Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Laptop Per Child Program Seeking Consumer Help

Yesterday's Boston Globe featured an article about MIT's Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative. Evidently, he has not been able to get enough actual orders from governments to make mass production (and the low cost of $188/laptop) feasible. So, he is turning to consumers who might want to give something a little different this holiday season.

For a limited two-week span in November, people will be able to buy two laptops for $399, one for the buyer and one for a child in a developing country. ... Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, and Ethiopia are among the countries that will receive the first wave of laptops. But the Give 1 Get 1 program, which will run from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26, could help spread the project. Customers who place an order during for two laptops, online or by phone, will see one arrive -on a first-come, first-served basis - in time for Christmas. The second one will go to a child in a developing country. Half the price will be tax-deductible.

Starting today, people who simply want to donate a laptop to a child in a developing country for $200 can do so online at XOgiving.org. ...

The laptop is a more basic computing tool than the power-hungry high-end laptops that people are used to seeing in stores, because it is aimed at rural villages where the only power source may be its hand crank. The XO has been drop tested from 6 feet, dunked in water, and baked in an oven in its Cambridge offices for weeks to ensure that it can withstand the kind of extreme conditions facing some of the children who use it.

But it is also stylish, with a pebbled surface that will keep it from slipping off a classroom desk and a simple, child-friendly interface based on icons.

Originally, Negroponte said he did not want to sell the computer in the United States because he wanted to target the world's poorest children, who live in areas where governments may spend only $200 on educating a child in a single year.

Now, he says, Americans could help push the project forward and shape the future of the project by helping it get into the real world.
The image is from the Globe article, showing Nigerian school children exploring two laptops. It does not show the cute "rabbit ears" that are WiFi antennae, or the crank on the side to power the laptop when no outlet is available. The design is ingenious, providing a color monitor with much less power use than typical, by using a hi-def monochrome display with color provided by a filter system. The Wifi range is wider than typical laptops, and the machine is designed to be very rugged and resist temperature extremes.

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