OLPC Afghanistan’s Pedal Powered Progress

OLPC Afghanistan; now running for about the last year has a few technical updates we’d like to share.

Sustainable Working Human Power as you use the XO!

Just this morning we tested the first prototype – the PAIWASTOON team that perform the technical implementation designed a new pedal powered machine that can power the XO as you pedal and use it at the same time. Even small kids (3/4th grade) can power it.


XO laptop pedal power generator

By taking the Freeplay hand crank and connecting it to the feet which can more easily provide power it should make it much easier to deploy the laptop to countryside / rural areas. As the laptop charges as you use it no additional battery is needed. Photos / full specs will be published on the OLPC Afghanistan website. We are hoping to make this sustainably for XO / other power purposes in Afghanistan employing more Afghan staff. This should work fine with XO 1.5 as well!

Wireless Mesh Backbone System using Freifunk

To make deployment simpler we have adopted the OpenWRT Freifunk router firmware. Each classroom contains two routers; one to provide connections to the laptops the other to mesh with the other classrooms and make a backbone. Instead of having to do cabling; just one box is put on the wall. It should also make it easier to extend the network outside the gates of the school.


XO digital library index

New Simple Digital Library Index

As content is the key we need a way to simply deliver as much content as possible in environments without connectivity. Simple Digital Library Index automatically builds indexes from just dumping files into a folder (extracts the subject, title, description, thumbnail etc) from various formats and generates plain old HTML pages and a Javascript search system. No MySQL, PHP etc. needed.

The file contents can be simply copied and dumped into a web accessible directory. A master index is generated as an XML file. We see that being turned into a package management style activity where kids can ‘checkout’ books from the library

Monitoring and Evaluation survey under review for release

As we previously announced we were undertaking significant research to determine the educational / other impact of OLPC in the coming 1-2 weeks we should finish the evaluation; the impact

Right now 2,500 laptops are distributed to grades 4,5 and 6 in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad. Now that we have a baseline system to work to deliver content libraries in limited connectivity environments (e.g. 64kbps connections or delivery on a stick) we are building the library to include more educational website copies that run offline (created through our previously released webdump based on httrack) and more curriculum / extra-curricular content.

John McCain Endorses OLPC

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An event was organized in Washington, D.C. by OLPC. Among the guests were Senator John McCain, Afghan ambassador to the U.S and Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.

McCain said opening the flow of information and knowledge into these countries through the deployment of XO laptops would be a positive step towards stabilization. He acknowledged knowing that OLPC has had problems, but said that “this little device” is already making a big difference.

In Afghanistan 2500 laptops are deployed successfully and 2500 are on the way to be deployed. ‘Afghanistan needs 3,000,000 laptops to cover all the schools’  says the Minister of Education Mr. Farooq Wardak.  The approximate cost of these laptops (including the cost of deployment) are 780 million USD, and it is said that the United States allocated a budget of 173 billion USD for the year 2009 for the war in Afghanistan.

Looking at the facts; I don’t think it is a difficult decision for the U.S. Government to take, I mean it is the best way to help Afghan education. It is simple, reasonable and very effective.

read more:

John McCain endorses OLPC to fight insurgencies
Haqqani urges US not to walk away from region again
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has commissioned impact evaluation …….

XO health activity

healthactivityxoI started developing a health activity for the XO laptops long time ago, I started to write about hygiene and nutrition, and this was all I did at that time. Today the activity is far more advanced and it contains a vast amount of health information. Basically, the activity is designed for those children who are studying at the schools where the XO laptops are deployed, however, it has a good amount of information for the parents of the kids.

The activity is developed using HTML, it is really simple to access using any browser.

The children using these XO laptops are being assessed to see the impact of this activity on their life, and see whether this activity provides enough information to 1. decrease the incidence of common diseases (providing information about prevention of the diseases) 2. stop malpractices which are common around Afghanistan 3. decrease the amount of resources spent on medical facilities (provide information on how to treat some simple and common diseases at home).

The Children were assessed before they were provided with the XO laptops, they are being assessed right after they have the laptops, and they will be assessed later after they have spent some time with the laptops.

The activity can be downloaded from OLPC Afghanistan website, and the results of the assessments will be published there.

One Laptop Per Child Afghanistan

XO laptops in a classAfter successful deployment of 2500 laptops in 6 schools in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad OLPC Afghanistan team is working hard to make more education, economic development and Health information content for the XO laptops. Currently the team has successfully developed health activity and economic development activity in three languages (Dari, Pashto and English). The OLPC team and other organizations supporting this project they think it was a big success, however Alanna Shaikh thinks the OLPC dream is over. In her post she says “The laptop, they promised, was the new pencil. It was going to revolutionize education in the developing world. It didn’t. The dream is over”.

Is the dream really over?

The OLPC team here thinks their hard work was not for nothing and they believe this project will be a milestone in Afghanistan’s history.

You can watch an informative video about OLPC Afghanistan here.