I am speak­ing next Thurs­day at the Open Source Devel­op­ers’ Con­fer­ence 2011 in Can­ber­ra. The title is Australia’s Tough­est Lin­ux Deploy­ment. Yes it’s a play on the rugged­ness and flex­i­bil­i­ty of the XO’s design to meet the needs of remote com­mu­ni­ties.

Here’s the talk abstract:

A 300,000 seat Lin­ux deploy­ment is noth­ing to sneeze at. What if those seats were actu­al­ly children’s laps? By pro­vid­ing a flex­i­ble learn­ing plat­form, OLPC Aus­tralia aims to cre­ate a sus­tain­able and com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramme to enhance oppor­tu­ni­ties for every child in remote Aus­tralia. What’s more, we plan to achieve this by 2014.

In focus­ing on the most remote areas of the con­ti­nent, the mis­sion is by no means easy. These areas are typ­i­cal­ly not eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable for a busi­ness to ser­vice, hence the need for a not-for-prof­it in the space. Exper­tise for hard­ware and soft­ware is vir­tu­al­ly non-exis­tent. Set­tle­ments are small and spread very far apart. Envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, cul­tures and lifestyles vary wild­ly. They are very dif­fer­ent worlds from the coastal cities where the bureau­cra­cies are based.

Even with­in com­mu­ni­ties, dif­fer­ences abound. Schools often stand in stark con­trast to their sur­rounds. Gov­ern­ment and busi­ness inter­ests have also made their marks.

This talk will out­line how OLPC Aus­tralia has devel­oped a solu­tion to suit Aus­tralian sce­nar­ios. Com­par­isons and con­trasts will be made with oth­er “com­put­ers in schools” pro­grammes, OLPC deploy­ments around the world and cor­po­rate IT projects.

For exam­ple, stan­dard sysad­min prac­tice typ­i­cal­ly man­dates tight, cen­tralised con­trol over all sys­tems and infra­struc­ture. The OLPC Aus­tralia approach is the exact oppo­site. By pro­mot­ing flex­i­bil­i­ty and ease of use, the pro­gramme can achieve sus­tain­abil­i­ty by enabling man­age­ment at the grass-roots lev­el. The XO lap­tops them­selves are built espe­cial­ly for edu­ca­tion. They are extra­or­di­nar­i­ly rugged as well as being inex­pen­sive. They are also total­ly repairable in the field, with min­i­mal skill required. Train­ing is con­duct­ed online, and an online com­mu­ni­ty allows par­tic­i­pants nation­wide to share resources.

Key to the ongo­ing suc­cess of the pro­gramme is active engage­ment with all stake­hold­ers, and a recog­ni­tion of the total cost of own­er­ship over a five-year life cycle.

 

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