I will be speak­ing at linux.conf.au 2011 in Bris­bane about OLPC Aus­tralia, with a focus on the tech­ni­cal side. We have been doing some amaz­ing stuff, but thus far we have been very qui­et about it in the tech­ni­cal com­mu­ni­ty. It’s time to fix this over­sight.

My talk is titled, Enabling Con­nec­tions to Oppor­tu­ni­ty: OLPC Aus­tralia. If you’ll be at the con­fer­ence, watch me talk on Thurs­day at 14:30. If you won’t be, grab the video once it is out.

Also speak­ing with me is Ian Cun­ning­ham, who works for the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing. Ian is heav­i­ly involved in the deploy­ment of OLPC tech­nol­o­gy in North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Schools, and will be able to deliv­er accounts from an edu­ca­tor’s per­spec­tive.

Here’s a copy of the abstract:

Sec­ondary speak­er: Ian Cun­ning­ham

Aus­tralia is offi­cial­ly a devel­oped coun­try, but that sta­tus hides inequities that exist with­in. In par­tic­u­lar, chil­dren in remote Aus­tralia typ­i­cal­ly have far few­er oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion than their coun­ter­parts in met­ro­pol­i­tan regions. Recog­nis­ing that their sit­u­a­tion is not dis­sim­i­lar to those seen in the devel­op­ing world, One Lap­top per Child Aus­tralia was found­ed.

The mis­sion is ambi­tious: to enhance learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the 400,000 chil­dren, aged 4–15, liv­ing in remote Aus­tralia, by 2014. OLPC Aus­tralia are on track to repli­cate suc­cess sto­ries such as Uruguay to have a com­pre­hen­sive edu­ca­tion­al pro­gramme out to each and every one of these chil­dren.

The cen­tre­piece is a learn­ing device, known as the XO. Through lever­ag­ing FLOSS, the XO pro­vides unpar­al­leled con­nec­tiv­i­ty and oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to learn.

Under­pin­ning the project are sev­en core prin­ci­ples. The gestalt of these prin­ci­ples form an impor­tant foun­da­tion to the edu­ca­tion­al goals of the project. The fifth prin­ci­ple, Free and Open Source, will be dis­cussed in prac­ti­cal con­text of the Aus­tralian cir­cum­stance.

Aus­tralia presents some inter­est­ing chal­lenges that are less com­mon in the envi­ron­ments that the XO was orig­i­nal­ly designed for. On one hand, we have a vast, geo­graph­i­cal­ly iso­lat­ed con­ti­nent, sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed with some of the most ancient cul­tures in the world. On the oth­er, there is mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy and West­ern-style gov­er­nance.

This talk will present how OLPC Aus­tralia have been inno­v­a­tive and respon­sive to meet the Aus­tralian sit­u­a­tion. Some exam­ples include:

  • the world’s first deploy­ment of the new XO‑1.5 mod­els
  • a stream­lined ver­sion of the XS School Serv­er
  • an eco­nom­i­cal and prac­ti­cal rack­ing and charg­ing sta­tion for XOs

It will dis­cuss how the use of tech­nol­o­gy under­pins a holis­tic edu­ca­tion­al pro­gramme, and how OLPC Aus­tralia works with depart­ments of edu­ca­tion, schools and com­mu­ni­ties to build a sus­tain­able oper­a­tion.

If you have ever want­ed a way use your tech­ni­cal skills to ben­e­fit those most in need, this is the talk for you. Edu­ca­tion is a key vehi­cle for clos­ing the gap for the peo­ples in remote Aus­tralia. As a FLOSS project, your con­tri­bu­tions also ben­e­fit those abroad.

Here are our bios:

Srid­har Dhana­palan grew up in the 1980s, as the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion was heat­ing up. With only two tele­vi­sion chan­nels in his town, he turned to his com­put­er for solace. He wish­es he had dis­cov­ered FLOSS before the late 1990s, because down­load­ing GNU Emacs over an acoustic cou­pler would have been fun. Srid­har is a for­mer board mem­ber of Lin­ux Aus­tralia, and a pre­vi­ous pres­i­dent of the Syd­ney Lin­ux Users Group. He is cur­rent­ly the Tech­ni­cal Man­ag­er (CTO) at One Lap­top Per Child Aus­tralia.

Ian Cun­ning­ham is an IT Project Offi­cer at the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing (NTDET). He has over 20 years teach­ing and lec­tur­ing expe­ri­ence in Aus­tralia and abroad. A Lin­ux user since Red Hat 4, Ian has been active in pro­mot­ing the use of FLOSS in edu­ca­tion. He pro­vides tech­ni­cal sup­port and men­tor­ing for the NTDET OLPC Tri­al.

If you want to be kept updat­ed and take part in OLPC Aus­tralia tech­ni­cal devel­op­ment, see our par­tic­i­pa­tion page.

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