Equipment Bid Deadline Extended by One Month

Upon request from participants in the official bidding process a one-month extension has been granted. This means that the official presentation and unsealing of bids will now take place on August 24th.

The option to grant justified bid extensions was specified in the original call for bids document.

Additionaly, a new call for bids for the provissioning of school servers has been issued. This call complements the former one, giving a chance for other suppliers to make their proposals for this "more standard" resource.

The Intel – OLPC Agreement - Information and Speculative Predictions

(Translated by Alec McLure from Información y futurología del acuerdo Intel - OLPC, published by Pablo Flores on 7/14/2007)

The announcement of the agreement reached by OLPC and Intel gives rise to much speculation as to how the OLPC project will continue and how it will impact Uruguay and other countries joining this initiative.

Let's begin by analyzing just what is in this agreement. There's not much official information, but what is clear is that Intel will join OLPC's board of directors. (The roster will now consist of representatives from AMD, Brightstart, Chi Lin, eBay, Google, Intel, Marvell, News Corporation, Nortel Networks, Quanta Computer, Red Hat, and SES Astra.)

Like all OLPC corporate associates, Intel will bring some capital when they join the project – this hasn't yet been detailed in public. This is what's known up to now.

Words from some of the lead players:

  • "Intel joins the OLPC board as a world leader in technology, helping reach the world's children. Collaboration with Intel means that the maximum number of laptops will reach children," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child.
  • "This agreement will make computers get to children faster," said David Cavallo, Latin America Director of OLPC.
  • "Joining OLPC is a further example of our commitment to education over the last 20 years and our belief in the role of technology in bringing the opportunities of the 21st century to children around the world," said Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel.

The leads seem happy. What does this agreement imply? We still can't be clear on it. Ideally both parties would synergistically achieve better-quality equipment at a lower cost. This can take time, which doesn't mean that they would be able to reach agreements on time for immediate needs, such as Uruguay's Call for Bids.

As an example, this call for bids asks the bidder to be established in Uruguay, which would be a challenge for OLPC. In this sense, a joint proposal would make it easier to meet this requirement.

With what laptop? Surely it will be some version of the XO, since it already has better specs to meet the project's requirements, such as the wireless mesh, the camera, and the tablet PC format. OLPC is way behind on software, though, and Intel could provide an interesting and immediate boost, integrating its Skoool educational systems.

And the OS? A Windows/Sugar dual boot proposal would not surprise me – this would be an interesting option from an educational standpoint.

Another theme is cost. With the elimination of competition, countries are not well protected given the lack of options and negotiation possibilities. I hope that with Intel's injection of capital and new possibilities for economy of scale, OLPC may be able to meet its initial promise to sell the laptops at $100. It would be an excellent way to demonstrate their seriousness and be a key factor in purchase decisions in many other countries.

Following are other aspects of the vision of the future in the agreement pointed out by Luis Ramirez in his blog:

  • AMD – Intel's main competitor and the ones in charge of producing the AMD chip must be quite affected by this alliance. One speculation is that XO's first generation (planned to be available in the next few months) will have AMD's processor and that maybe the second generation (planned for production in 2008 and commercialization in 2009) will have some kind of Intel chip.
  • Intel could stop producing the Classmate PC (currently being sold in Chile and other countries) in exchange for providing its processors to OLPC beginning in 2008. Let's also recall that OLPC recently announced plans to develop commercial products in addition to the XO laptop. This apparently fits in to not only to the projects goal of eventual self-sufficiency, but also to be able to complement it with other OLPC-style servers and equipment.

Thoughts on the Bidding Process

(Translated by Alec McLure from Comentarios acerca del llamado a licitación 7/07/2007, published by Pablo Flores)

In a previous post I did some initial commentary on the bidding process for Phase I of the Ceibal Project. I'm going to provide a more detailed summary here, now that I've had the chance to read the bidding document in more detail.

First of all, one notices the enormous amount of work involved in considering a project of such complexity. This results in requiring projects proposals with a very wide scope. In this post, I'm only going to mention a few of the points that seem to me to embody the spirit of the call to bids, which doesn't mean that I'm not leaving many important aspects out.

Ceibal Project's Objectives
First, the bid document makes all the project's expected results very clear:

  • Provide internet connectivity to 100% of school-age children both in their schools and in their homes.
  • Put our country on the cutting edge as applies to the use of technology for the learning and formation process.
  • Close the technology gap in regards to access to information and knowledge.
  • Give access to culture, plurality, and opportunity without economic predetermination.
  • Put Uruguay in place as the first country in the world with internet coverage over 100% of its territory and in the highest percentage of homes.
Wow! A very ambitious project!

Proposal Requirements:
Three types of hardware must be included in the proposal: Notebooks, servers for the schools, and connectivity devices.

The Notebooks:
  • Explicitly must be portable, lighweight, and resistent.
  • Battery life must be 4 hours during "regular use"(navigation on a program that opens a new web page every 30 seconds). Currently I don't think that any of the candidates' prototypes meet this requirement.
  • Must have integrated WiFi.
  • The Operating System:
    • Must be included in the notebook's price
    • Takes into account its hard disk and memory usage
    • It must be able to use its applications in stand-alone mode (i.e., must not need to be constantly connected to the web). This helps to mitigate the intellecutal property risks I was mentioning in a previous post .
    • An integrated hardware security system is required which should deactivate the notebook if it's stolen.
  • It asks for applications which can function in a collaborative way among the notebooks connected to the web.
  • The camera, along with some other hardware and software components, are optional but mentioned as pluses in the proposal. By what I've seen in Cardal, the teachers get a lot out of the still and video cameras. I hope we don't lose that.
  • Although optional, it's considered a plus to have "open and modifiable" software.
  • An interesting detail is that they must have been made less than 120 days ago, thereby ensuring that if they make new models, they won't stick us with the leftover old ones. :)
  • Install one or more for each school.
  • Minimum storage capacity of 80 Gb. Daily incremental backup.
  • Include web-content filtering software.
  • Software and updates up to 2010 included in the price.
  • Optionally, powerable by solar energy.
Connectivity requirements:
  • Requests wireless coverage for the homes in the schools towns.
  • Proposals must be developed taking into account three basic "model configurations" - schools with 150, 450, and 750 students.
  • The schools in Villa Cardal, San Jacinto, and Sarandí Grande are proposed as connectivity testing sites before the proposal's delivery date. Successful testing there adds positive points towards adjudication.
The company that wins the bid must be established or will need to establish itself in the country.

The bid proposal also requests bids for technician training and equipment support. The equipment must have a warranty.

If a bidder, for strategic reasons, would like to somehow subsidize their offer, this must be explicitly indicated and the sums involved must be divulged.

The technical proposal counts for 60% of the final score, the economic proposal for the remaining 40%. The bid document indicates a wide range of factors that affect the score. In any case, it keeps options for further bidding processes or direct negotiation with the bidders open if it turns out to be convenient.

  • The bid refers to two phases: a first phase with 100,000 notebooks and a second phase (optional purchase) which adds on another 50,000. In any case, the bid asks for pricing on 5,000 notebooks, which opens the possibility of purchasing more from the winning bidder, if convenient.
  • There is a set of shipping dates: October 1st, 2007, January 1st, 2008, April 1st, 2008, July 1st, 2008, October 1st, 2008, January 1st, 2009, April 1st, 2009, July 1st, 2009, October 1st, 2009. LATU - through its project commissions will set how many notebooks and servers will be requested in each case.
  • It's not 100% clear when the first delivery will be, since both the proposal delivery date and the adjudication process can be delayed if it's considered convenient to do so.

  • Bidders are required to provide proposals on complete solutions that deliver notebooks, servers, and connectivity to different types of population.
  • LATU's flexibility to work in the private domain is used to advantage to encourage competition, thus obtaining a better price.
  • It's clear that whoever wins this bid is well-positioned to continue with the whole project (that's to be expected - it wouldn't make sense for half the equipment to be of one type and the other half of a different type - unless expected results are not obtained.)
  • Organizational tasks, educational proposals and a part of the techno-logistic tasks are reserved for the project's organization. For the rest of the tasks, my understanding is that expectations are that the winning bidder will become a participant in the project.

Uruguay's Florida department is next

(Translated from Se viene Florida, published by Pablo Flores on 7/05/2007.)

The next objective of the project is to expand to all of the department of Florida. This means giving computers to all its kids and teachers, as well as providing connectivity infrastructure in all its schools and in as many homes as possible.

I don't have the exact numbers now, but we are talking about more than 100 schools (many of them called "rural", with only one classroom and one teacher), about 500 teachers and 10,000 kids. The total population of Florida is close to 70,000, half of whom live in the capital city Florida, most of the rest live in smaller cities, and 12,000 live in rural areas.

Many things are going to be tried out for the first time (in Uruguay and in the world) when this expansion phase is finished. For the first time locations in a critical social context will be reached. Also, larger cities will be covered (Cardal has less than 2,000 inhabitants). The challenges are many.

From the educational point of view, a training meeting for the department's teachers is being organized for next week. Attending this event is voluntary, as it surely will be for all similar meetings. Given that many activities will be performed in the workshop modality, the openings are limited, but it is hoped that many will be interested in attending and the event will be repeated at different occasions.

This expansion is expected to be performed between August and September. For this, the bid will have had to have been adjudicated.

More information about Florida (in Spanish):

Call for bids for the phase I of the project, in English

As I mentioned before,the international call for bids for Phase I of the project has begun.

Now there is a version in english available. Access it here.