The availability of electrical power has a major impact on the scope of an LCCD program. Some form of electrical current is needed to recharge the LCCD devices and power servers for supporting the program. Power costs can be divided into three areas:
1. Existing electricity at schools slated for LCCDs;
2. The charging aspects of the LCCD itself; and
3. On-going electrical costs.
If electricity does not exist at the school, the cost of providing some type of power to recharge LCCDs needs to be factored into the project costs. The type of power option will depend on whether the school is close to the electrical grid. If so, then the cost of connecting the school to the electrical grid must be contemplated. If not, then off-grid options need to be explored.
One solution would be to use a generator, typically powered by diesel fuel. This can be a costly proposition, because it requires purchase of a generator, payment for the diesel and an on-going supply of fuel.
Another option is solar or wind power. Both involve hardware costs, but there are no recurring electricity or fuel costs. In Uganda, for example, a project run by an NGO has been using solar power to recharge LCCD batteries.
The type of LCCD selected has an impact on power needs since some have self-charging options, such as solar panels or hand cranks. There may not be an immediate need for electricity, but the scope of any program will be limited without having a reliable energy source. Networking options inevitably would be constrained, because there would be no power to run a server.
If a school does not have electricity, some households may have power at home, so the LCCDs could be taken home and recharged. The battery power of the device itself varies among brands, as do the charging options. The figure below illustrates a variety of different options for charging the battery. One consideration is a charger and plug. Although most, if not all, LCCDs supply dual voltage chargers, plugs can be problematic, because they vary widely from country to country. This was an issue in the Solomon Islands where the plugs that came with the laptops did not match the outlets used in that country.
Figure 3-2: Power options for LCCDs
Since its initial introduction, OLPC’s xo-1 has been modified to successfully re-charge through the use of a hand crank, while the planned xo-3 tablet can be charged via hand crank, solar panel, or even a bicycle or waterwheel fitted with the appropriate connection. 102
Another consideration with respect to electricity is employing LCCDs with low power consumption. For example, the I-slate being developed in India is intended to minimize power consumption, including through the use of a low-power processor. 103
102 Johnston, Casey, “Crank, bicycle, and waterwheel: hands-on with the OLPC XO 3.0 tablet,” Ars Technica (January 10, 2012), available at http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/01/charging-by-crank-bicycle-waterwheel-hands-on-with-the-olpc-xo-30-tablet/ .
103 “Indian district plans to adopt 50,000 I-slate tablets,” (March 19, 2012), available at http://www.vidal.org.in/sites/default/files/jb-ISLATE-March19-Full-Press-Release.pdf .