I was at one of my regular haunts in Atlanta yesterday and spotted someone with an OLPC XO-1 Laptop. If you haven't heard about this program, the idea is to provide relatively inexpensive laptops to children in developing countries to enhance their education. These computers are tiny, and yet they act as word processing tools, are internet capable with built in wireless, and are evidently quite functional. They run the Linux operating system, which is an open-source operating system that anyone can edit and manipulate.
Although the laptops are costing around $140 right now, the idea seems to be to get them down to a cost of $100 per machine, making them much more affordable than other new laptops, which can run anywhere from $600 to $2500 depending on the product.
The gentleman who owned the XO-1, Alex, had purchased the laptop through the Give One Get One program that appears to have only been available for a few months in 2007. The deal was that for $400 you purchased two laptops; one for yourself and one for a child in a developing country. Alex seemed really happy with the idea that he was able to give a laptop to a child somewhere. He is also working on developing programs for the machine, though having just met him, I didn't ask him to go into too much detail.
I admire this level of philanthropy. Not only has Alex given a laptop to a child he will never meet, but he is also working on ways to enhance the availability of programs for the machine.
I love stories like this. I love people with brilliant ideas for making the world a better place and for helping children grow. I'm very impressed with people who become a part of it.
It makes me questions my own judgement. Maybe my laptop purchase was extravagant last year. Maybe I should have opted for something cheaper. Maybe I shouldn't have purchased a fancy phone. A lot of theories I have seen about what to do with your money state that you should spend a third, save a third and give a third away. I'm not in a position to do this, although I have read blogs where people do this with $3 each day. It's a nice idea and one that hopefully I will revisit again someday. But for now I feel the burden of my lack of philanthropy weighing on my soul.
I could do better.