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Motorola Xoom hacked by Ethiopian kids who can't read; with no instructions whatsoever

When given the opportunity, humans can do some amazing and surprising things. Recently, the OLPC released the results of a little experiment they conducted where they sent a bunch of Motorola Xooms to illiterate Ethiopian kids. In five months, they had learned their English ABC's and were hacking Android tablets. Astounding.
November 4, 2012
ethiopian kids
The Motorola Xoom is one of the easier tablets to hack. For most, it’s a matter of using the old fastboot oem unlock command using Fastboot in the Android SDK. There really is no basis for comparison on how easy it is. Until now, that is. Now, it can be said that the Moto Xoom is so easy to hack, that illiterate Ethiopian children can do it.

You read that correctly. About five months ago, the OLPC Project decided to have a little experiment. They chose a village in Ethiopia where the literacy rate was nearly 0% and decided to drop off a bunch of Motorola Xooms there. On the tablets, there was custom software that was meant to teach kids how to read. The kicker is that they gave no instructions. They just dropped the box off at town square and walked away.

The results were both fascinating and astounding. Within four minutes, one kid had opened the box and had figured out how to turn on the Xoom. Within five days, the kids were using nearly 50 applications each every day. Two weeks in, the kids were singing their ABC’s in English. At the five month mark, they hacked the Motorola Xooms so they could enable the camera, which had been disabled by OLPC.

We feel it is important to mention that these Ethiopian kids were totally illiterate. They’d never seen so much as a stop sign in their short lifetimes; never mind a food label or a book. Even so, it still only took them five months to hack their first Android devices. We couldn’t be more proud.

So these Ethiopian kids learned English and then hacked the Xoom?

It sounds like something people would laugh at, but yes that’s what actually happened. The Xooms were loaded with a custom software called Nell. Nell was created to help kids in developing countries learn. You can read more about Nell in this publication.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte never did mention whether the experiment was a success or not. However, considering the Ethiopian kids know their ABC’s in both English and Android hacking, we would definitely call it successful. Let us know what you think about all this.