OLPC's 'Give 1 Get 1': What a difference a year makes

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program on Monday launched this year's 'Give 1 Get 1' program and it's simply stunning how the environment has changed.I did the Give 1 Get 1 program last year and my daughter found the XO an interesting tool that has become a toy.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program on Monday launched this year's 'Give 1 Get 1' program and it's simply stunning how the environment has changed.

I did the Give 1 Get 1 program last year and my daughter found the XO an interesting tool that has become a toy. She gravitates to the home PC or MacBook these days. My motives a year ago were to do something good, get a write-off and satisfy my gadget lust/curiosity. And honestly, when you add those three factors together the latter part may have driven the purchase.

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Simply put, I'm really wondering how the OLPC's effort will work this year (statement, Techmeme, Amazon's page). Sure, the OLPC has Amazon behind the effort and Google is matching employee donations. Those efforts alone may make the OLPC's Give 1 Get 1 more successful in 2008.

Also see: $400 XOs and recessions

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But I'm not so sure. Let's examine how the environment changed:

Economic turmoil. The economy is a complete mess so you have to pick your charitable contributions carefully. The OLPC last year was a flier in better times. This year is different. How many consumers will figur

e that their $400 to charity ($199 for a laptop and one donated) can be used better elsewhere? There are so many alternatives. If you buy into the theory that the economy impacts charitable donations you're left with a heavy weighting toward gadget lust as a driver of an OLPC contribution. The problem: The XO hasn't evolved. In a time when you can buy an Asus Eee PC at Toys R Us and netbooks abound in the marketplace the XO looks downright pokey. If the give part of the OLPC's holiday program is a no brainer, the "get" part of the equation is murky. All things being equal is the XO your first choice.

Faith in the OLPC as an organization. Last year, the OLPC had a lot of goodwill stored up. The organization was a pioneer taking on the big guys. Today, the question is whether the OLPC's plan will work. Christopher Dawson says:

To be fair, any of us who can need to be charitable now more than ever. However, as the world sinks deeper into serious economic problems, little green laptops seem less and less like the answer.

Indeed, perhaps I was naive to believe last year little green laptops could save the world. I've noticed this in conversations with other techies over the last year. When I asked some folks whether they spent $400 on the Give 1, Get 1 increasingly the reply was that they sent books to their hometown or did something else.

The thing is this: If we're going to give we need to make sure the OLPC can deliver. Are there any other organizations--non-profit or profit--that can meet the objective better?