This is the first year that OLPC has offered this program and it involves giving selected teams $10,000, 100 XO laptops and 1 server (to be installed at a school). They want teams to pick a country where they will deploy with the equipment and work with an existing non-profit on location who can maintain the program after teams leave. All teams are required to have a deployment of 8-10 weeks, two members of each team must attend a 10 day kick-off and training session in Kigali, Rwanda and one member of each team must attend a convention in October at MIT to present a report about the project.
Our team applied to deploy in Sao Tome, an island off the west coast of Africa. Sao Tome is about the size of Champaign County with a population of 157,000. The country was colonized by the Portuguese and gained their independence in the mid 1970's. The primary language is Portuguese with a secondary language of French and a tertiary language of English. The country is dominantly Roman Catholic. Sao Tome has rich agricultural resources and lots of oil surrounding the country in the ocean, however the country lacks the technical skills and the financial backing to grow. The University of Illinois has been sending teams to the country for the past 5 years installing computer labs, training teachers and students to use the computers, and maintaining existing computer labs. I had planned to go on one of the U of I projects for approximately 4 weeks, but when the OLPC opportunity came about, I switched with the full support of the group organizing the shorter trip.
Our team is:
- Corey Brian Jackson - Project Lead
- Michael Stein - Infrastructure Lead
- Chika Charles Umeadi - Technical Lead
- Ashley Adams - Cultural Lead/ Portuguese Speaker
- Danielle Ross - GIS Mapping Project
Corey is a Junior at the University and originally found the opportunity. He will be traveling to Rwanda with me.
I'm going to be responsible for finding power and internet solutions as well as managing any hardware problems we encounter.
Chika is a Junior at the University and has lived in Nigeria. He works for the University's computer department and will help manage technical problems
Ashley is a Senior in high school and the daughter of my boss at PrairieNET. Ashley has traveled to Sao Tome before and is a strong Portuguese speaker
Danielle is a Junior at the University and received an internship with a GIS (geographic information systems) professor who planned a research project on island this summer. She will assist our project and enhance it by incorporating a mapping aspect to the project.
Last Tuesday night we found out that our team has been selected for the trip. Wednesday we had a meeting to finalize our commitment and we have started to book our flights. Please see the attached image to visualize the trip. My itinerary is:
- Chicago to London
- London to Amsterdam
- Amsterdam to Nairobi
- Nairobi to Kigali
Part 1 - Chicago to Kigali - Green
Virgin Atlantic - June 5th
KLM - June 6th
KLM - June 6th/7th
KLM - June 7th
- Kigali to Nairobi
- Nairobi to London
- London to Lisbon
- Lisbon to Sao Tome
Part 2 - Kigali to Sao Tome - Yellow
Kenyan Air - June 17th
Kenyan Air - June 17th/18th
British Airways - June 18th
TAP or STP Airways - June 18th/19th
- Sao Tome to Lisbon
- Lisbon to London
- London to Chicago
Part 3 - Sao Tome to Chicago - Red
TAP or STP Airways - August 10th (Happy Birthday to Me!)
British Airways - August 11th
Virgin Atlantic - August 12th
Yes, I am nervous that our luggage will be lost . We are using London as our hub because the only reliable way to enter Sao Tome is through Lisbon, a short trip from London and the only reliable way to get to Rwanda is through London.
When we arrive on island we will spend the first week meeting the government officials (Prime Minister, Minister of Education, possibly the President, etc.), meeting our local partner, STeP UP, and taking inventory of the laptop shipment. Corey and I will update the rest of the team with any additional information we received in Rwanda. We will stay at a house we will rent for the duration of our trip. The country's library is located within walking distance of the house and has internet access where I will be able to send emails but it is unlikely the connection will be strong enough to Skype.
Over the next 6 weeks, we will be traveling throughout the island to each of the 6 districts where we will choose a school to deploy a set of laptops. Some of the schools we go to might not have power which would in turn mean they do not have internet. We are looking for affordable ways to charge the laptops using solar power. Even though the island is relatively small, because of the road conditions it will take approximately 2-3 hours to reach some parts of the island. We will be staying overnight on different parts of the island to reduce travel times and fuel costs.
The final week will be the hand off from our organization to the local partner. Once I return, I will have a few days to readjust to the timezone before I head to school on the 16th for section leader training and band camp.
I am getting very excited for the excursion but I am nervous of the security risks which I will face. I will be taking a two week course to jump start my Portuguese knowledge before we deploy. I hope this has answered many of your questions and feel free to forward it to anyone you think might be interested in the trip. I will be keeping a blog during the trip and will let you know how to find it before I leave. Feel free to ask me any questions.
Our proposal can be found here: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/