Tuesday, November 22, 2005

$100 laptop, One Laptop per Child


The MIT Media Lab unveiled a working prototype of their $100 laptop at WSIS in Tunis last week. The project has been in the works for a few years now and it's the brain child of Nicholas Negroponte, the lab's chairman and co-founder. I encourage those of you who are interested, to browse through the website especially the FAQ section.

Mr. Negroponte has done work in places including Cambodia where a pilot laptop program was done in 2001. The idea for the $100 laptop came to him, when he realized the possibility for profound change, to the better, such a thing could bring to the lives and future of children in developing countries.

The laptops are made rugged to withstand heavy use, they do away with hard drives and their moving parts and use flash memory for storage instead. A new display had to be developed to replace LCD display technology that is both expensive and power inefficient, best of all the laptops can be powered by a crank handle! The laptops can be configured in tablet PC setup as well. They have Wi-Fi connectivity, and 4 USB ports. They will run Linux operating system, and use Open Source software.
Simply genius.

Initially, the laptops will be available to 6 countries that each needs to commit $100 million for a mass purchase of around 1 million units, the exact number will depend on the final production cost which can be slightly under/over $100. The lucky countries are Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, and Thailand. Distribution is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2006 and then availability to other countries to come 6 months after that. The laptops are to be distributed to children just like textbooks, and the agreement with the participating countries insists that the children have ownership over the laptops rather than being given as loaners.

I really do hope Jordan jumps on this for the next batch of laptops when they will become available for smaller countries, it could be the best 50 or so million dollars Jordan ever spent.

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