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 MIT'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.
"Walter Bender was the workhouse for OLPC. While [OLPC Founder Nicholas] Negroponte met with presidents, it was Bender's day-to-day management that built the organization," said Wayan Vota, who follows OLPC and originally reported the news on his Web site, OLPC News.
Bender promoted the use of open source software for the XO laptop in the face of repeated efforts to load Windows XP, which has gained him a big following in the open source community, Vota said. The loss of Bender and other key personnel over the past few months could be a sign that OLPC is focusing more on the technology than the educational aspects of its mission, Vota said.
OLPC has lost three top executives in the past few months. In January, OLPC lost Chief Technology Officer Mary Lou Jepsen, who started an organization to commercialize parts of OLPC's technology, including the screen and battery. In February, Director of Security Ivan Krstic resigned from OLPC to protest the organization's restructuring and "radical" change in goals.
Bender's move from president to director of deployment was a "demotion," wrote Krstić in a March blog entry after he resigned. Krstić also wrote that he resigned because OLPC asked him to stop working with Bender, whom he highly respected.
"Following Walter's demotion from OLPC presidency, I was to report instead to a manager with no technical or engineering background who was put in charge of all OLPC technology," Krstić wrote.