OLPC’s Reading Project

CNN is running a short video on our Reading Project in Ethiopia, which I’ve been working on this year alongside XO-4 software development.

The team’s far larger than just OLPC staff — we’ve been fortunate to work on the project with Maryanne Wolf and her team at the Tufts University Center for Reading and Language Research, Cynthia Breazeal and team at the MIT Media Lab, and Sugata Mitra at Newcastle University.

(There’s also a Technology Review article with slightly more information, and an OLPC SF conference talk video that goes more in-depth.)


  1. To the team working on the Reading Project (with pilot in Ethiopia)


    It is with great interest I have read, listen and watch about the Reading Project in Ethiopia!

    “Dropping” tablets and see what happens, such a great thing to study! But when I read that you had to travel there, install solar systems and teach the people how to use solar for charging I thought that this ruined some of the good intentions with the project and made it much more complicated than needed. At the same time it made me happy because my company has developed and is selling a solar-powered charger that is so easy to use that if you use it in your next reading project, you can “drop” the solar chargers together with the tablets.

    When we started Powerfy (to give power to people) we learned about the sad research that shows that 1 year after installation less than 50% of solar installations in rural parts of Kenya work as anticipated, and we felt we had to do something about it. The main reasons for this failure is that solar systems require proper technical design, procurement according to the design, a technician to install the system, a technician to teach the owner how to use and maintain the system which has many components that can and will fail and finally the battery that has to be stored and maintained appropriately before being re-placed with a new one every so often.

    We have therefore designed our charger so that anyone should be able to start to use it without any instructions or installation. It is also fool proof in the sense that there is almost no way of causing any severe damage to the charger by accident. We have also designed it so that it is portable, durable and maintenance free with barely no components that will break or can fail, and at the same time the charger is powerful and can charge many devices at the same time. The idea is basically that we (or any one else) should be able to “drop” it at any potential customer in any remote place, and they would figure out how it would work and it will work for many years without any need for interaction with us or any one else.

    We would be happy to tell you more about our charger and possibly demonstrate it for you. We have a subsidiary in Nairobi, Kenya, so if you pass by there sometime that would be a great place to demonstrate it.

    Best regards,

    Johan Beckmann, Founder and CEO of Powerfy


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