Peru: first OLPC laptops ‘will arrive in February’

The Peruvian minister of education showing the XO laptop to the media Copyright: Ministry of Education, Peru

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[LIMA] Peru will receive its first batch of XO laptops from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative in mid-February, despite pressure from rival company Intel to drop the order.

Forty thousand of the country’s order of 270,000 laptops will be delivered, Oscar Becerra, general director of educative technologies of the Ministry of Education, told SciDev.Net.

The laptops, costing US$189 each, will be used in remote villages in the Andes and Amazonia regions. Becerra says villages where teachers simultaneously teach students at different levels of primary education were chosen.

This type of teaching, where different content is developed according to each child, is one of the main causes of the poor level of primary education in Peru.

The Peruvian government has invested about US$7.5 million in the laptops — the largest investment OLPC has received from a developing country government. Mongolia, Nigeria and Uruguay have also placed orders.

In an interview with Fortune on 4 January, Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC founder and chairman, said that an Intel employee was sent to Peru to talk with the deputy minister of education to convince him that the XO doesn’t work and that there are serious problems with the laptops.

Intel left the board of OLPC in December because, Negroponte told Fortune, it had continued to promote its own laptop, the Classmate Educational PC, in developing countries.

"The Peruvian State has an agreement with the OLPC programme, not with Intel, so if they [Intel] decide to move apart, the project is not going to be affected. OLPC is getting underway, and we too with them," Víctor Díaz, deputy minister of education Management, said in a press statement.

Those involved in the OLPC programme in Peru have been long supporters of the educational principle behind the XO laptop — that children should teach themselves. Several members of the Peruvian education ministry were taught theories of self-instruction in the United States.

Sales of the XO laptop have been lower than anticipated, but Negroponte remains optimistic, telling Fortune that OLPC aims to sell 2–3 million XOs in 2008.

He added that sales of laptops through the "Give 1 Get 1" scheme (see Laptop scheme courts North American consumers) has generated US$35 million "to speed the deployment of the machines to poor countries around the world".

Bolivia will be the next Latin American country to join the programme, according to an announcement from President Evo Morales (6 January). Morales didn’t state how many computers will be bought, but said that all of them will have software in Quechua and Aymara, the two main Bolivian languages.