One Laptop Per Child
Nicholas Negroponte has a dream... to provide a laptop with internet access to hundreds of millions of children in developing countries around the world. Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child is a non-profit group that has been working for several years to create a fully functional $100 laptop, powered by a hand crank.
A Laptop in Every Lap?
At the November U.N. World Summit on the Information Society, a prototype of the $100 laptop was unveiled. Powered by a 500 MHz AMD processor and one gigabyte of flash memory, the diminutive laptop sports a tough green exterior and runs the free Linux operating system.
With a 7-inch LCD screen that swivels like a tablet, built in wireless networking, and a hand crank that provides 40 minutes of power from one minute of cranking, the machines are capable of connecting to the Internet and forming peer-to-peer "mesh" networks.
By setting up a central server with a satellite link in a small village, children in remote locations could have Internet access in places where there are no books. A built-in microphone and speaker will enable the machines to make phone calls through VOIP, and software development tools will be pre-loaded to encourage children to learn computer programming skills.
This week, One Laptop Per Child selected Quanta Computer to mass produce the $100 laptop, and they expect to initially ship between 5 and 15 million units to China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand. Their ultimate goal is to continue reducing the cost of the units and to distribute a half billion laptops -- both as an educational tool and as a means of alleviating world poverty.
Why Didn't I Think of That?
But the project is not without its detractors. Andy Carvin, director of the Digital Divide Network (an activist group dedicated to including more people in the digital age) says "It's not as simple as 'if you build it, they will use it'". Sigh... In the amount of time it takes Carvin to blather on about why lack of training, technical support and local content will doom the One Laptop Per Child project to failure, a needy child in Africa could crank the thing up, open a web browser and start LEARNING something.
Sure, it's important to teach the teachers. But I guarantee that if you give these things to a whole village of kids, they WILL figure out how to use them. They'll explore and share their knowledge together. Just because you didn't invent it, don't dismiss it.
Intel (NOT) Inside
And of course Intel doesn't like this one bit. Intel's Chairman Craig Barrett calls the device as a "gadget" and predicted that poor children in third-world countries would not want them, because they are not "grown up" PC's. Surely his criticism has nothing to do with the fact that arch-rival AMD is supplying the processors that power these machines. Nah...
Hmmm. If Mr. Barrett lived in a place where there was no electricity, no hard-wired high speed Internet access, and no air-conditioned ivory towers, he might want such a "gadget", even if it had an AMD processor inside.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Dec 2005
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- One Laptop Per Child (Posted: 16 Dec 2005)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved