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Greek team rushes to finish laptop by the April deadline March 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Technology.

Quietly, efficiently, and above all collectively, some 500 Greek volunteers are spending a considerable amount of their time on a noble endeavor, developing the Greek version of the famous “$100 computer” a project run by the international NGO One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), founded by Nicholas Negroponte, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor.

100dollar_laptop.jpg  The Greek project associated with OLPC has many volunteers, including 250 people with programming, translation and other skills and another 250 primary and secondary school teachers. The team includes lawyers, PhDs, English teachers and one young student who is in the sixth grade of primary school.

“The volunteers working on the Greek version of the computer are fighting on four fronts,” Thodoros Karounos said. Karounos, coordinator of the Initiative Committee, works in the Network Design Laboratory of the Engineering School at the National Technical University of Athens. “The first team mainly comprises programmers who are working on adapting and improving existing applications, but also on writing new software for the cheap computer,” he said.

The team is part of an international effort in which thousands of programmers are racing against time to iron out the last wrinkles before the computer goes into production in mid-April.

“The second team is made up of translators, who translate the software and applications into Greek and adapt them,” Karounos said. “The third team are teachers who develop some pilot educational software and assess educational applications, while the fourth organizes demonstrations of the concept.”

Despite growing interest, the Initiative Committee say they need more volunteers and invite those interested to write to them at http://olpc.ellak.gr and indicate which team they would like to participate in.

They are paving the way for the availability of a cheap laptop for schoolchildren in Greece as of the next school year.

“The state has set a target of 20,000 cheap computers by September in 300 schools that express interest in carrying out pilot programs in the sixth grade of primary school and the second class of junior high school in two subjects, mathematics and physics,” Karounos said.

The software for the Greek edition will be developed under the auspices of the Special Secretariat for the Information Society and on a volunteer basis by the open source software community.

What motivates them? “For a start, it’s because they want to contribute to something democratic that helps develop a shared, public digital infrastructure,” said Karounos. “The ‘$100 computer’ is inspirational because, although it is specially designed for children, easy to use, free of toxins, with applications that appeal to youngsters, it is not a ‘kid’s game.’ On the contrary, it is technologically innovative, for example, images and text on the extremely high-definition screen are clear even in bright sunlight, and it subverts the profit motive, opening up new technological and communications potential for all children. Another reason that motivates these volunteers is the desire for knowledge, as they learn by collaborating, coming into contact with very good programmers. There is a third reason, to acquire a reputation, which may lead them to a future career.”

How much time do the volunteers devote to the project? “It differs from one person to another,” Karounos said. “Some spend even more hours on it than they do at their day jobs. There is one team leader, for instance, who is the manager of a computer store, but he sits at the computer here until late at night. You can call him at two in the morning to fix some code.”

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