24 November 2007

A Laptop for Every Child (On Earth)?

It could be closer than we think. An article today in The Wall Street Journal about MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte explores the hits and misses of a plan to deliver $100 laptops to schoolchildren in impoverished communities worldwide. The article also addresses how big businesses, including Intel and Microsoft, threatened by the very feasability of Negroponte's nonprofit program, One Laptop Per Child, have rolled out their own lines of basic, affordable, ready-to-connect notebooks targeting developing and underdeveloped school systems.

While the $100 notebook is not yet in production, several inexpensive models (ranging in price from $188 for Negroponte's product to $300 for Intel's Classmate), are ready for delivery. It seems only a matter of time before Negroponte figures out how to reach his goal.

At the same time, corporations such as Intel and Microsoft may have a desire to thwart the plan in order to sustain their own profits, and we'll have to see how all this pans out. As I read the article I am excited and puzzled by these ready-to-connect devices for "emerging markets worldwide" (Intel's language). Having the computer is great. But do connectivity infrastructures exist yet in the places these machines are destined to go. That will be the next step: making information itself available to everybody, regardless of their place on Earth.