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One Laptop Per Child - a Preview of the Hundred Dollar Laptop
Ethan Zuckerman, 3 Nov 05

I took a day off from this year's Pop!Tech conference to hang out with some friends in Portland. But before driving from Camden to Portland, I dropped into the Opera House to check email and bumped into Nicholas Negroponte, who'd given a talk the day before on his work to produce a laptop that costs less than a hundred dollars.

(See previous discussion of the hundred dollar laptop here, here, and here, and posts about related projects here, here and here. -- Jamais)

Negroponte was an advisor to my previous project Geekcorps, and was extremely helpful to me as we figured out whether the organization would be supported by corporate sponsorship, foundations or government largesse. So he knows about my long-standing interest in technology in the developing world. He asked whether I was interested in coming over to the lab and seeing a demo of the machine, and talking about strategies for deployment.

Heck yeah!

The demo was yesterday afternoon, and while it didn't include a functioning prototype, I learned a great deal more about machine than I have from previous articles, or Negroponte's talk at Pop!Tech. He was able to answer a whole set of questions for me, and raise an entire set of new ones, which, I suspect, will take a number of years to answer accurately.

First, the name. I'd been calling the project the sub-hundred dollar laptop... the acronym of which is the unfortunate "SHiL". Negroponte's now calling the project OLPC - One Laptop Per Child. It does a better job of defining the project, I think - not taking the bottom out of the consumer laptop market, but providing a learning tool for students around the world.

On to the machine.

While the actual prototype is being actively banged on (in preparation for a live, but tethered, demo at WSIS on November 16th), Negroponte keeps a cardboard mockup of the machine on the conference table in his office. It's a clever little thing - I had a hard time putting it down after picking it up. You can see a design close to the prototype I saw on the front page of Design Continuum's site - they're evidently doing the case design for the machine... and, actually, pretty far from the design reported on in the AP story about the project.

The mockup I saw was about the size of a large paperback book. There's a stiff rubber gasket around the edge of the machine, which can double as a stand. The keyboard on the mockup was detachable, but will probably fold out on a hinge. The system is designed to work in three modes: laptop mode (screen up, keyboard down, handle behind as a stand); book mode (screen on the front, keyboard on the back, comfortable indentation for holding it in the left hand. Pressing on the keyboard "accordian-stype" - as Negroponte puts it - allows for page scrolling); and game mode (screen in the front, keyboard in the back, held sideways, like an oversized PSP. Two trackballs, surrounded by four way buttons, on each side of the screen act as controls, and function keys on the back act as additional buttons.)

Unlike in the prototype featured in the AP story, there's no large gap between the screen and battery section, designed as a handle. While it looked very cool, it was also a bit too fragile for the conditions being considered. The handle now is either the rubber gasket or the indentation in the back. I wonder if the hinges are going to be a problem - the current design requires a hinge for the gasket and a separate hinge that allows 340 degrees of freedom between the screen and the keyboard. Negroponte pointed out to me that the hinges in the average consumer laptop cost about $5 each, and have a complex clutch mechanism that allows a screen to be smoothly rotated and repositioned - it will be interesting to see what can be done on a machine where the hinges will need to cost pennies, not dollars.

The keyboard on the prototype I saw was removeable - I think this was a nod to the idea that separate keyboards will need to be produced for different markets. In China, the appropriate device might be a stylus and pad rather than a keyboard, making it easier to enter ideograms.

Much of the conversation about the laptop has centered on the display, one of the most expensive components of a modern laptop. Early designs called for an e-Ink display - while Negroponte keeps a large e-Ink display on his conference table (about twice the size of the one in the Sony Librié), he tells me that eInk is for the second generation of the device. (It's easy to see why e-Ink is compelling. Not only is the display extremely crisp in black and white, it remains crisp and readable when the display is turned off, as the molecules that make up the letters retain their orientation despite the absence of current. This makes power requirements for texts that don't change continuously very, very low.)

Instead, the first generation of devices will use an LCD screen, though one rather different from the ones in most consumer laptops. The screen I'm staring at as I type this is backlit with white light - it's what's called a transmissive display. To produce colors on the screen, there are three colored filters that can be selectively applied to each pixel - these filters allow each pixel to display a huge range of colors. But these filters block a huge amount of the light a display transmits, up to 85%, which make displays extremely power-hungry.

There are other strategies for producing color from a transmissive display - one can create the illusion of colored pixels by flashing red, green and blue pixels in sequence - unfortunately, LCD displays don't refresh quickly enough to make this technique workable. So Negroponte is using a display that puts red, green and blue pixels near each other, blurring into a single, colored pixel. The monitor will have three colored backlights, and each pixel on the monitor will have three small lenses, etched into a lenticular screen - each lens will pick up only one of the three backlights. The screen will also be able to work in a black and white, reflective mode, useful when the laptop is being used in bright light or sunlight.

While the display is going to need to be custom manufactured, Negroponte believes it will be possible to produce it at a fraction of the cost of traditional displays, and his team is already negotiating with display manufacturers in Asia to produce the product. It's likely to be significantly less sharp than the LCD displays we're used to, but will use far less power. Negroponte's goal is for the machine to work on a 100:1 crank ratio - one minute of hand cranking generates sufficient power for the laptop to operate for 100 minutes.

I had several dozen questions based on my work with computers in challenging environments, and Negroponte had excellent answers to almost all of them. 12 volt power? There's an adaptor for that. Voltage surges? Shouldn't be a major problem given the modest power draw of the machine. Cooling? The machine doesn't have a fan since the processor is fairly slow and there's no disk drive. The one hardware area where I wasn't entirely satisfied with the answers had to do with mesh wireless support - some work in mesh suggests that it's useful to have two radios per machine to provide robust backbones for sharing connectivity, and the current machine has only one radio, likely as a cost concession.

I didn't get to see the software being designed to operate the machine, but learned a bit more about the team working on it. A small team of Red Hat engineers are customizing a Red Hat distro to the processor and hardware specifications of the machine. They're doing some work on the GUI as well, as are Alan Kay and Seymour Papert - the total development team is about 18 people, including Kay's students at the media lab. The machine will come with tools to encourage students to experiment with programming, including Squeak (a graphical environment for the Smalltalk programming language) and Logo. The plan is to make the software available online in a few months so that testers can bang on it and suggest features.

Localizing the software for different languages, learning styles and environments is going to require local production of software, which Negroponte appears to be planning for. Production of the hardware locally, on the other hand, is going to be "optional"... by which he seems to mean, "Some countries are going to insist on producing this lately, but it will be near impossible for them to do so at quantities that make it affordable." Scale is clearly a major part of what will make the laptop succeed or fail - the laptop won't be produced unless at least five countries sign up at a million laptops each. With an initial production run of 5 to 10 million laptops, the price is likely to be between $130 and $150 per unit, not including any distribution costs, marketing, or any digital content that comes pre-installed on the box. As the project scales up, the $100 per box target comes into sight.

The laptop is not "for sale" - it's going to be available for students only, and will be distributed through the same channels that school books and uniforms are. The laptops will be the property of children, not of the school. Colin Maclay, a Berkman colleague who'd joined me for the visit, pointed out that in many countries, school books and uniforms are sold by (highly profitable) local businesses, and that losing a book contract might be a major blow for local employers. Negroponte points out that this doesn't have to be a revenue loss - publishers could sell the electronic rights to textbooks on a per copy basis, which might make electronic textbooks even more attractive, on a revenue basis, than paper ones.

This might complicate the economics of the device. The idea is to make the laptop required equipment for all school students and price it on a basis where it replaces textbooks. In some of the developing world school systems Negroponte has investigated, textbooks cost $20 per student per year - if the laptop is sold to students (or provided by the national government) with a five-year financing option, it costs the same amount as annual textbook spending. Except that, if schools need to license intellectual property from existing publishers, the cost would certainly increase.

Talking through the structure of the OLPC initiative, Negroponte mentions that he was having a tough time figuring out who could be the CEO of the entire project. "In the startup phase, we need someone who's halfway between Michael Dell and some great supply-chain genius. But in three years, we're going to need someone halfway between Kofi Annan and Seymour Papert."

The solution - run three separate groups: OLPC hardware (possibly based in Silicon Valley or Asia), OLPC software (likely based at the Media Lab) and OLPC International (based in New York, Geneva or another global hub.) It's this third unit - the one charged with distributing, localizing and supporting the machines, and figuring out how they get used in global schools - that I'm most fascinated by.

While Negroponte has some general solutions to the interesting problems around distribution and usage, I got the sense that there hasn't been as much detailed thinking about the on-the-ground challenges as there has been about the physical and software design of the machine. Colin wanted to know how Negroponte was navigating the complex internecene politics of working with the various ministries of a government - is this project owned by the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Information and Communications. Negroponte explained that he was just working with heads of state, counting on them to get their teams to implement the project. Colin and I exchanged glances - we'd both worked with President Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, a visionary leader who'd dedicated himself to bringing technology to the DR in 1996. His party was voted out of power in 2000 by a kleptocrat who ran on a platform of "Plantains, not PCs", and pro-IT reforms were rolled back. (Fernandez is back in office now, after last year's elections.) I'm guessing that a OLPC project started under one leader could stall under a future leader.

My questions largely had to do with how the laptop would be used in the classroom. I made the mistake of asking a question of how the laptop would be used as "a teaching tool"... like Papert, Negroponte's a big believer that students simply need access to technology and can use it to teach each other and to make discoveries themselves. When I expressed some skepticism about teachers' willingness to use the computers in the classroom, he referenced Maine governor Angus King's initiative to bring computers into middle school classrooms throughout the state. Initially unpopular with teachers, the laptop project is now widely viewed as a success and is being replicated in other states. It's clear that the strategy behind the device is a trojan horse one - sell the device as an e-book, then see what students are able to do with a flexible, net-connected, programmable tool.

After peppering Negroponte with two hours of questions, I'm fairly convinced that this laptop won't suffer the problems the Simputer did - I believe it will get produced and distributed and that the software will enable e-books, web browsing, word processing and programming. As much as I enjoy the geekery of challenging Negroponte and others on the fine points of hardware and software design for the developing world, I'm convinced that some extremely smart people are working very hard on the hardware and software side of things. While I might question some of the decisions made, I don't know that my second-guessing is helpful at this point.

On the third and fourth fronts of the project - the marketing, distribution and maintenance of these devices and their connection to the Internet, and their use in the classroom - I think there's a lot of unanswered questions and I think the global community of folks interested in IT in education, especially in IT in the developing world, could assist Negroponte and team with their thinking.

Specifically, I think it would be great for the OLPC team to have a set of requirements and suggestions for nations participating in the program on how to distribute, link, support and teach with the laptops. It sounds like Negroponte would like to make it a requirement that every student in a classroom has a laptop. Should it be a requirement that schools implementing laptops have internet connectivity? Can this connectivity be used the way it is in the SchoolNet Namibia project, to let schools become ISPs, using revenue to subsidize the net connection and, perhaps, the laptops? Will businesses repair the laptops? Or will students do it informally, or start their own businesses?

Colin and I are talking about soliciting suggestions on the distribution and use questions surrounding the One Laptop Per Child project and compiling them into an advisory paper for Negroponte and crew. (If you've got questions or suggestions, posting them on this blog is a great way to start a discussion...)

One Laptop Per Child is an amazingly ambitious and radical project. If it succeeds, it will radically change how the world learns, communicates and interacts over the next couple of decades. And if it fails, it will likely scare off anyone from trying anything this radical in technology and education for many years to come. For that reason alone, I'd like to make sure it doesn't fail, and would the help of the WorldChanging community in figuring out ways to make sure it succeeds.

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Comments

One important design note:

Requiring a color screen is stupid. The western world did perfectly well with monochrome monitors for the first ten years of the PC revolution. Color costs money and power, it can wait for version 2.0's e-ink.


One semi-important usage note:

In developed countries, computers in classrooms have mostly been a huge flop, because it's been shown again and again that having a good teacher is vastly more important than having computers in the classroom. By contrast, the developing world mostly has a shortage of good teachers, so the laptop should be designed to BE A TEACHER. That's what the software people should work on--interactive teaching programs. E-books are also a great resource, but these will be more expensive than books. To compete, they have to be more useful than that.


Posted by: Jeremy Faludi on 3 Nov 05

Sounds very promising. I hope distribution arrangements will be flexible enough so that those in small developing countries (like Guyana) will be able to purchase / acquire these. I hope we can test them here.


Posted by: Andrew Mancey on 3 Nov 05

I have several computers at home and I replace my laptop nearly every year with the latest model. Yet I find myself drooling for this little toy. I mean, to read under the sun and not have to hunt for a power outlet, my $2000 laptop cannot do that!

So this is made for pupil and not for sale to public. But how do you harness the open source talents to fully exploit its potentials then? A rugged, networked computation device on the hand of every student. That's truely disruptive and its potential limitless. As a would be dad I already looking forward to share learning with my kid.


Posted by: Wai Yip Tung on 3 Nov 05

I'd probably pay $400 for one (with no support) if I knew I was also paying for a kid in a developing country to have one. There must be quite a few geeks like me in the west who'd provide a bit of a revenue stream to support the project and maybe add to the development base? Why not allow the in country manufacturers to sell them internationally if they want to. If they are that small and light they would be cheap to ship.


Posted by: Roger Hyam on 3 Nov 05

Great project!

I am a little concerned, as with any child using a laptop, about the long term safety and health issues of children using (un-ergonomic)laptops.

We are potentially crippling students before they even get into the workforce. And, once they get into the workforce, that's a whole other story!

Greg Bright


Posted by: Greg Bright on 3 Nov 05

It is important to think about where these are going to end up when they are superseded (or simply broken). Laudable as this project is we do not want the poor of the world drowning in even more e-waste than they are already!


Posted by: Daniel Johnston on 3 Nov 05

A green, designed-for-disassembly $100 laptop would indeed by a big improvement, especially since it would not only mitigate some ewaste but facilitate local repair and rebuilding efforts...


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 3 Nov 05

Computers have been used at my neices school to grand effect. Need to show how something like the solar system works? You can let them explore it.

What realy limits computers in schools is dumb teachers who dont know how to use the puter to help teach.


Posted by: wintermane on 3 Nov 05

"the western world"?, the "west"?..I thought that these laptops were going to be available in Brazil, which is a western country. Yes, a country from the western world.


Posted by: Nicolas on 3 Nov 05

If, as you say, the project really does go ahead and tens of millions of these things do get out there.

Then what is most wanted is for a foundation somewhere to go out and buy the electronic rights to textbooks and place them online for free. Or even to fund the writing of new ones. The huge cost of writing new ones is all about the different syllabi that different school boards and so on use and that can all be ignored.

Just as with the Open Source movement itself, I’ll bet there are tens of thousands out there who’d be happy to write up a basic text on their specialist subject if they knew that they’d be contributing to the education of some hundreds of thousands of children in the poor parts of the world.

They might not be as Fancy Dan as the stuff coming out of the big publishers but then so what, right? Neither are the computers themselves.

Something like a Project Gutenberg for educational texts.


Posted by: Tim Worstall on 4 Nov 05

I second what was said earlier. I'd gladly pay $400 for one of these, especially if I was subsidizing a student somewhere else...

Would love to have it merely for word processing and ebook reading...


Posted by: John Radi on 4 Nov 05

I agree with Roger Hyam about paying more for one if I knew it would cost less for someone in a third world. $400 would be a little much though, maybe $250 - $300. $400 would be concievable if there was a developers version, that maybe came with more memory or a small hard drive. I really hope that they sell these in the US, as I want one just so that I have a computer for when the power goes out, or when I'm not near any power source, etc. I live in Tampa, Florida. There is not a single year that goes by where there isn't at least a weeks worth of time in which I do not have power. That week may not be continuous, but having a crankable laptop to keep me entertained for a couple days while I wait for power is definitely worth $300 in my book.


Posted by: Chris Goetschius on 4 Nov 05

I really like Roger's idea too. Roger, I'm wondering if we could actually make this happen...There's a site called Pledgebank (http://www.pledgebank.com/) that was recently recommended on the TED blog - ever heard of it? Basically, you commit to a challenge on the condition that a number of other people do the same. Perhaps if you forwarded your pledge to the pledgebank, and those of us willing to support your idea signed on as pledges, we could build a substantial enough list to demonstrate that this is idea is worth seeing to fruition. I guess the big question is, who could actually make this happen and how would we get them interested?


Posted by: Anna W on 4 Nov 05

As a massage therapist in Seattle, I frequently work on people who suffer from poor typing practices. These computers should have software that forces typing breaks and demonstrates forearm stretches otherwise we may see an epidemic of carpal tunnel syndrome. The laptop could even have logos imprinted under the keyboard which show proper typing posture. Keeping it graphic and language neutral seems like a good idea.


Posted by: Lee Colleton on 4 Nov 05

Extremely good idea. I agree though with comments referring to the need of suitable teachers in the poor countries (not of course the task of Nicolas Negraponte!). I remember listening to a teacher from Argentina (?) in the 2000 Unesco world conference on education in Senagale, saying how she had to travel for two days to go to a remote village to teach the kids.


Posted by: John on 4 Nov 05

This has some great people behind, especially Papert, who are squarely focused on student learning. There is a great need in our own country for access to technology. Cost seems to always be the issue. This hopefully will take out this argument. The potential in the developing world is even greater. With access to information and resources equal to the places like the US and Europe, every child will at least be on a level access point. That is if the IT infrastructure can support it. There are many challenges to come and even when every student has access, there still needs to be a pedagogy that supports constructivist learning and inquiry. Let's hope this device does not come an electronic flash card machine.

Check out our podcast where we discuss the topic of the $100 laptop and its relevance to education.

http://edtech.ocde.us/podcasts/edtech_podcast_01.m4a


Posted by: Mike Guerena on 4 Nov 05

I think this is a brilliant program and device. I'm thinking that it could adequately funded if the laptops were sold to the general public for $300 a piece and there by providing one laptop to the general public and profit of $200 to provide two "free" laptops to the program. I can really see this not only a funding solution but also as a social solution. For one, the open source community will continue to develope the software and would it not be amazing to see an American business person using the same laptop as a so called underprivilaged child in Africa or Central America. Common tools, supported by the community to bring the world a bit closer together. Just my thoughts


Posted by: Crenshaw Sepulveda on 4 Nov 05

My slashdot comment:

Swatch them!
You could fund this program by selling "designer" vesions in wealthy nations.

Have Swatch or some other design-centric company make a dozen glitzy versions a year. Sell them for $250, with a big trade-in allowance on used units. The store and designers would get a cut; the rest would go to buy units for distribution to poor kids.


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 4 Nov 05

Great plan - if kids can be freed from the lugging of multiple books and get whatever book they need on this device - it'll be worth a lot.

If they have web access, worth much more (remember, one brain now has the resources of a billion brains when connected to the net).

If they can create and present rich media (my elementary education demanded you be conversent in three main expressive technologies - handwritten pages, shoeboxes with clay chracters, and the flutophone were our expected outlets) then it's doing a third great service.

And if these kids can now understand what exists beyond their own range of transportation (overwhelmingly foot-powered), then they'll have the world opened to them.

I can't imagine losing a bet like this with Alan and Seymour on the team.


Posted by: john pellino on 4 Nov 05

I have to agree with the others who think that the machine should be commercially available to any purchaser. If you need to produce large quantities in order to achieve the economy of scale to reach $100/unit, then it seems foolish to shut out the open market.

As an example, consider NeXT - Steve Jobs's company between his stints at Apple. NeXT was revolutionary, but gained little acceptance because of the extreme focus from day one on sales to the education market. It wasn't until Apple bought NeXT and incorporated their stuff into OS-X that the technology became successful and widespread.

Priced around $200-$300 I do not see this product competing with the majority of laptop purchases which are either for business use or for home desktop-replacement use. So, worries of undercutting the market of potential(?) sponsors should not be an issue of much consequence.

Chances are, that if this puppy sold well, it would do so by creating its own niche - somewhere in the neighborhood of jazzed-up cell-phones and the blackberry.


Posted by: Jerry on 4 Nov 05

Even though these are intended to be unavailable in the industrialized Western nations, if it is anything like what has been described here, I will obtain one, no question about it.

Why not sell it directly to me and let part of my purchase price finance someone else's education rather than undermine the goals of the project?

Command economies are interesting mental exercises, but this project's proponents need to wake up and realize that there is strong demand outside the intended target market and take advantage of it rather than have it take advantage of them.


Posted by: Michael on 4 Nov 05

The idea is fascinating and a very good one. I agree with paying as much as $300 for a "developer" model (or just the regular model) if it would pay for one for someone in the developing world.

As one person suggested, it could be used for goofing off. Perhaps they could use some sort of digital signature integrated into the kernel (like how video games have) so that a program won't run if it's not signed, and give either the teachers or someone higher up on the hierarchy the ability to digitally sign the program to run it. This way, the students could make their own learning program to suit their likes (and encouraging their creativity) and the teachers can rest assured that the students aren't goofing off.

As many have said, there can be no replacement for good teachers. Without teachers, all the learning tools in the world are pretty much useless if you ask me. Books, hands-on materials (like chemistry modeling kits), and, yes, even computers, aren't worth it unless you have a darn good teacher to supplement them.


Posted by: Chris Marks on 4 Nov 05

I would think opening it up to consumer demand would allow you to sell even more units and reduce the price even further. It could also then become ubiquitous globally, uniting the entire globe of children with common memories of their first electronic text/pc.


Posted by: James on 4 Nov 05

I am still worried about the non technical issues. Who will maintain, repair and provide warranty?
What about countries where the central goverenment controls contenet and access to the internet?
Isn't is more important to provide safe drinking water, medicine, etc.? Let the government's invest 100 Million dollars each ($100 x 1 million minimum units per country) on permanent infrastructure.
What about the VoIP capabilities and the heavy taxation on cell phone a lot of countries currently carry. Will the users of these computers be taxed?


Posted by: Robert Slate on 4 Nov 05

(These comments demonstrate that opening the discussion can generate really good ideas. I hope the project's progenitors are comfortable enough with outside opinion to seriously consider these ideas--sort of an open-source product development.)


Posted by: David Moffat on 4 Nov 05

I agree with the many posts above. Sell the thing in industrialized countries for 300 dollars a piece. Almost no laptop can compete with that now, and PDA's are still far more expensive. It has the potential to bring computer access to poorer parts of our countries cheaply, and at 300 dollars, you can buy at least one other for a child in a developing nation. As a teaching tool, our kids can use it too! Even the older ones of us can help develop on it, work out bugs, and expand its functionality. I'd gladly pay 300 dollars for one if I knew I was buying at least one for a student in a developing country, considering how useful it might be. Long report to write on a plane flight? Easy. Backpacking in the middle of nowhere and want to write out progress or map your progress digitally for a later upload? Easy. And, best of all, no charging required. I could even see a use for this in the military, where they already outfit soldiers with GPS units that take up to 10 pounds of batteries for a mission. Sell it to them, and allow them to integrate the GPS into it and use the onboard mapping software. Charge them 150-200 dollars a pop, which is still less than what they get their non-GPS hardware for, and use the money from that to buy even more for developing nations!


Posted by: Matthew Greenlees on 4 Nov 05

As the executive director of a nonprofit, this idea will never work. The opportunity cost of possession of the laptops is far greater than its actual use. Even her in the United States, a good majority of the population does not have ample knowledge of how to use a computer or the internet - you can imagine what the results would be for a population where sanitized drinking water and living past the age of 40 are barely attainable.
Imagine if Dell distributed free laptops to poor people in the United States whose market value would be the average income per capita of the region.
The people living in poverty will find the laptops as a far greater source of income and a greater value in terms of what they could sell it for, than the actual educational benefit it would derive.
The target audience of OLPC would be much better served focusing their energy and resources on developing sustainable long-term foreign investment & economic development projects.


Posted by: J. Pan on 4 Nov 05

This is just my opinion, but I believe that achieving the whole Idea is to sell it here in the west for lets say 300$ u.s. I'm sure us "geeks" would love to have one, esp. one that runs linux and is easy to use and extremely portable. 300 would cover the inial cost (130-150) and then some. I know I'd purchuse one right away.


Posted by: Dennis Kiper on 4 Nov 05

well, I'm from Brazil and also think that this project could have a great impact on our (and other's) country education. I used to work for a NGO that fought the digital divide (do you still say that?) and saw what a computer can do in good hands.

as for the idea on selling in developed countries to fund units for poor kids, I guess there is a distribution issue - if you sold the units made in teh poor countries, you'd have the cost to send it to the US or Europe. Same thing if you produce them in the developed countries (with the additional difficulty of meeting the extremly low necessary costs...)


Posted by: nogall on 4 Nov 05

Achieving a goal of $100 for a stable machine seems like a mammoth of a task.
The key issues to cost would be LCD, Hard drive and battery. My suggestion would be to use obsolete 486dx cpu chips, 10 inch mono LCD and a Disk on Chip or flash 1gb module. Power can be substituted using cheaper Solar Modules mounted on top cover. Bundled with embedded Linux and customized Star Office, it would be a ideal plan. Rest I leave it to the industry leaders and giants. My hats off to those Gurus..

If I can help in any technical issues, please feel free to contact me. I would give free consultation for the sake of kids.. Lets make this World a Better place.

I am currently designing a Point of Sales systems for restaurants using Linux and Java with PostgreSql database. We custom built housing in Stainless steel to make it ruggedised. The cost is the key issue which we adressed and we are successful so far.


Posted by: naveen on 4 Nov 05

Achieving a goal of $100 for a stable machine seems like a mammoth of a task.
The key issues to cost would be LCD, Hard drive and battery. My suggestion would be to use obsolete 486dx cpu chips, 10 inch mono LCD and a Disk on Chip or flash 1gb module. Power can be substituted using cheaper Solar Modules mounted on top cover. Bundled with embedded Linux and customized Star Office, it would be a ideal plan. Rest I leave it to the industry leaders and giants. My hats off to those Gurus..

If I can help in any technical issues, please feel free to contact me. I would give free consultation for the sake of kids.. Lets make this World a Better place.

I am currently designing a Point of Sales systems for restaurants using Linux and Java with PostgreSql database. We custom built housing in Stainless steel to make it ruggedised. The cost is the key issue which we adressed and we are successful so far.


Posted by: naveen on 4 Nov 05

What needs to be developed concurrently is free text books for these. It will do no good for the computer to get there, but not be ableto afford software. Linux is great, and there are educational tools for it, but it needs to be greatly augmented to be useful.

Were I live the state gave teachers $1000 for computer hardware for the class room (on a use it or lose it basis). Many teachers I know bought notebooks and other machines for their classrooms, but the district would not buy the software too go with it.

I ended up installing Linux on the machine and got some free programs, but for the most part the machine was unused because the software was not part of the curriculum.

The wikimedia has the wikibooks site, which I think has the potential to make these machines viable text book replacements.

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:About

If useful free books can be preloaded, and lesson plans revolving around the content be preplanned, then these have the potential to be great. If kids and teachers are left to explorer on their own, then I think some will benifit greatly, while other less motivated students and teachers, waste the opportunity.

All that said, I too think they should make some available to the general public, as a way to promote open software development on the platform, and to raise awareness of the project in general.


Posted by: Brandon Phillips on 4 Nov 05

Big compannies could sponsor part of the costs.
In Brazil, for instance, there are ways to sponsor culture and get part of the value deducted from the Total Income Tax.

This, alone, could cover some $5 to $10.
Add four more compannies, and you would have $25 to $50.

Also, this laptop would be a great target platform for game development, for instance.
The childreen would be able to use their laptops as game consoles, making it even easier for them to get involved.

The game compannies could pay a certain fee in order to develop and distribute games for that "console".

Rui


Posted by: Rui Barbosa Jr. on 4 Nov 05

Pledge to purchase

As suggested above, I have started a pledge: http://www.pledgebank.com/100laptop , for people who are interested in purchasing this Laptop for ~$300, thus getting one and also contributing to making it available to the developing countries.

It might help if you added your support to this pledge.


Posted by: mike liveright on 4 Nov 05

If this is going to have some kind of software but no disk support how are you going to deal with corrupt software that all the computer repair people like me have to take care of, and if this thing is going to have internet access these schools are going to need very good firewalls which most do not have. I have seen how hackers are becoming worse by wanting to damage machines instead of the old school knowledge should be free generation of hackers, or the steal from the rich give to myself hackers like Kevin Mitnick, so are we talking about schools having a bunch of little $100 zombie computers. As we all know if these are part of some proprietary software there is going to be hackers trying destroy these systems specifically.


Posted by: Lee Amberson on 4 Nov 05

A great project indeed
My assumption would be that in order to make this project successful, what is needed is not only a technical solution, but a mix of education/technology. Otherwise, what would be the gains of havving such a laptop if the same old methodology is used?
I am a teacher, a researcher and an IT reacher =) How is it possible to get involved into this project? Plese dont tell me that people working on such a ool idea dont need teachers =)
Cheerz


Posted by: Alexander Kanaev on 4 Nov 05

I think some of the earlier comments about environmental and carpal tunnel issues, really come from a privileged perspective and miss the reality of the situation. We should think about human and environmental impacts, but those are really icing on a cake that hasn't even been baked. People around the world mine garbage dumps and risk their lives collecting precious medals out of toxic waste, in order to survive. I think I might risk carpal tunnel to learn how to educate myself, move into the city, and have a real chance at a better life.

I think making the students the owners of the laptop is huge and will fix the quality of teachers issue. When I went through K-12 our school had 30 or 40 computers which were in a locked room and only students taking typing or journalism where allowed to use them. If I had a laptop with all our curriculum, and the teachers were instead locked into a room, I think I would have come out at-least as knowledgeable ;) Actually I might know math now instead of my broken knowlege.


Posted by: ozten on 4 Nov 05

It seems to me that the potential dangers of a technology crusade such as this are being overlooked. Are those of us in a technology-centric society being arrogant in assuming that increased access to laptops is wholly a good thing? Are we sure in retrospect that it's been good so far for the technology "haves" of the world? I don't think it's a safe assumption that saturating the world's children with technology would have a net positive effect. Could the plagues of the 'net such as pornography and identity theft be to this frontier what alcohol and smallpox were for centuries past?


Posted by: J. Thomas on 4 Nov 05

I agree completely with leveraging the corporate and private markets. I am an IT consultant and I know geeks and executives would jump on an oportunity to purchase one of these units, one because it'll be a fun toy, and two because of the social factor. I can't tell you how many business men I've seen sporting and touting their $50-200+ ties because the designs were made by disabled children and funds go to thier support.
Work all the angles here for a great cause. As for repair and service, for a simple device that has little to no internal storage, a swap shop is what's needed. A low deterrent fee to keep abuse down and the school or local dealer (think how Circuit City would love to participate) can just swap one unit for another. As private buyers trade in their old units for new ones, the old ones can go directly to the swap pool. Then the swapped units can be returned to a single facility for repair or recycling. Many companies have exactly this system for thin client machines and it works extremely well.


Posted by: Bryan Siler on 4 Nov 05

It is so great to see this finally happening! I have been working on a project like this for many years and Nicholas himself has been talking about this since at least 1994 (see his Wired articles). I had a wooden model myself back in 2001 and Alan Kay did one in 1970 or so (see his wonderful 1972 paper).

Though I don't have a product yet I have gained a lot of experience in this area and it is a pity that they don't want my help. There is no way to merge the projects, of course, since I am going the "Lisp Machine" route which I imagine still gives a lot of people at MIT nightmares. But there are enough elements in common that it would be fun to swap ideas.


Posted by: Jecel Assumpcao Jr on 4 Nov 05

It is essential to have an insurance program so that when 9not if) a student's machine breaks, the student is not left without.


Posted by: Nathan Myers on 4 Nov 05

I agree with the points:

1. These boxes need to perform interactive teaching
2. These boxes should be sold in developed countries for slightly more, to ensure the $0-$100 price tag in developing countries

On point 1: The issue with a 'real' interactive teaching program is that it requires computing resources. Outside of simple --here is some information, here is a test and this is your grade--type teaching application, it would need to monitor things such as time to digest, free-form Q/A, finite troubled area detection, etc...all while taking to point the locale involved (not one program will be affective for all places even if it has been translated into the local language).

As such, I believe the best solution is to develop a teaching app that uses 'smart' methods of determination. This will obviously require more resources than any one of these boxes may have (in the near future)...therefore I believe the best method would be one of distribution.

IE: When in 'classroom' mode, coursework analyzation processing occurs for all students on all networked boxes. Since each student proceeds at their own pace, analyzation need not be required for all students at the same time (some will be reading, some taking tests, while some wait for their next smart-planned lesson plan). While this occurs, local norms are taken into account--sort of like grading on a higher resolution curve.

Perhaps even lesson plan data can be distributed and held in small pieces amongst all of the boxes in the room. Updates to lesson plans need only be discovered by one connected box as that box can return to the classroom and 'infect' the rest of the boxes with the latest updates. Think TeachingTorrent.

When not in the classroom and not connected to the net, the teaching app 'dumbs' down to research/explore mode...basically for studying and report writing.

However, when connected to the net, perhaps an enhanced processing can take place by net resources for use by the smart teaching assistant. This could deliver the same interactive teaching those in the classroom are receiving (albeit at greater latency perhaps), for those home-schooling or with a really small classroom (not enough boxes to process learning).

On point 2: If these boxes cost $100, then a box sold in a developed country for $250 should be more than enough to pay for an entire free box for someone in a developing country (plus a tiny bit of profit for the program to continue).

Donate a box by buying a box...2 for 1 special!

Sounds good to me...especially if they contained a fundamental distributed processing architecture.


>||;)


Posted by: Gabriel Kent on 4 Nov 05

I just have to agree with others that posted here. I'm more excited about this product then anything in the last 10 years. The idea that would be forbidden for non-students to have one, just does not make sense. I really would urge them to re-think this approach. I understand they don't want to compete with commercial laptop vendors and they don't want them to be stolen, but I don't think this approach is valid.

They need to have $400 developer version that pays for a second one to go to some needy child.

Why doesn't anyone question Negroponte on this?


Posted by: Rick Niles on 4 Nov 05

I've alerted Negroponte to the comments being posted on this thread and promised to summarize them for him. I can promise that I'll strongly push the "developer"/"developed world" subsidy model for the machine - it's a very cool idea. One possible issue - we'd want to make sure that reimportation didn't take place, as that would take these machines out of the hands of developing world schoolkids. But that's workeable, I suspect.


Posted by: EthanZ on 4 Nov 05

Hey, the Fingerworks Touchstream type of keyboards combine keyboard and mous/touchpad. They seem as a perfect fit for ruggedized laptops since they have no moving parts. Fingerwork went out of business (due to low volume, high prices) so the technology might be cheap to acquire.

In developing nations, dust can be very challenging.

I wish Negroponte's project will become a huge success


Posted by: Mark Szentes on 4 Nov 05

I will be in Tunis for the unveiling of the laptop. Apparently the event is on November 18, not November 16 as reported here. The event is sponsored by the Club of Rome, and will take place at 11am. I will try and report on this on my blog at http://rikomatic.com .


Posted by: Rik Panganiban on 4 Nov 05

If you don't make the laptops commercially available, they're just going to show up on eBay anyway. Might as well let the market help the cause instead of hurt...


Posted by: dennis on 4 Nov 05

But what about the learning curve for using these devices. Sure, who's not aware of Indian kids learning to use hole-in-the-wall computers, but here, learning is a result of playing; learning is not the main goal.

What's the expectation on this? How fast will students with no IT experience nor knowledge be able to pick up the mind-set to work with such a device?

*waves to Ethan*


Posted by: Babak Fakhamzadeh on 4 Nov 05

I am still worried about the non technical issues. Who will maintain, repair and provide warranty?
What about countries where the central goverenment controls contenet and access to the internet?
Isn't is more important to provide safe drinking water, medicine, etc.? Let the government's invest 100 Million dollars each ($100 x 1 million minimum units per country) on permanent infrastructure.
What about the VoIP capabilities and the heavy taxation on cell phone a lot of countries currently carry. Will the users of these computers be taxed?


Posted by: Robert Slate on 4 Nov 05

Refundable Ink cartridge trick

One way to reduce the price might be to sell them at 150$+ as education computer in rich countries with a buy-back coupon: once the child has "overgrown" his laptop, the manufacturer buys it back for, say, 40$ a can thus resell it for 50$.

I think that with proper educational software (a-la vtech or leapfrog) and fell-good marketing highlighting the 2nd-hand purpose, it might work.


Posted by: Pierre baillargeon on 4 Nov 05

I would like to agree with everyone on being able to purchase this machine on the open market, but my concern is that if this happens, some competitor will emerge and decide to come into the market with a similar product -- solely for profit. I'm not sure how hard it is to develop this laptop, but I'm sure someone will disassemble it and try to recreate something similar.

Hopefully this won't happen.

If this thing does hit the open market at $400, i'll definitely buy it -- for the convenience it can give me and most importantly an easy way to contribute to the education of children in developing countries.


Posted by: Gasco on 4 Nov 05

Someone collected information from a number of sources on the Internet for a class project on the Hundred Dollar Laptop. See http://www.emory.edu/BUSINESS/et/552fall2005/hundred_dollar_laptop/index.html


Posted by: Bob on 4 Nov 05

Add another to the list of people who'd definately buy one for 300-400.


Posted by: David Thomas on 4 Nov 05

Why would you all be willing to buy a low spec budget laptop for $400 when you can very easily buy a new Dell or HP for $400-$500 if you shop around, unless it's purely for the "look what I have" factor?

It's admirable to try and produce a computer to help developing countries, but why go to all this effort when you could simply purchase 2-3 year old technology that has already been developed and sold in more developed countries.

How many pentium 3 based machines must have been sold off for very low cost when they became obsolete by current standards? There's no reason low spec machines could not have linux installed and used in developing countries. Just the cost of tooling up for fabrication could probably buy tens of thousands of new laptops, let alone older models.

Let the large manufacturers deal with the fabrication costs, buy their surplus when they can no longer sell to regular consumers.

Like many others have said so far, the teaching software is what should be developed.


Posted by: Stephen on 4 Nov 05

Stephen wrote "why go to all this effort when you could simply purchase 2-3 year old technology that has already been developed and sold in more developed countries."

The $100 Laptop is not at all just cheap or old technology -- it is durable tech with very low power requirements which requires no AC supply.

Stephen wrote "Let the large manufacturers deal with the fabrication costs, buy their surplus when they can no longer sell to regular consumers."

This is intended to be the world's largest manufacturer, producing 150,000,000 to 200,000,000 units a year when the current worldwide production of laptops is about 50,000,000.


Posted by: Bob on 4 Nov 05

a note on ergonomics. an adult developes injuries from 'new' stress to the body. children are still growing and adapting to changes in their world. i would guess that the cell phone revolution has a subtle impact on the shape of the average teenagers hands and prolonged use of a cellphone would not cause discomfort to the hand. similarly, the gameboy has surely made children more capable of handling the operation of small devices without injury or discomfort.

also
i hope to see this come off as a great success. it would please me greatly to see todays developing countrys compete with the established powerhouses in 25 years because of inovations in education.

and!...
i would pay $250 for one so that one could be given to a child that needs it and have some left over for shipping.. no problem. mutually beneficial arangement. (i must mention that i read this in a post above and think it is a great idea(Roger Hyam's post above))


Posted by: dan on 4 Nov 05

Isn't it more important to buy books and provide people with emloyment after they get an education.

This laptop idea is bonkers even at $10 price. Imagine all the polution those batteries are goniing to inflict on the environment! How long do they last? 2 years and then what? And how to charge them in environments where they can't get AA batteries?

Nice dream... from the same guys who brought you AI, SmallTalk, etc. Great in paper but non-existing in real life.


Posted by: S on 4 Nov 05

S wrote "Isn't it more important to buy books and provide people with em[p]loyment after they get an education[?]"

Books are the most obvious benefit that the $100 Laptop provides -- eBooks displayed on an E Ink screen that consumes power only when the page is changed. China currently spends $19 a year per student for textbooks. Buying the $100 Laptop would allow them to provide many textbooks on one device for several years.

S wrote "And how to charge them in environments where they can't get AA batteries?"

The user can generate power for the device by using the internal crank generator. The laptop is specifically designed for situations with very limited infrastructure.


Posted by: Bob on 4 Nov 05

if it doesn't go on the open market at $400, i'm going to go to a developing country and steal it from a child!


Posted by: nick on 4 Nov 05

While the intent is noble, I have to concur with other posts that education in developing countries is a much deeper and more complicated problem than can be addressed by access to rudimentary computing power and ebooks.

This also appears to be the cart before the horse -- have any governments or existing organizations expressed interest or commitment to the program? Certainly you can test the validity of the concept by giving a few study groups of children in various developing countries $400 laptops. One has to think they'd be sold for food and clothing.


Posted by: Pat M on 4 Nov 05

Here's my summary of the excellent points above:

Teachers vs. computers
- are computers a real educational aid
- are they powerful enough for interactive pedogogy

Priorities: the money could be better spent
- infrastructure improvements: water, housing, etc
- direct economic assistance

Design
- improve ergonomic design
- software enforced stretching breaks
- green design concerns: waste, recycling, disintegration

Maintenance
- what is the repair infrastructure
- where are the spare parts
- how to deal with software corruption
- warranty issues and replacement insurance
- possibility of trade-in allowance

Institutional
- changing government agendas
- central control of content
- taxation, ig. VoIP

Other costs
- cost of content - ebooks, etc.
- cost of internet access

unintended consequences
- opportunity cost of possession: incentive to sell
- army of zombies


Posted by: Amos on 4 Nov 05

Pollution the batteries will cause? Books and software for education? Open your eyes; we already have these things. Most people learn how to use a computer by actually using one. Pollution cause by batteries used by laptops will no where near compair to anything the developed world already produces.

In the third world solor energy is currently more afforible than other forms. It will be likely that they will use batteries that can be recharged and use the sun as a main sorce.

I think you are all pictureing the starving kids they show on TV and think "this will not work". Most places in the world have decent shelter, food and water but lack cable television, power and telephone lines to every home. At $100 MANY more people will be able to have these invaluable tools.

As for buying old hardware, the only sub $100 laptops that can be found are 100mhz or under, which will be completely useless compaired to these.


Posted by: Mike on 4 Nov 05

Gasco is worried about companies taking this apart, recreating it and then selling it for profit. I don't see what the problem would be if that were to happen.

Note that any company could just buy an AMD Geode development kit and put Linux on it and have this machine even before November 17. Just the screen would cost nearly $100 and the case wouldn't nearly as nice but otherwise it isn't a big deal. To clean up Linux so it is suitable for the children is a major effort, however, and probably a big part of what OLPC is doing right now. Given that it is open source any improvements they make will be available automatically to companies interested in making a commercial version.

On a different subject, I agree with Mark Szentes that the Touchstream technology is really worth looking into for this project.

To people who don't want to be left out (the NeXT was mentioned above, but Apple also did this to us with the eMate and initially with the eMac) - when I finish my machine I won't mind at all selling you some ;-) It sure would be ironic if kids in Brazil were using laptops created in the USA and people in the USA were buying computers created in Brazil!


Posted by: Jecel Assumpcao Jr on 4 Nov 05

Pat M wrote, "have any governments or existing organizations expressed interest or commitment to the program? Certainly you can test the validity of the concept by giving a few study groups of children in various developing countries $400 laptops."

The governments of Brazil, China, Egypt, and Thailand have all expressed interest. Negroponte insists on no commitments until the prototype is successfully demonstrated.

Negroponte spent $100,000 of his own money to give laptop computers to children at two schools he built in Cambodia several years ago, so he has personal experience and equity in the concept.


Posted by: Bob on 4 Nov 05

This whole thing is just sad, even if it existed. It's a classic example of elitists thinking they know better than individuals what they need. I doubt the Media Lab will be publicizing them, but this plan is already having an effect in places like Thailand:

http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/10/13/opinion/index.php?news=opinion_18859784.html

"Here then is the real digital divide: the cash-rich, super-sophisticated MIT in the United States was attracting the Thai prime minister’s personal attention - so much so that he declared that he was ready to spend billions of baht to buy 300,000 laptops from the MIT project that cost US$100 (Bt4,100) each - while authorities in remote schools in Thailand were fighting desperate battles with local moneylenders and banks to fulfil the PM’s IT vision."

Sounds great, the kids will have laptops to use as night lights while schools shut down. "Hey kid, I'll trade you a cup of rice for that laptop-- thanks."

The bottom line is, most children are not just one laptop away from a great life. And the $100 spent on them without their choice would not be spent that way by the individual. Billions of dollars, because Negroponte and a bunch of goodie-goodies thought it sounded cool.

This project is one giant circle jerk for people that like to think they know what's good for everyone else, and who value intentions over results.

Will Negroponte be held accountable if his vision isn't reached, or even approached? No, he won't, because his intentions seems nice and egalitarian on first glance. And he'll always be a hero to people who care more about feeling good about themselves than actually making a difference.


Posted by: Morgan on 4 Nov 05

Morgan wrote, "This whole thing is just sad, even if it existed. It's a classic example of elitists thinking they know better than individuals what they need. I doubt the Media Lab will be publicizing them, but this plan is already having an effect in places like Thailand:
http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/10/13/opinion/index.php?news=opinion_18859784.html"

Perhaps you didn't read the whole article you quote from. His conclusion on the $100 Laptop is:

"Negroponte’s dream to provide low-cost computers to the masses is no doubt worthy of consideration by the government. His vision of a grassroots movement in which low-cost PCs will spread in popularity like the Linux operating system or the Wikipedia free online encyclopaedia is certainly exciting."

The article was not so excited about the central government's communication of the existing IT plan to district school leaders.


Posted by: Bob on 4 Nov 05

To the developers of this machine: You MUST include software for daisy playback!!!!!
(www.daisy.org)
It would enable print disabled persons (blind, dyslectics, AND non literate) to read books! It would be great!


Posted by: geirtbr on 4 Nov 05

Everyone here is coveting the hardware. To ensure supply to those who need it provide a software emulator or development environment that can be run on a regular PC. This would also help encourage development. Maybe a fund can be established to accept donations from the truly noble and generous that want to contribute financially.

How is the laptop actually marketed? What's the pitch? Is it going to be pushed as an eBook, a communication device, word processor or web browser?

What software applications have been developed to showcase the value of the computer? Why not actually pilot the software before hardware is manufactured?

The marketing of the hardware has been phenomenal based on the feedback of everyone wanting it already. A flash demo of software in action would be another great marketing tool.

While at IBM I helped design and implement their NetConnect and SchoolConnect solutions used around the world (http://www-03.ibm.com/industries/ca/en/education/k12/). I'd love to connect and share my skills and experiences for the OLPC project (I'd love to hear from you by email to discuss further).

Brian


Posted by: Brian on 4 Nov 05

The laptop is an excellent idea. Sell it everywhere, mark up in industrialize countries to help subsidize the poorer ones. Just start doing it, either plain black and white screens or whatever, but start before the idea is abandoned as too costly or difficult. Once the first laptops are being distributed, then make revisions closer to the dream. The old laptops can be redistributed. Also we need to make the educational information needed available. The internet is one giant brain, but we need to make the education materials (books and games)easily available for the poorer countries. Again, a project gutenburg for educational material. Anyone with a shred of knowledge on something can contribute and it can be all pooled and collected in one source. It's a small world,and we all need to share our knowledge and ideas with others. It doesn't take much to create opportunity, maybe just an idea and hope. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.


Posted by: Barry on 4 Nov 05

I would pay well in excess of 1000 dollars (yes thousand) for one of these machines. This is so much more advanced and thought out than any computer I have ever seen. The wind-up power is revolutionary by itself. Try and search the first world market for solid state personal computers (even without a hand crank power generator) and you will quickly realize that this machine is new and important. Mark my words, if a voluntary first world market is not established by Negroponte I will feel no guilt getting these from the '3rd' world over eBay. As a matter of fact, unless these are sold to the first world, the western consumers demand, and thus the opportunity cost of owning one of these will grow too high for families who need food/medication.


Posted by: Jeremy Jurksztowicz on 4 Nov 05

The only reason this computer sounds so advanced is because it doesn't actually exist. As mentioned numerous times in the article, there isn't so much as a prototype. It is vapor. It is not real. The technology exists, yes, but costs far, far, more than $100 to produce.


Posted by: Futurist on 4 Nov 05

This will be far more than a dead tree replacement.

What's the generational power balance when your kids are the ones using the net to get wholesale prices for your crop/fish/product? How will teachers keep their authority when students become experts on topics that interest them?

Let's get more pilot projects going so we can see what happens. We'll need to adapt and mitigate problems- and facilitate good unforeseen uses.


Posted by: Daniel Haran on 4 Nov 05

Hi Ethan:

i appreciate the idea of a $100 laptop. But I would urge you to check this article by Atanu Dey
http://www.deeshaa.org/2005/11/05/formula-for-milking-the-digital-divide/

The important thing is "do the developing nations" need to spend millions of dollars on this laptop rather building enough schools and supplying the lack of teachers (not good ones, any kind) in the poorer parts of the world.

it does not matter what screen is used, what the laptop can do and how much it costs when even $50 for each child is a waste of money.

Suhit


Posted by: Suhit Anantula on 4 Nov 05

Here is Brazil the government is really interested in the U$100-laptop project.

But the device is treated like a fetish that will solve our illiteracy problems automatically.

If we really want to help the poorer people we will need good software for teach the A-B-C, and to improve the reading and comprehension of a text and so on.

We will need good software for the machine, without it will be used for play games and as a text editor (if so) and an one hundred dollar calculator.

It should be a good idea an emulator so that programmers with PC computers willing to help (lots of then in Brazil) could develop software for the U$100-laptop.

-3S-


Posted by: Sidney Simoes on 5 Nov 05

The whole thought process behind a USD 100 laptop is misplaced. The assumption is that this is going to somehow allow disadvantaged kids to take advantage of the benefits of information technology is flawed from my experience with working with the poor.

The oft-quoted problems all all real. I quote them below:
1. Lack of a place to store these laptops / computers safely. USD 100 is a lot of money where I come from.
2. Lack of good quality electricity
3. Where electricity is available, it is expensive. (In most cases it is stolen so perhaps this does not count but this is nonetheless a precarious existence for the user)
4. Most documentation is available only in English or European languages and this is a real problem.

I have been trying to teach kids from the slums to take over small jobs on the computer such as simple php scripting etc. I provide the computers, the safe place, the electricity etc, but I have run up against a big wall which is basically lack of documentation which they can understand. Ofcourse, I could sit and translate some of the PHP stuff, but soon the kids want me to translate something on mysql, something in javascript, in HTML, on Linux etc.. the list is endless. The kids become completely dependent on me and they learn from me and are unable to fully benefit from the vast information store that is the Internet.

What will be more helpful than spending all this money on a USD 100 laptop would be to setup small netcafes across the developing world where the poor can come and register to become members. The registration could be given for a small amount each year (free registrations will never be valued).

Registered users will be allowed to work so many hours each day/week on the computers.

The netcafe should have staff who will be able to train the users in the usage of computers, who provide cheap computer books (translated into the local language) for purchase or lease.

In some parts of the developing world, the kids should also be taught English (especially in India since very little computer documentation is available in all Indian languages).

All this will IMHO be more useful than an inexpensive laptop.


Posted by: Prem Kurian Philip on 5 Nov 05

Someone made a comment regarding the ergonomics of this device and its "crippling" effect on children. I disagree - it's more crippling to be left out of the technological landscape.

So aim the stars with this device!


Posted by: Harold J. Johnson on 5 Nov 05

I sent an email to the team of Negroponte, very much in the same line of thought of many of you.
I told them I'm tremendously interested in having one of those for myself and I would pay at least three times the estimated price without thinking one second, (may be much more, but I would think about it) for one of them.

I consider many many people all over the world will feel like me; a big number of people.
What will they do? (I was hinting about black marcketing)

In Chile we have a long tradition of giving free powder milk to improve infant nutrition; for many years that program was a complete failure: most of it was badly sold by people who received it or even worse not cared upon and allowed to get dirty or rot; until people in charge of that progam devised a solution: the product was to be sold also as retail product, USING THE SAME BRAND AND PACKAGING. Government bought huge quantities, but milk producing companies sold the same powder milk boxes through their normal distribution channels. This changed people's mind about their milk and the program has functioned very well; (this was designed by INTA group leadered by Fernando Monckeberg M.D. in case you want to look it up).

Selling those notebooks independently by manufacturers could certainly be a plus for them and it would make people who receive free them feel they received something much more worthwhile; also it would boost the social changes promoted by giving them in schools.

I think this would be a very useful program if these troubles about attitude and black market are solved; this product would create its own niche.
I remember reading about an experience in India: a group of scientists from a physics lab put up a computer connected to internet controled by a touchscreen that was located in the back of this lab in alley where poor kids played; without any instruction in short time they were doing everything with that computer, even some things those who put it up thought were not possible so i think those laptops definitively would be useful and would not make kids dependent on somebody else.

And do not forget this: the "third world" is just near everybody, also inside the "first world" (many poor districts in developped countries are just like undevelopped countries pieces put there).


Posted by: Juan Concha on 5 Nov 05

Where can you buy such a laptop? Is it out yet, Whats the cost?


Posted by: Robert Bienenfeld on 5 Nov 05

Juan Concha said "a group of scientists from a physics lab put up a computer connected to internet controled by a touchscreen that was located in the back of this lab in alley where poor kids played; without any instruction in short time they were doing everything with that computer".

This sounds like the "Hole in the Wall" project:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/4365350.stm

Indeed that project does show that kids can teach themselves (and each other) how to use a computer and the Internet. If you don't treat them like idiots then they won't become mindless consumers :-)

Prem Kurian Philip complains about lack of electricity, which this project has also addressed - or at least tried to. Personally I think hand cranking will fail dismally and they will never get anywhere near 100:1 usage to cranking time - that would require a total power consumption of 0.1 watts including the screen, which is completely impossible right now (perhaps e-ink will change that). I think they have overlooked the most obvious and convenient source of power - solar cells. If the power usage is really as low as 100mW then solar cells generating that much power cost $0.30, probably less than the hand crank.

He also bemoans the lack of content in local languages, while ignoring the obvious solution: teach the kind English so they can help themselves to the vast resources available in that language - not just the Internet but books and movies and about 4 billion people who speak it.

I like the idea but I'm disgusted that so much hype goes into the $100 price when it's years away from being achieved. I expect that the first million devices will cost around $250. This is entirely achievable today, without fancy screens (modulo the power consumption).

Also, I think that if you give away these devices to families for nothing, they will not value them as much as what they could get for them in cash. If you sold them, perhaps subsidised to $50, then not every child would have one (at least initially) but those that did would value them far more and be much less likely to sell them for cash or food.

Very interesting discussion, thank you all, and I wish Negroponte the best of success. Especially since, if he fails after all this hype, it will have a huge negative impact on the ICT for development sector and trash the great work of many other people and projects.


Posted by: Chris Wilson on 5 Nov 05

I'm a bit sceptical. Or more than a bit sceptical. We should be pretty late in the development stage, yet there are no technical details revealed, other than physical design (which is what the Media Lab specializes at). We don't even know the CPU architecture, let alone the specific processor. Given that the Media Lab has only succeeded in delivering e-Ink, and only kind of, and nothing else, why are we to believe this will actually happen?

I also agree that monochrome would beat color. The monitor design Negroponte is suggesting cuts resolution by a factor of at least 3 from the monochrome version, and costs more. Why not just go with black-and-white? It's not as pretty, but for basic use, I cannot see any disadvantages...


Posted by: Peter on 5 Nov 05

Peter wrote: "We should be pretty late in the development stage, yet there are no technical details revealed, other than physical design"

7.5" full-color transmissive screen, keyboard, touchpad, 128 MB RAM, 500MHz AMD processor, and USB and Wi-Fi communications, plus a 1 GB flash drive for permanent storage instead of a hard drive.

More will be known on November 17 when the tethered prototype is demonstrated. Mass production is a year away.


Posted by: Bob on 5 Nov 05

When I first heard about the "500MHz AMD processor" I naturally thought about their Alchemy line based on the MIPS architecture. But it turns out that it is actually the Geode 533 that will be powering these laptops. Despite the name it is actually a 400MHz x86 processor. This means it will run binary packages like the Flash player, which wouldn't be possible with the more cost effective ARM or MIPS processors.

For the display I find the iMoD technology bought by Qualcomm to be particularly interesting, with a few of the nice features of eInk. I have no idea how it compares in terms of cost and time to market with the modified LCD described in the article.

While the hand crank is cute and even elegant a more practical solution for a human powered laptop would be a pedal. Not a bicycle style thing like Jhai in Cambodia but more like old sewing machines, 19th century dentist drills or pottery wheels. This would allow you to generate electricity and work on the laptop at the same time. The crank makes you alternate which I suspect will make most users cranky ;-)


Posted by: Jecel Assumpcao Jr on 5 Nov 05

I haven't read all the comments, but several people in the developed world (like me) would be interested in buying one of these things, and could obviously pay way more than $100. So do this: charge us $2000 for one laptop, and distribute the other 19 in the developing world. That way, they don't need to pay for them.


Posted by: Will Ware on 5 Nov 05

Some ideas:
1.- Think about sell some no so cheap computer to incentivate the local development of educational content.
2.- Why not add some advertisement (NGO controlled) to aid to $100 cost and contents?.
3.- Paper Books are great and necessary. But an adjustable content, could be better to educate
4.- Must think about kids no so rich to have a notebook , not too poor to get gov assistance or a $100 laptop.
5.- Finally: what about IT backbone? On line hard disk (content) sounds good, but how to reach locations hundred of miles away from a WiFi spot. Even with a bad (and expensive) cellular phone coverage.


Posted by: Daniel Comesana on 5 Nov 05

I think it's important to let markets develop to distribute these machines, even if it creates evil "profits" for someone. As Ethan pointed out, government programs come and go, you want to make sure that people have a chance to get it when there's no top-down support, even if that doesn't make it ubiquitous.

Think of the "cell-phone ladies" funded by Grameen.


Posted by: Bill Seitz on 6 Nov 05

I wonder how things will work for running, say, a wiki engine on one of these? More specifically, how is each unit identified for HTTP host purposes, when working in mesh node?


Posted by: Bill Seitz on 6 Nov 05

Please, I will want 2 copies of this laptops.

How do I get it?

Thanks


Posted by: Benjamin Sounyo on 6 Nov 05

How an how much do i get the lap top


Posted by: wale on 6 Nov 05

If sold internationally, the sinergy of the brainpower would help bringing students from the isolation of the developing countries to the existing community. Let's just play with the thought: how many bugfixes, helps and others would be around if a specific laptop or distro or hardwer was sold only in one specific and small country in the world only. But as they are sold world-wide, we can google around our problems, joining mailing lists, etc.


Posted by: Kid not kidding on 6 Nov 05

I'm not very optimistic that the $100 dollar cost will be reached and even if it is it will still be too much. While $100 might be reasonable in such third world areas as Detroit, south-central L.A., Harlem, etc., it will be excessive for poor regions outside the borders of the developed nations. Anything with a value exceeding a family's monthly income will likely end up on the black market, the money used to buy necessities such as food and medicine. Another piece of collateral damage from this scenario is the likelihood that the student whose computer was sold would not return to school again so as to avoid having to explain what happened to their laptop. Would it not be more advantagess to provide that food and medicine directly so that it does not cost a child their education? Also, were these to be made available in poor nations but not in wealthier ones even though demand would exist there for them, would that not be likely to make them a target for theft? I can see organized gangs stealing these, both individually and en masse. They just might cause more trouble than they're worth.

If we are going to produce this device I agree that it should be retailed in the first world. It will end up here one way or another. An additional advantage of selling them in the developed nations is that doing so would provide needed export income to the poor nations producing them.

I'm not too keen on the handcrank. I agree that a treadle (footpump) would be a much better idea. The problems with solar cells are that they only work decently in strong light, thus making them dependent on sunny days or bright electric lighting, and they are subject to performance degradation from scuffs and scratches. If you have the electricity for lighting you also have it for running a computer. You might hold class out in the sun, weather permitting, but after a child in the third world comes home from school they usually have enough chores to do to use up the remaining available daylight. I don't think solar power is a viable option, although a plugin solar charger might be a nice accessory, as might a small wind turbine. With those, though, come the issue of cost. User-powered is really the only way to go.

Regardless of cost or design or availability these will be useless without good educational software and good access to information. What good is an ebook reader without ebooks to read with it?

Another thing that I have yet to see mentioned: who will train the teachers? Those training costs have to be factored into the unit costs of each and every initial implementation of the program. And then there are the costs of the server(s) at each school, the dedicated internet connections, maintainance costs for those, etc. You might get the cost out the factory door down to $100 if the manufacture of the devices were your only concern but if you are looking at the end-user cost-per-unit of the entire program you will never come close to that amount.


Posted by: Jerry Cody, Jr. on 7 Nov 05

I will admit upfront that I haven't read all the comments, so excited was I to add mine.

Before moving into banking, I spent 30 years developing and managing nonprofit organizations, most of them in some of the country's most disadvantaged communities. In 1995, I was invited to address the IDG's Global Summit in Palm Springs on the subject of using computers for educational purposes by nonprofit organizations.

I had already developed two such projects, one with Apple and another with IBM, one for a youth outreach program, and the other for a job training program, so I guess they thought I had some special insight into the problems pertaining to those uses.

I was practically booed off the stage when I predicted that there would be a computer in front of every American public school student within 10 years. I suggested to the audience that we had an untapped market of more than 40 million school aged children in this country alone, a significant percentage of whom spend more than $1000 (the then current price for a cheap notebook) on clothes they did not need.

Last year, I consulted with a woman who was writing a proposal to fund a computer schools for children in Afghanistan that is still under development. I will refer her to this article.

It's 2005, and there isn't a college in America that doesn't ASSUME that their students are either coming to school with a computer, or will buy one once they arrive. There isn't a high school in America that doesn't have a computer lab, and an increasing number of schools are set up to allow students to use computers in their classes.

My own son, who has a psychomotor problem that renders his handwriting illegible, used a subnotebook through high school and college. Ten years ago, that was a problem for him in 9th grade. A year later, several other students were also doing it.

Some points from this background:

Marketplace forces cannot be ignored. Add a hard drive, or significant non-volatile memory, and sell the resulting unit....with a good screen...for $699, and earmark the profits to underwrite the project. Good design always thrives in the market, if you give it the time and support it requires.

Don't worry about maintenance. Make them disposable because that's what happens to our computers. I have been using notebooks computers since 1985, and I've probably had more than 50 by now. The one I am using right now was purchased in 2002, and it's working just fine, after being carried around the world a couple of times. The cost of repairing an old computer is almost never worth the result.

Avoid custom software. That's the kiss of death. There is such a wealth of off the shelf software that specializing the operating system will undermine the benefits of the machine to the target population.

To those who think it is more important to provide food, water and medicine than to provide computers, remember the "teach me to fish" parable. Providing necessities of life to those who cannot obtain them on their own continues the cycle of poverty. Providing access to tools breaks that cycle.

Localized mass storage is an absolute necessity because in many parts of the world, the network isn't available 24/7 because they turn the power off, accidentally or on purpose, shutting down the routers.

Color screens, regardless of the technology, are absolutely essential. Trying viewing a commercial website on a monochrome screen and you will see what I mean. People who develop websites use color as cues that guide users through the website to the point where we have achieved an unconscious understanding of what the color cues mean. Don't take that away from some kid in Afghanistan.

One obvious flaw is building the battery and the generator into the box itself. The battery and the generator should be built into a separate unit, like the converters that come with conventional computers and would operate the same way. The generator is probably the most failure prone component of the entire system, so make it external to the box itself would reduce down time significantly. This is one of those times when cute doesn't cut it.

Some commentors were concerned about the availability of software. That's nonsense. After you have the operating system and a web browser installed, you have all the software you need free of charge on the net....you just have to find it. Ask any high school senior.

I agree with Papert's basic premise that the machine is the solution, in and of itself. When my son was in high school, he developed a cadre of tutors...most of the teachers themselves...to whom he turned (online) for help when his own teachers proved inadequate to the task of explaining the assignments he was given. Some of these people remain friends of his to this day. The computer is an open window to the world, and I would actually prefer that we not either develop or adapt current text books to the machine. In point of fact, that's a short cut to thought control, which will be a major issue in many of the countries where we would like to see these machines. Any attempt at producing textsbooks for online use will fall into political morasse. Avoid it like the plague. Besides, I think text books in general are ridiculous in a day and age when kids have access to the actual source material. It should be remembered that text books were originally developed because students lived too far away from good libraries to have access to the source materials. They were a necessary evil whose time has come and gone.

Consider as a reference point, how computers have changed Russia and China. They brought about a revolution in Russia, and changed China from a communist to a capitalist state in one generation. In India, widespread computer literacy has literally changed the fate of the nation. And, while you are at it, realize that we might just be slitting our own throats by encouraging universal computer literacy but, since it is going to happen anyway, we might as well do it with good graces.

Comments about how developing countries need things other than computers is typical heuristic thinking. It's like asking a baker why he doesn't sell meat, or castigating the butcher because he doesn't also sell bread.

One of the interesting things about this online conversation is what it reveals about the conversationalists. Personally, I don't care what the governments...any governments...think about this project because this is essentially a revolutionary activity that undermines governmental authority. Computers are a godsend to the anarchists of the world because they undermine the established order...and this is a good thing, not a bad one.

The future belongs to the connected. Anyone who disputes that just hasn't been downsized yet.


Posted by: Alan Milner on 7 Nov 05

These are built with longevity in mind. It seems that in 3 to 5 years, the battery in each will need to be replaced. While I am not an electrical engineer, I know some progress has been made with flywheels and other forms of energy storage. It seems lower efficiencies in these technologies might be balanced by the fact that a replacement isn't required down the road.

Since the useful life of a computer in highly technological societies is often more than 5 years, it seems especially important to extend it in places where even the task of distributing replacements might be a huge undertaking.

While selling these at a premium in technologically advanced societies seems a sound idea, the $400 pricepoint that was suggested seems a bit high. While these would serve a differnt purpose from a laptop, a new laptop from Dell can be had for $450 shipped (lots of deal sites list these sales). At a lower pricepoint, this might have a broader appeal in the more technological societies, where it wouldn't be compared against a standard laptop but could still subsidize the cost for the original intent of the project.


Posted by: just an idea on 7 Nov 05

When this $100 laptop project was anounced, I was really excited about it because it will bring education to the underpriviledged students. Infact, I had writen about it on my site (All about Linux).But after reading the comments on this page, some doubts have cropped up in my mind. Many Government schools in third world countries including mine (India) have a shortage of school teachers. Also in many villages, the students are given incentives to attend schools like implementation of noon meal scheme. And children in these schools attend classes solely because they get a free lunch at school (They come from so poor families that they can't afford even a square meal a day). In such places, what would the students do with their own computer ?

I think a better idea in such places would be creating community controlled centers in all villages where anyone living in nearby areas can come and use the computer free of cost. This will inculcate skills like team-spirit, inventiveness in doing a thing and friendship.


Posted by: Ravi on 7 Nov 05

OLPC is a key step in global educational transformation. I have been following it with great excitement since it was first announced. My slant and the subject of my blog at goldenswamp.com is a particular aspect of what kids with OLPC will benefit from. Schools or no schools, what is known by humankind has interconnected as a virtual ecology which the OLPC will allow a child to enter. Wanna find out something today??? Go to the open Internet: math, science, technology, history - it's all there. Most schools actually restrict kids in their use of this open, global commons of what is known. The OLPC lets the kid connect individually. As Negroponte knows, giving the kid the technology is the key. The technology is a tool for connecting with intellectual content which is also the subject content that it is the goal of learning/teaching to convey into young minds.


Posted by: Judy Breck on 8 Nov 05

When you do start sending the $100 laptops to developing nations, pls consider informing Africa For The World, a 501 c (3) non profit organization based in Columbus, OH. Our technology branch has embarked upon a program to create small cyber centers in villages on the continent of Africa. We are looking for leapfrog technologies that will take Africa to the next step in the 21st century without having to build the infrastructures found in the developed world. We can be reached at the following e mail:
leapfroggers@yahoo.com


Posted by: Michael Kwame Itoka on 8 Nov 05

I don't understand why free market mechanisms seem to be ignored in this proposal. Why is it important that all these computers be manufactued by a single entity, especially one that is newly created? When has a monopoly been good for consumers?

Perhaps Negroponte's energies would be better spent on:

1) creating manufacuring specs which could be implemented by existing computer manufactures and component makers, and

2) selling the general idea to education leaders in individual countries.

These activities correspond to the two central ideas of this project:

1) It is possible to create a useful computer for about $100, and

2) Such a computer would be very useful in education.

These ideas need not be coupled, and in fact, by coupling them together tightly (by creating a seperate corporation to manufacture these and sell them exclusively for education) Negroponte is making this project much more difficult than it needs to be.


Posted by: Daniel on 11 Nov 05

(Cross posted from the GKD list)

There's a lot be excited about Negroponte's $100 One Laptop per Child idea but we also need to think about some of the issues that present themselves. One issue that will need to be discussed stems from this part of the plan, taken from http://laptop.media.mit.edu/faq.html

Manufacturing will begin when 5 to 10 million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance.

That means manufacturing won't start until $500M - $1B has been spent. That's a very, very big bet to make. Think of it this way: how much due diligence would you want to spend before committing $1B on anything, let along something totally new from a new organization.

OK, sure, the world's problems and education are worth that much and more, but I don't like to make such huge, single bets. Among other things it could lead to the same monoculture people complain about in Windows, saturating the market and draining all investments to only one solution controlled by one multi-billion dollar organization.

The Big Bang approach is dramatic, but I think in practice a more measured and varied approach is better for all (except maybe the MIT folks): take 4-5 steps in the production ramp up, such as 10K units, then 100K, then 1M, then 10M, with checkpoints along the way before full commitments are made to the next step.

Along the way variant units can be designed, perhaps by sharing some of the technology with others groups that can make good contributions to the general problem.

-- Jim


Posted by: Jim Forster on 12 Nov 05

I live in Brazil and I can see why Negroponte doesn't want to sell the computers. Part of the problem is making kids the target for thieves. If a store sold the device to consumers for $200.00 and kids were walking around with essentially the same device, thieves would steal it from the kids and try to sell it. The $100.00 version would have to be very distinct so that everyone knows that it was stolen.
On the other hand, for e-books and software to work well with this form factor people like me (programmer) need to have access to the devices - we need to be able to buy them.


Posted by: Scott Kirkwood on 13 Nov 05

The main problem in education in Third World countries is not the lack of technology. It is the lack of fundamental elements like good alimentation and heath care. Also, many times, parents has no means of carrying children to schools.

If your child needs US$20- in books per year you do not buy any book!

I'm a middle class citizen in Argentina and although I have conditions similar to US middle class citizens, 60% of the population is under US$800-a-year... and with several kids!

Wonderfull project but no panacea.


Posted by: Luis Alejandro Masanti on 14 Nov 05

Many unemployed adults and teens need to become literate and educated. For them I suggest learning stations that look like video game machines and are placed in pubs and arcades. If these machines were fun and payed small amounts of money or credits for food, a few bright persons could earn a living while receiving an accelerated education. This would cost less than teaching them in a school. Others could learn to read in a painless way and increase their ability to find a job. Their increased value to society would pay back the investment.


Posted by: Hal Glicksman on 15 Nov 05

chambin vincent


Posted by: vinc on 16 Nov 05

Merlin is a junki like david


Posted by: hi on 16 Nov 05

i'm a moulo boy


Posted by: juju on 16 Nov 05

for watch a nude girl come in the
house of bouclette


Posted by: hi on 16 Nov 05

Well it is a good idea, but these are all valid flaws.

Longetivity shouldn't be a problem, i have an old 333 mhz aptiva from 98 that still runs fine, althogh a little slow from age. The ideal thing to do to cut power would be to contract AMD to build a new processor that would be terribly sheap becasue it would use modern technology but with very little material due to the far less transistors in it, and that would make it use VERY little power

But i am against any sort of restrictions placed upon these machines. Wouldn't you be a bit pissed if you bot a laptop that you found out sent a history of sites accessed to your school or had a permanent content filter.

However a good bios and usb ports are a must for it, that way you can boot from a connected usb cd drive or a usb stick and install programs, well unless it DOES come with a cd drive.

As well they could probably put in for example a cheap 10 GB hard drive in a seperate version, becasue the 1 GB flash drive is ok for kids that might drop it, but anyone else is gonna use up tht space mighty quick, plus i would put windows on it, just because it would be handy to run old games


Posted by: Ryan Horricks on 16 Nov 05

If I was living in a village in africa my first concern would be that I had drinking water. $100 can buy three water pumps. Alternatively I would want medicine to ensure I didn't die before I was five years old. I assume those creating this gadget mean well but I think they have missed a critical point about developing countries; they are not simply a world where there are no computers, the problem is far more complicated.


Posted by: Gavin on 16 Nov 05

This would created a huge monoculture of networking software: linux and squeak. What about all kinds of malware?

Maybe it would be beter if there where competing projects for the software which agree upon some open standards for interaction which each project will then implement themselves?


Posted by: gmlk on 17 Nov 05

The thing is, like said before, computers won't make an educated student. Plain hard studying, concentration, and discipline makes for an educated student. Also, the reality of the world is that those students that really want to learn, find ways to learn even if their local school system is completely underfunded, under-resourced, and/or inept. But, I do applaud this guy's efforts and I think it is still a noble idea.


Posted by: Dave Zhou on 17 Nov 05

I want to have super hot ...... with you


Posted by: Jennifer Falapidildo on 17 Nov 05

Ok! It's an ambitious project! But, it's worth trying it!
First, I do agree that the infrastucture around it will be much greater than $100/per unit. So, why not use a percentage of the $300 cost per unit sold in "civilized" countries, to fund this infrastructure?
Then, I also agree that training those kids is another issue. But, i can tell you there are a lot of young people like me that are dying to live an intense human experience with kids, and could go for a few months volunteer program to train kids and teachers. I just had a 5 months volunteer experience in a poor school in Chile. It's enough time to do something in 5 months. And kids can pick it up so fast...Actually, faster than teachers!
Lastly, I think it does not make sense to bring this project in very, very poor areas, since they have other survival issues to deal with. But, instead, they should pick strategical areas, not too poor, and a little bit "technologically" civilized. Then, you can spread it out later on...
At the end, it's just a beautiful project. Let's dream! Maybe those kind of ambitious projects will flatten the world someday...


Posted by: Guillaume on 17 Nov 05

I'd be willing to pay $2000 right now just to have the prototype that was displayed -- working or not. Because this effort is visionary!

Seriously, folks. This one could be big if it sticks right.

I think the laptops should be sold in the richer countries for a non-profit price of at least $1000. This way, anyone who buys one would obviously be doing it in a beautiful (and bright green) show of support for the project - similar to the "Support our troops" stickers sold in the US. It also would not interefere too much with sells of commercial laptops if sold at this overblown price range.

There isn't too much of a point in wanting every child to have his own laptop (at least initially anyway) when the same efficiency can be achieved with just every family or household owning one.

But you guys might have underestimated the impact that such a device could have on the arts! Dance videos, drawing tutorials, music theory videos, martial art/self-defense videos, first-aid videos, survival videos, talking dictionary software (MW CD), software encyclopedias, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. only need basic translation to be understood by anyone. A simple "average joe" software program could make such a process of translating even. But even a picture can say a thousand words : )

It seems that the greatest inventions and achievements of mankind came from a need to express -- and this is what seems to be lacking the most in third world countries. This laptop idea can solve that problem in spades.

Fresh water, for example, can be obtained by anyone with access to seawater and coil piping (just search the internet for the do-it-yourself guides!) where even the people of New Orleans (in the U.S.) could have used such information had they known five days in advance that they would be left to survive on their own after the hurricane. I would even go so far as to say that reasonably safe fresh water could be obtained even from urine with the right spread of information -- just an idea though.

This idea needs the backing of WAY more than just a few billion dollars (...it's really sad that money is even an issue with it). I could even see entire schools in third-world countries running hundreds of these laptops through an electric generator powered by cattle.

Jon


Posted by: J on 18 Nov 05

Free laptop Computers for a kid is cool idea. I hope this project becomes a success. To see the reality, many of the kids are not willing to go to school because they dont like it for some reason, either the teacher or the education that is given, this kind of intiatives will definitely make the kid to attend school and learn. Providing education is the best form of service that can be given. This idea is visionary, There are many poor kids who dont have access to schools. Instead of thinking of bombing and killing people, its better someone thinks and works for the poorest kids in the world.


Posted by: dillibabu on 18 Nov 05

i will like to buy the laptop or better still any good laptop below $200. so email me if you have any for sale at sni_p@yahoo.com and let me know how you do your business thanks


Posted by: chidi on 18 Nov 05

Really compelling feedback on this even more compelling initiative.

Countries are of course "interested". What might help is to get a team working on the ROI of this $100MM investment, including the costs/benefits noted above.

A basic start would be to analyze the economic and social benefits of getting these kids online for the rest of their lives.

In addition to those mentioned above, the economic model might also consider/weigh:
- The prospect of reduced economic activity (and taxes) currently realized in producing, printing, and distributing books
- The economic affect on stakeholders who have already invested in businessess that support the above (especially if the laptop model excludes local production of the laptops)
- Old tech (books) and new tech (laptops) will certainly have to run parrallel for several years, and this will mean increased gvt budget outflows.
- On that note, what will the financing scheme be? (Not debt or taxes I hope!!) Perhaps bonds could be floated - in country! - or link this up with a micro-finance option (for those families who wish to own it and have the resources) and develop finanial infrastructure/knowledge/collateral for these kids to use in the future when they go to the VC's for their start-up. Or, (more pie-in-the-sky) offer in-kind debt relief if they buy 1mm units, and/or developed countries pay if the developing country gov't agrees to cut their defense budget by the same amount. Permenantly.
- Bottom line: these countries will need at least 10-15 years of supporting this program to start to realize an economic gain (i.e. when these kids get into the workforce)
- Who can predict anything over that much time - might as well get started and we can figure it out!

Great project and I wish you the best!

P.S. Take a ride up the Pike and tap the brains at Brandeis University International Business School for ideas on financing...


Posted by: Steve on 18 Nov 05

This project sounds very interesting but one thing that needs to be factored in is the desire of Microsoft to own the OS and applications. I would not be surprized if Microsoft does not donate to this cause and causes problems for this project since their operating systems and applications are absent from this design.


Posted by: Jenn on 18 Nov 05

While I do not intend to discourage any noble effort like this, as someone from a developing country, I just want to point out that we are still dealing with classes of more than 50 students per teacher (and add multiple shifts to that), 5 pupils cramming in front of table designed for 2, teachers unpaid for months, classes in school parking lot, or students dropping out for unpaid tuitition (less than $0.5 per month in some case).

And my country already have an airplane industry and is a member of OPEC.

So I still can not comprehend how a goventment in Africa will pay for this, or why, if you have $100 to donate for each students in such countries, would you not use it to pay for their school buildings or teachers instead.

Someone mentioned the shortage of teachers in developing countries in previous comment, let me assure you that it is less of a problem of unavailability of willing would be teachers than the unability of government to pay for them.



Posted by: Andrew on 18 Nov 05

Additions to my rants above:

In my opinion, trying to reduce the digital divide does not need to be started on such an early age ( I gather this project is aimed to primary school aged students). You can jump start a high school or university students on computer/internet technology in a mere 5 or 6 computer classes, with better result due to a more focused effort. I would rather have smaller number of computer literate high school students who really need, and have a use for that knowledge than millions of (financially forced) dropouts who can use a computer but guaranteed will never put his/her hand on a real one in the future.


Posted by: Andrew on 18 Nov 05

Require volume at least 500K is to get economies of scales is probaly not a substainable approach. That would leave smaller countries like Vietnam, Cambodia out of reach for this project. I saw even SIM card of GSM phone could produce in batch of 50K , and business still got the profit from that. Why the MIT guys want to lobby gov in developing countries to buy millions of laptops that might be discard later due to people not want or do not know how to use them. Developing countries long knowing for lack of transparency in public spending.


Posted by: Nam on 18 Nov 05

Dear sir,
I am from Bangladesh.I am a medical student of final year of M.B.B.S of bangladesh medical college.Are you know Bangaladesh is a very poor country.I am also a poor & minority one.I hear from some one that you give free computer for poor student.I myself apply for a free computer to your organisation.May I hope that you & your organisation will do it for me.If you do it for me then I will be very greatful to you.Thanks you.


Sincerely yours
F.M.Salahuddin.


Posted by: F.M.Salahuddin. on 19 Nov 05

I hate you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by: Jonh on 19 Nov 05



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