$100 laptop: hope or hype?

Prototypes for a $100 laptop for Third World schools are out… what does it look like? What can it do? Is there a catch? And, hangon, there is still discussion on whether the internet is a friend or foe of education….

There’s this report WSIS: £59 laptop unveiled in Tunis … Just don’t let Kofi Annan loose on it that talks about the prototype of the US$100 laptop unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte.

It says: “A slightly embarrassed Kofi Annan, general secretary of the UN, twisted off the computer’s crank handle at the unveiling event, and the screen locked as Negroponte later tried to demonstrate the display. But after a few tweaks here and there, everything worked.”

It also adds that: “The hand-cranked laptop, shown for the first time at the UN-sponsored WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society), operates at 500MHz, or about half the speed of commercial notebook PCs. It features a low-power display that can be switched from colour to black and white to allow viewing in bright sunlight. Many children in developing countries attend school in the open air, Negroponte is quoted as having said.”

Let’s see how that plans works. Many in the so-called “developing” world would be surely looking to see it’s outcome.

In India, well intentions (plus lack of official support and a number of other problems) slowed down the hope of the Simputer, which drew a whole lot of positive responses at its early stages. But, the good news: the techies haven’t given up.

Negroponte reportedly hopes to launch the program in the six markets in February and March. But the catch: Governments must buy 1 million laptops to participate in the programme. “That’s their entry ticket,” as the MIT don puts it.

And, while on the subject, don’t forget to see IPS’s story from Santiago in Chile titled, ‘The internet: friend or foe of learning?’

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