The $100 Laptop Moves Closer to Reality

[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Steve Stecklow [email protected]]
A novel plan to develop a $100 laptop computer for distribution to millions of schoolchildren in developing countries has caught the interest of governments and the attention of computer-industry heavyweights. First announced in January by Nicholas Negroponte, the founding chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, the initiative appears to be gaining steam. Mr. Negroponte is scheduled to demonstrate a working prototype of the device with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday at a U.N. technology conference in Tunisia. Although no contracts with governments have been signed, Mr. Negroponte says current plans call for producing five to ten million units beginning in late 2006 or early 2007, with tens of millions more a year later. Five companies -- Google, Advanced Micro Devices, Red Hat, News Corp. and Brightstar -- have each provided $2 million to fund a nonprofit organization called One Laptop Per Child that was set up to oversee the project. Mr. Negroponte remains eager to place the laptop in the hands of 100 to 150 million students. He says he has learned in educational projects in Cambodia and other developing countries that computers spur children to learn and explore outside the boundaries of a classroom, and share their discoveries with their families. "I do not think of them only in classrooms, but part of an integrated and seamless experience for kids and their families," he says. Still, the project would require governments in the developing world to come up with $15 billion to supply 150 million laptops, and it isn't yet clear how many countries can afford even a $100 machine. Technical hurdles also remain.
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