcement brings increased focus to the One Laptop Per Child project, founded by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, and its mission to put a computer in the hands of every impoverished child on Earth. According to OLPC's website, the non-profit company believes that, "using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential."

The laptop is earning praise for its innovative, sturdy design which will reportedly stand up to more abuse than most laptops currently available on the market. In addition, the computer consumes less than two watts of power so that the XO can be recharged by human power via a hand crank, foot pedal or pull string. The laptop also features wireless capability, USB ports, a high-resolution screen and a comprehensive Linux-based operating system.

With a potential customer base of over 1 billion people, major tech corporations are also trying to get in on the action. Two Sundays ago, 60 minutes reported that competition for the OLPC project is currently being developed under the name, "The Classmate," which Intel is widely distributing to under privileged nations well below cost. Negroponte claimed that Intel is trying to push OLPC out of the market, and called the chip maker's practices "predatory" and "shameless." (Source:

Intel denied Negroponte's allegations, and a company representative said they were merely interested in achieving the same goal as OLPC, and would in fact be willing to work with them in the future. Software giant Microsoft is also hoping to participate, and released a statement last week saying it wanted to put Windows XP on the XO instead of its current Linux system. (Source:

Whatever the outcome of OLPC's success, the 'Our Stories' initiative shows how the innovative laptop can be used in a practical sense. Until the end of this year, the XO is available in the United States and Canada through the "give one, get one" program, where customers can buy a computer for themselves and one needy child for $399 USD.

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