[IAEP] Planning for the future

Tony Anderson tony_anderson at usa.net
Tue Feb 24 03:54:42 EST 2015

This is certainly a vital topic for many of us.

I have been hands-on with a number of deployments. In the case of 
Rwanda, a lot of money has been invested in an effort to provide a 
laptop to every elementary school child in the country. I feel that 
project needs any support we can give it to ensure that that investment 
has a positive return. In other deployments, individuals or small groups 
have donated funds to acquire a set of laptops for a specific school. I 
feel that investment needs to be protected. In Nepal, OLE Nepal has done 
remarkable things focused on making the OLPC laptops as valuable as 
possible to the schools where they are deployed. That effort also needs 
to get a maximum return.

In the computer field, it is obvious that a specific computer model has 
a limited lifetime. Most models remain on the market for less than three 
years (a shrinking time-scale as manufacturers want you to buy the next 
big thing). in actual use, computers probably have a life more like 5-7 
years. In educational use, they are used until they stop working since 
the school has no way to get more.

With SOAS, SugarLabs recognized this and sought a way to make Sugar 
viable on other hardware. Again, in the computer field, software has a 
much longer lifetime than hardware. (Our firmware is written in Forth). 
Will there be anything recognizable as Sugar running on computer 
hardware in 2020?

A critical part of the OLPC experience has been the insistence on open 
source and open educational resources. The intent is not only to enable 
a volunteer community to contribute but also so that the recipients of 
the laptops are not confronted with a bill for use of the software and 
educational content.
What happens to this if the only viable software is WIndows, IOS, and 

One thing that is certain is that by 2020 school children will have 
computing devices. What will those devices due to help them to a better 
education? Most probably, they will help them get better scores on 
high-stake exams. This has been the uniform criteria used to measure the 
success of OLPC deployments.

Personally, my hope is that this community will produce a viable 
educational alternative for community schools (with limited access to 
the internet) to the purchase of software and educational content from 
the educational industry. An alternative in the sense that Linux 
distributions offer a viable alternative to Windows, IOS, and Android.

There are some very favorable developments. One is the increasing focus 
in the XSCE community on content and educational resources. The 
contributions of Khan Academy (especially Lite), IIAB, Rachel, and OLE 
Nepal are invaluable. The continued contributions of educators such as 
Sora Edwards-Thro are also invaluable (I should name countless others, 
but if I try I will do an injustice).

It is possible that new hardware such as the XO Infinity will breathe a 
few more years of life into the project (particularly if it supports 
Fedora/Sugar builds).

Anyway, one can try to keep the vision.



On 02/24/2015 01:31 PM, iaep-request at lists.sugarlabs.org wrote:
> essage: 1
> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:36:34 -0500
> From: Samuel Greenfeld<samuel at greenfeld.org>
> To: IAEP SugarLabs<iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>
> Subject: [IAEP] Planning for the future
> Message-ID:
> 	<CA+cAqjM7=hQOu47mHMr9AQtNBzKRmjDb00nxbzENnBO+1WKvdA at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Disclaimer: The following are my views, and not the views of my current or
> past employers.
> About a year ago, I privately expressed concern that Sugar needed to ensure
> it had long-term sponsorship and a long-term user base.
> Since then, both the historical US-based OLPC organization and Sugar Labs
> have not publicly said much about their long-term plans, with OLPC also
> being rather closemouthed about the present.
> Meanwhile contributors silently leave.  It is hard to justify volunteering
> when you don't know who will benefit besides mysterious "customers."
> Everyone seems happy to cite their past successes.  No one corrects the
> press when they report stale information in their favor.
> There is no shame in being a smaller project.  But we need to ask the hard
> questions.  With Sugar, getting users and developers for a niche platform
> is a problem.  With OLPC, everyone seems to love repeating the 2 or 2.5
> million number for laptops historically shipped.  Rarely is it asked how
> many XOs been shipped in the past year or are in active use & where.
> Sugar & OLPC need to come up with long-term strategies.  While there is
> nothing public I have seen stopping One Education's XO Infinity from
> running Sugar, I haven't seen anything stopping it from running anything
> else.  It is also unclear how much One Education is willing to engage with
> the historical Sugar & OLPC communities (or how much they can tell us at
> this time).
> Historically there have been many philosophical questions like "Does there
> need to be a physical machine?" and "Have we succeeded if every child has a
> computer, but from someone else?"
> I do not believe Sugar or OLPC is down for the count.  But in order to
> engage One Education, governments, and other educational groups, both Sugar
> and the historical OLPC structure need to have plans to transition to the
> future.  Otherwise these plans will be written for us.
> I suspect I know how things will end; but I wish it was not happening
> though silence.
> ---

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