Wednesday, November 26, 2008

OLPC and freedom

Here is a nice piece about how One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has failed to live up to its expectations of providing free software. OLPC violates the following freedoms, according to the author:

Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program as you wish. Some proprietary software packages come with licenses that restrict even the use of authorized copies.

Freedom 1: The freedom to study the source code—the algebra-like statements that specify what the program does—and then change it to make the program do what you wish. For instance, you could add new features to suit your taste. Or, if the program has malicious features, as Windows and MacOS do, you could remove them.

Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute exact copies when you wish. We call this the freedom to help your neighbor.

Freedom 3: The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions when you wish. We call this the freedom to contribute to your community.

OLPC made a big news when it was initially announced. However, frequent news of shifts in software to increase in prices have been costly to its reputation. Also, there was no such enthusiastic response in terms of demand as it was targeted for a large scale, probably government buying tens of thousands of them. Someone needs to do an evaluation of the effectiveness of OLPC program on children’s education and other aspects. I don’t see that much of a connection between having a laptop and a child increasing his intelligence. Again, crude thought!