Thought I would write about the One Laptop Per Child project which has been in the news lately. The One Laptop Per Child project is the brain child of Nicholas Negroponte, the founding director of the M.I.T. Media Lab. Negroponte wanted to get laptops into the hands of children in developing countries where they would not otherwise be able to get their hands on them. The project faced many challenges such as getting the cost down to something manageable and dealing with the lack of infrastructure in many places (to the point that not even electricity is available).
The laptop that the OLPC project developed is pretty stunning in my opinion. I first started following the project because the operating system used is Linux. However, the project developed a whole new user interface, called SUGAR that would be easy for children to use. To get around the problem of no electricity, the laptop is probably one of the "greenest" laptops that exists. And to top it off, it can be recharged using a hand crank. They have also developed a wireless mesh technology that will let the laptops form their own network on the fly without a server or wireless access points being present. Another innovation is in the screen technology - it works so well, the screen can be viewed (albeit in black and white mode) in full sunlight. Finally, the laptop has been built to be very rugged to withstand a child (those with children know what I am talking about). I will not be surprised when some of the innovations that went into the OLPC laptop find their way into the general computer marketplace.
The other challenge for the project was cost. When first announced, the goal was to build a laptop that could be purchased for only $100. The idea was that at such a low price point, governments in developing countries could afford to buy them and distribute them to children. The project came very close with the final cost ending up at $188 per laptop. Almost twice the goal, but still stunningly cheap in my opinion.
Unfortunately, they still are not getting the kind of uptake they were hoping for. So, the project has decided to initiate a Give 1 Get 1 campaign. You can read some of the coverage from the EETimes and the NY Times. As an aside, I found some of the comments that were submitted to the NY Times article to be quite saddening.
As you may note in the NY Times article (if you read it), the OLPC project is not the only idea on how to get technology into the hands of children in developing countries, especially technology intended to help with education. I think it is a good idea and one that should be supported.