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Top OLPC Executive Resigns After Restructuring

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OLPC

Drastic internal restructuring at the One Laptop Per Child Project has led to the resignation of one of the nonprofit's top executives from the effort.

Walter Bender, the former president of software and content at OLPC, has left the organization to pursue "new activities," an OLPC spokesman, George Snell, said on Monday.

Bender's original position as a president was eliminated during OLPC's restructuring process, and he resigned as a director of deployment, Snell said. "There is no position remaining known as [president of] software and content, so Bender will not be replaced," Snell said.

"OLPC recently restructured into four areas -- development, technology, deployment and learning -- and Walter's responsibilities will be absorbed by those teams," Snell said.

Bender, the former executive director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, played a key role in the development and deployment of open-source software for the organization's low-cost XO laptop, aimed as a learning tool for children in developing countries.

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Remember the $100 laptop? That was the original description of Nicholas Negroponte's dream for a cheap computer that would be distributed by governments to millions of students in dozens of countries. A combination of open-source software, low-power hardware, and some of the leading educational researchers in the world made for a great story, and for a seemingly unstoppable force fighting against illiteracy and poverty.

The "One Laptop Per Child," or OLPC, project started with a bang, and has gotten a lot of press. Unfortunately, this scintillating story has been plagued by many practical problems, starting with the price, which has risen to about $180. Commercial software and hardware companies, such as Microsoft and Intel, who have publicly lampooned the OLPC, saying that it is underpowered and (not surprisingly) incompatible with their current systems.

The OLPC news site said that Bender's resignation might be because Negroponte is warming up to the idea of using Microsoft's proprietary software on the OLPC.

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