OLPC slashes workforce in half, cuts salaries

Founder of the project tasked with giving laptops to children in developing nations blames tough economic times for restructuring.

The XO laptop. OLPC

The One Laptop Per Child project announced Wednesday that it is slashing its workforce by 50 percent, reducing salaries for the remaining staff, and restructuring its operations.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the group that aims to provide low-cost laptops to children in developing countries, announced the cuts in a company blog post:

Like many other nonprofits that are facing tough economic times, One Laptop per Child must downsize in order to keep costs in line with fewer financial resources. Today we are reducing our team by approximately 50% and there will be salary reductions for the remaining 32 people. While we are saddened by this development, we remain firmly committed to our mission of getting laptops to children in developing countries. We thank team members who are departing for their contributions to this important mission.

Restructuring brings with it pain for some of our friends and colleagues who are being let go. These are people who have dedicated themselves to the advancement of a noble cause, and to say that we are exceeding grateful for the time, the ideas, the energy and the commitment they have given OLPC does not -- cannot -- adequately express our admiration or our gratitude. The fact that there are 500,000 children around the world who have laptops is testament to their extraordinary work and is already a key part of OLPC's legacy.

Negroponte wrote that the company will focus on development of its second-generation device, but will hand-off development of the Sugar operating system to the open source community.

The project recently revived its two-for-one deal on its low-cost laptop. Amazon.com was tapped to handle its Give One, Get One program, launched initially in 2007. Through the program, anyone can pay for two XO laptops; one is shipped to the buyer, and the other is sent to a school kid in a developing nation.

The device comes loaded with both Windows XP and the Linux-based Sugar operating system created for the XO. The inclusion of XP stemmed from concerns that developing nations that wouldn't buy the laptops for its classrooms without the world's dominant OS on it.

However, the Cambridge, Mass.-based group has faced its share of challenges in the three years since it was formed. Its XO laptops initially cost $188 each instead of the anticipated $100, some countries are scaling back their deployment plans. Intel, which was briefly part of the project, quit in January 2008 , claiming OLPC was pressuring it not to compete with its own laptops.

 

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