The Australian subsidiary of the non-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organisation today said it would commence a local “Give 1, Get 1” program on November 30 that would deliver the machines to both geeks and disadvantaged children.

The initiative will provide a XO laptop to a child in remote Australia or the Pacific Islands for each laptop purchased. The cost of a laptop is US$399 (plus shipping and GST). The devices can be ordered online.

However not everyone thinks the effort is a fantastic idea; local open source luminary Jeff Waugh, who is involved with the effort, said locally the group was more focused on growing OLPC adoption organically through the power of collaboration. The “Give 1, Get 1” effort was more a project being supported by the OLPC organisation’s US branch, he said.

“The ‘Give 1, Get 1’ program is very much an income thing and raising the number of laptops that they’re producing, so that laptops become cheaper as you produce a lot of them,” he said.

“The true power in the design and the whole idea behind the project is really when you have a group of children in a community or in a school who have them and as a result can learn together through innate collaboration and technology that’s built into the laptops. As an example, the laptops have mesh wireless networking, so you don’t actually need to have a wireless access point or a network and the laptops can talk to each other straight away”, he said.

Waugh said although the project was initially designed for third-world communities, there were a number of equivalent communities in Australia.

“Our initial focus here in Australia is linking up schools that you probably regard as fairly conventional public schools, but using that as a platform to be able to do better things, much further out, particularity in terms of Western Australia and Northern Territory”, he said.

“We’ve currently got a trial running in NSW. The objective of the trial is to look at deployment of laptops in three schools. One is very far out back, one is a country town and the other is a kind of a respite school where there are counsellors and places where kids can go to take a break from difficult family life”, Waugh said.

Waugh said Australia had a great open source community that had been involved in OLPC throughout the life of the project.

“At 2008 in Melbourne, about 150 XO laptops were handed out to open source developers, so there’s been a lot of cool development work being done by Australians given that we’ve had some availability in the community”, he said.