Back to the $100 Laptop

In International Development, Technology on November 17, 2006 at 7:09 am

Saw this update of the $100 Laptop, a part of the “OLPC” initiative (One Laptop Per Child).

I wrote about this a few months ago in this blog… I like the idea but I think the foundations of this as a development intervention are flawed. I think the space-race levels of enthusiasm and engineering that have gone into producing this are very inspiring – but the technology should be tested here for a while – why can’t inner-city American kids get a crack at this for a while to work out the bugs?

Here’s another idea: Why not sell these like crazy at $250 a laptop here and in Japan and Europe, with the profits going to subsidize the developing-country children? You know it would sell – I know tons of regular college students who would snap this up. My own 3-year old daughter could use a tougher, kid friendly computer; I find myself keeping her away from my Powerbook for fear of what her sticky fingers would do…

And I still stand by my previous post about this – the laptop alone is not enough – the creators of this are too caught up in creating a cool toy for low costs, without really looking at the system they’re trying to make it for… if I am being clear… Sure they’ll have this great, collaborative thing, but how do they make it truly operational and useful in the environment they’re envisioning it for? Who will train the teachers? Who will maintain the network? Who will install the network? Who pays for that? They only ever mention giving the laptops away or selling them at $100.

There are just too many potential bugs in the system. I’m not saying that this project should be abandoned, but they need to partner with Cisco or Google and maybe a host-government school system in a target country to really lay the foundations for this thing. It would be a shame to waste all this effort, and to set this excellent product free into the wild without the proper habitat.


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