The $100 laptop project launched by MIT Media Lab, gained a big boost yesterday when the labs Nicholas Negroponte met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.
Kofi Annan opening address summed up the project and its hopes succinctly, “The true meaning of one laptop per child, is not a matter of just giving a laptop to a child, as if bestowing on them some magic charm. The magic lies within. Within each child there is a scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is design to bring it forth into the light of day.”
No right thinking individual could possibly doubt the value of this project. There may be a lot of commercial concerns, but we’ll get to that later on.
It will be Linux-based, full-colour laptop that uses a wind-up handle as a power source. Run at 500MHz, with 1GB of memory and a built in 1 Megapixel camera it should run most applications that could be required (remember Linux doesn’t suck up a lot of the processors power). Just the laptop screen alone is expected to cost around $35, pretty good when a screen on a laptop is normally $150 alone.
“USB ports galore” will be provided as will built-in WiFi. The only thing it will be missing is a hard drive. We’d imagine that this will be down to the additional power drain they have, and to try and maintain the necessary ruggedness. The networking will be via a wireless mesh.
The driving theory of the project is that Learning is seamless – not just something that you do at school. This has lead to the need for an adaptable design, enabling it to be used as an electronic book (with the fingers at the back controlling the cursor), a games machine, TV set and, of course, laptop.
All software will be open source as in Negroponte view “open source software is the key to innovation in software and learning technology.”
It’s been reported that Steve Jobs had offered Apple OSX for nothing for use in the project, but it was turned down as it wasn’t open source.
Availability and impact
The laptops will be financed though domestic resources (ie the countries government), donors, and what was rather mysteriously described as “other arrangements.” It will be at no cost to the recipients themselves.
The current plans call for producing five to ten million units near the start of late 2006 or early 2007, launching in six countries. Not bad considering that Negroponte first publicly announced it in January 2005. The promise is to bring the price down at each technical advance.
Negroponte spoke about “the same laptop being commercially available, at say $200” for small businesses. They hope to announce the construction partners soon.
The impact of this project could be huge on many fronts – if it comes into being – and we’ve no reason to imagine that it won’t. Giving any and every child access to a computer, and teaching them to use it and inspiring them will be the start of a revolution bring free communication and equal learning to all citizens.
We don’t think that the impact will stop there. If the world is aware that there are laptops, perfectly able to carry out most daily required computing functions, that only cost $100, why would anyone want to pay for other ‘full price’ machines? The impact on the supply of hardware in the part of the world that already has computers will be huge.
All power to this project. Let’s help technology change the world for the better.