The $100 Laptop
Several years have passed since the fee to narrow the digital divide in the US was added to our tax-laden phone bills. The results for education are mixed at best, though schools and libraries got their share of wiring and equipment. Now, a new initiative " that could revolutionize how we educate the world's children" is coming to the fore. It is known as the $100 Laptop, and it is the brain-child of a diverse and growing group including MIT faculty members at the Media Lab: Nicholas Negroponte (a founder of the Lab), Joe Jacobson (serial entrepreneur and inventor of e-Ink), and Seymour Papert (one of the world's leading theorists on child learning). In addition, there are three initial companies that have committed to this project: Google, AMD, and News Corp.
Professor Negroponte describes the $100 Laptop project in the following terms:
"The $100 Laptop will be a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop, which initially is achieved either by rear projecting the image on a flat screen or by using electronic ink (developed at the MIT Media Lab). In addition, it will be rugged, use innovative power (including wind-up), be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have USB ports galore. Its current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel. The cost of materials for each laptop is estimated to be approximately $90, which includes the display, as well as the processor and memory, and allows for $10 for contingency or profit."
At this time, the biggest challenge of the project is estimated to be "[M]manufacturing 100 million of anything. This is not just a supply-chain problem, but also a design problem." Governments in target countries will take care of the distribution and marketing aspects of the project.
If history is of any help, anyone recalls Larry Ellison's Next Internet Computer? That was a company whose objective, 5 years ago, was to provide cheap computing (under $500) to the US schools. Linux was around at the time, and so were Java, the internet, browsers, money, applications, etc. Beyond scale, and the burning desire of the governments to do well for their youth, what else could make $100 Laptop a success? Maybe the presence of News Corp among the initial corporate sponsors of the program?
For more info on the $100 Laptop, see: http://laptop.media.mit.edu
Posted by fCh