Ethiopia’s first OLPC deployment

This week, I accompanied the OLPC Ethiopia team on their travels to a rural school in the Oromia region. The 2 hour drive was fascinating. You start off driving through typical Addis city areas, but slowly there are more and more animals on the road. People are jogging behind their donkeys, which are being used to transport wood and other materials. The landscape improves. After more and more animal-dodging, we reach a town with some basic shops, and the road becomes a dirt track. Oh good, we’ve arrived.


The journey continues. Houses turn into shacks and then into mud huts. Fewer and fewer people are around, and the countryside gets richer and richer. Never again am I complaining about bumpy roads in the UK/US. On every step of the journey, I’m thinking “there’s no way we’re sending laptops here!”

30 minutes later, we veer off road and start driving up a grassy bank. We stop at a gap in a fence. Welcome to Mulosayoo school.

The school is made up of a number of disconnected buildings, each one holding one or two classrooms. The playground/assembly area is just some grass. Cows are calmly wandering around (unfortunately we did not budget any laptops for them though). The children are fascinated by my presence, seemingly having never seen a white person before. One of the first things that strikes me about the classrooms is that they do not even have lights!

The teachers are excited but having little experience with computers, they are challenged by the training. Perhaps one of the most encouraging stories from the training days came from a daughter of one of the teachers. The teachers had been in possession of the laptops for a while beforehand, and this young girl had spent some time with it. She eagerly explained how she had learned to write, paint, and take photos, without any introduction or training whatsoever.

There was much excitement as laptops were distributed.

My favourite moment of the experience was driving back on the 3rd day. Shortly after leaving we drove past children walking home with their laptops. We then reached a scene where there was a rural-looking man on horseback, dressed in simple, rag-like clothing. Remember, we’re totally in the middle of nowhere. 3 children were following on foot, holding their high-tech XO laptops. This was easily the biggest mix of generations, lifestyle and technology that I have ever seen in a single scene. No photo, unfortunately, so it will just remain as a memory.

More pics on the OLPC photostream.

13 thoughts on “Ethiopia’s first OLPC deployment

  1. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Links 02/10/2008: GNU/Linux Computers Reach More Developing Countries

  2. Pingback: dsd’s weblog » Blog Archive » OLPC Ethiopia updates

  3. Alemu Kassa

    Teach always the positive.You should continue to be exemplinary.
    Dedication and commitment is mandatory for such a benevolent action.Some times you might face a chalelnge but donot be tenacious!!!

  4. Mengistu Gessesse

    This is an onus vested on you and others to shape the generation.
    Doing such good things primarily give satisfaction to the doer of the action.
    thus I encourage you to do so.
    Let the Almighty help you

  5. matias birhanu

    it is very great to hearing such a benevolent action being taken.KEEP IT DOING.THe Almighty will consider your action
    thank you

  6. Janice King

    I agree we have it too good sometimes. Always complaining and its articles like these that really show how well off we truly are. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Jack Baum


    Great presentation. I want to use it for the paper I’m writing for my World Contemporary Business class at Oakland University in Rochester, MI.

    The following is my convoluted assignment:

    “Each student should find news articles about a significant current event or business headline from your country (mine is Ethiopia). Bring your articles to class. You will present, for 2 – 3 minutes, your best or favorite news story with the class and explain the implications of this news to the people living in the country, the world at large and the global business environment.

    In addition, you (as an individual) will select one of the majors or “potential majors” represented in your group and write a 2 page paper on how the “knowledge base” from this area of study can be applied to better define, understand or solve the issues of your news story. You may use the same topic from your presentation. This paper must include 3 citations.”

    So I thought that business begins with an educated workforce and the earlier the start, the better. So now I want to know, how’s it going? Do we have any evaluations of the program so far in Ethiopia? I understand that the political situation is rather difficult, and the country is facing some difficult distractions from hostile neighbors, and the government may not be treating all the people fairly.

    How about an update for me?

    Thanks, Jack Baum

  8. Mike Berry

    Dan, I returned in Jan 2011 from a Habitat for Humanity build in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia. I am now working with a local teacher in establishing a computer/ technology class.

    Do you know who he or I may contact in Ethiopia to assist him in doing this ?

    Thanks so much,

    Mike Berry

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