Red Hat has officially announced its contribution in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) plan as a founding corporate member. The OLPC initiative intends to develop and distribute relatively cheap laptop computers to students around the world for educational purposes, chiefly keeping developing countries in mind.
Red Hat, the world’s most trusted provider of Linux and open source technology is focused mainly on the software aspects and plans to drive the development of the operating system for the OLPC machines. The company’s plans also cover larger issues of open source community participation, training, support, providing updates, certifications and integrating additional technologies over time.
The OLPC project was primarily started as a research project at MIT Media Lab and was formally announced at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005.
“At Red Hat, we believe that open source technology can change the world and is still in its infancy. It’s a guiding principle that is embodied in everything we do,” Chairman, president and CEO of Red Hat, Matthew Szulik. He added, “Beyond a founding corporate sponsorship, we’ve put engineering and other strategic resources behind the One Laptop per Child initiative to add our expertise, global reach and focus to the project. It’s another real-world example of our mission to democratize technology, while helping to make knowledge and education more available for children everywhere.”
Javed Tapia President Red Hat India, said, “India has the largest population in the world below the age of 25 and the OLPC initiative is especially relevant for India if we have to take Information Technology to the next generation of Indians. Our India development center continuously works towards evolving solutions that meet our country’s needs by addressing the cost issue while intelligently leveraging the unique wealth that India possesses i.e. its army of talented programmers.”
According to Javed, Open Source Software offers India a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to generate a national IT infrastructure that can drive the country to prosperity and a future of innovation. He said that the global support for the OLPC initiative is further strengthened in India by the local language computing environment that Red Hat is fuelling through its localisation roadmap.
Chairman and Co-founder of MIT’s Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte said, “Red Hat’s experience and core strategy of open collaboration made them a natural fit with this project.” He continued, “Open source and Linux will both reach and engage people in the rest of the world.”
Red Hat said it first took on the OLPC project when Nicholas Negroponte expressed a concern in making the laptop based on open source software. Using an open source software platform is critical to the success of the OLPC initiative, to both encourage local participation in the software projects, and to let students customise and expand their machines as their learning needs and skills grow.
According to the MIT Media Lab, the proposed $100 machine will be a “ruggedised” laptop, approximately the size of a textbook, featuring a Linux-based system with a dual-mode display. The laptops will have wireless broadband that enables them to work as a mesh network; each laptop will be able to “talk” to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will also include innovative power structures, including wind-up, and will be able to do most everything that “fat” clients can do, except store huge
amounts of data.