Via the amazingly energetic Wayan Vota at OLPC News we learn that Mineduc (the Ministry of Education) of Rwanda) is able to provide only 8,000 of its target delivery of 250,000 OLPC laptops (Childrens XO machines) per year. The reason?
"It looks like the programme is not having enough financing that can lead to its realisation like the EDPRS had projected," [Mineduc OLPC coordinator] Niyonkuru said.
(EDPRS is the Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy.)
In 2006, Jon Camfield (probably equal in energy to Wayan, altho I don't know for sure) pegged Total Cost of Ownership of an XO laptop in a school environment as US ~$1,000 over five years. (I think, but am not sure, that this does not include replacement of the machine at the end of its five-year service life.) However Mr Camfield's initial estimate is very heavy on 5-year Internet connectivity ($541) with much lower costs for amortized training ($128). He also includes a one-time set-up fee of $108 per laptop, which seems completely reasonable.
These projections might be generic (cost of Internet connectivity in East Africa will presumably fall over the next 5 years), but they are at least responsibly made. The question, then, is:
Why are the smart, committed, and experienced Rwandese failing to accurately budget for and finance this high-profile laptop deployment?
There are of course a thousand suspects, although failure as we know obscures patrimony.
One strong possibility is "ministry overreach." The OLPC initiative is split between the President's office, the newly created Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) and the Ministry of Education.
The government of Rwanda has established itself precisely as a visionary among African governments in relation to the uses of technology for development. However in several instances--ranging from the Terracom fiasco to early projects involving laptops in primary schools and computer labs in secondary schools--implementation has not come close to matching plans.
It's very likely that the more powerful MOST has provided the MOE with a laundry list of "unfunded requirements" in relation to OLPC deployment. (You'll observe that the quote regarding financing is from a person in the Mineduc staff, not at MOST.)
But it's important to observe in all of this that the $20 million spent on laptops and however much is budgeted for deployment results from strong donor support for education in Rwanda. (DFID provides the bulk of support for education in Rwanda, but other sponsors include AfDB and WB.) $20 million in hardware procurement over 5 years ain't chump change in a total annual education budget of about US $100 million. So why aren't donor agencies more visibly excited about this?
Could it be because Rwanda is more or less on track to reach its Millennium Development Goal targets, including its targets in education? Does that buy MOST and Mineduc the opportunity to make a $20 million boo-boo?
Perhaps this is a job for AidWatch? (Wm Easterly never mentions OLPC. Of course he rarely discusses education in relation to development.)