Have you ever considered the question: Are our children learning from that great resource of information that is the internet? If in some of the poorer countries the answer is a resounding no, that’s mostly because computers are expensive and the last thing on the minds of people who are struggling under circumstances of poverty and deprivation. Nonetheless, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Nicholas Negroponte had the idea of decreasing the digital divide by making cheap laptops that cost about $100 to make and selling these to poor countries. This became a UN backed non-profit called One Laptop Per Child.
These laptops are Linux-based, open source, rugged laptops that have 500 MB of RAM but only 500 MB of flash memory space — no hard drives as well as no disk, CD, or DVD drives. One of their most innovative features is that they can be manually powered, with a pedal or other such mechanism. They will also test for the ruggedness of the laptop by dropping them and having kids step on them. Sounds like a cool job — they wouldn’t have to pay us to get us to jump on a couple of computers for awhile. Learn more about the specs and history of the computers here.
OLPC’s progress has been somewhat slow because they really need government backing and support to take off. Right now they’re targeting mostly Latin American and African countries in the initial launch. The first test launch of these computers will be in Libya in 2008. Good ol’ Muammar Kaddafi — now there’s the kind of strongman we need in the Middle East (or north Africa).
And the first 1000 XO Computers have rolled off the factory line here in Shanghai, where they are being made by major notebook manufacturer Quanta.
Photo from the OLPC website.