Polyachka: So when are you scheduled to start?
Ryan: We were supposed to start in June but that had to be pushed back, so August is now the start date…
Polyachka: What other things do you take into consideration?
Ryan: Shipping, currently one cargo carrier is DHL. Customs checks every single DHL box, and they will charge up to 40% of the value of the laptops, which is additional $9,000. It is more than we expected and we thought of trying other carriers based in Shanghai that are cheaper but that is not an option.
Ryan: How did you deal with these problems in Vietnam?
Polyachka: We are a different caliber; you are much bigger than we are. So that is why you suffer from certain things we avoided. All I had to work with was 5 XOs, which is not much. I brought them in my own suitcase, and no one checked how many computers I had. The same with Nancie, who came to the other part of Vietnam and brought 12 XOs, and didn’t pay any taxes, only for extra weight, so that part was easy. Our small deployments are more about testing the software applicability and its customization for Vietnam. For example, we were trying to find and read ebooks in Vietnamese. We were not focusing on making it a part of the standard curriculum. It was more an extra curricular activity that children would do after school. It was hard for us to convert to bigger scale because we didn’t have strong connections to the local officials, or we didn’t have the funding so that some people could get paid to go through the training. It was interesting to work and to see what the opportunities are. There is one guy who is still there and he is officially the head of the project and the website OLPC Vietnam.
Polyachka: Also it is very segregated. I started my deployment in the south and Nancie did in the north.
Ryan: So you were not working together?
Polyachka: No, our deployments don’t even talk to each other because Nancie’s deployment doesn’t have the Internet. They are very small deployments and that is not good for OLPC, because they are looking for deployments like yours.
Ryan: I don’t think so, we are too small. Or maybe yes, but not big enough to get the capabilities to be supported. Maybe if we were a bigger deployment of 1000 laptops, things would be different. We are small too, compared to other players that are out there.
Polyachka: Could be… but at least you are buying laptops; and we got our laptops for free… Of course, their perfect deployment is Afghanistan. Where there are thousands of laptops. But again, what I was told that OLPC is interested in all kinds of grassroots activity promoting OLPC and trying it to “plant the seeds” into different countries and concentrating on those that have the most potential. So 100 laptops is a good start… especially if there is infrastructure to support them and training for the local people who are interested in making it a live project. In my case children are using computers but not systematically. What is expected? More publicity or better results, reports, like improved literacy rates or something similar, that we are not giving …