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In a rural Cambodian village where the properties lack electricity, the nighttime darkness is pierced by the glow from laptops that children bring from school. The students had been equipped with notebook computers from a foundation run by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte and his wife Elaine.
"When the kids bring them residence and open them up, it is the brightest light source within the home," stated Negroponte. "Parents adore it."
Negroponte and some MIT colleagues are hard at work on a project they hope will brighten the lives and prospects of hundreds of millions of developing world children. It is a grand idea plus a daunting challenge: to create rugged, internet- and multimedia-capable laptop computers at a price of $100 apiece.
That is correct, the price of dinner for four at a moderately priced Manhattan restaurant can buy a Third Globe kid what Negroponte considers an important tool for generating it in the 21st century. The laptops could be mass-produced in orders of no smaller than 1 million units and bought by governments, which would distribute them.
Ambitious projects to bridge the digital divide inside the developing world at low cost have had a shaky track record. Perhaps the best example is the Simputer, a $220 handheld device developed by Indian scientists in 2001 that only final year became obtainable and is not selling well.
But Negroponte and MIT colleagues Joe Jacobson and Seymour Papert aren't deterred.
For 1, 3 corporate partners have committed an initial $2 million apiece to the initiative and pledged to serve as suppliers for the "one laptop per child" project: Sunnyvale, California, Advanced Micro Devices, which will bring expertise in processors; "Do No Evil" search engine king Google; and News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's media organization with global satellite capabilities.
The mission: to create laptops as ubiquitous as cell phones in technology-deprived regions. Negroponte's pitch: The price of a laptop comes in far lower than a child's textbook costs for the computer's lifespan.
"It's a way of having the kids be the agents of change," Negroponte told The Associated Press. "They bring the device home, after which the parents look over their shoulder." He thinks it is extremely critical that individual children own laptops; it is going to guarantee they'll be well-maintained.
In design and function, Negroponte wants the $100 laptop to "be so close to the current laptops as to be practically indistinguishable," but acknowledges that the machine will have a comparatively slow processor and modest storage capacity paired with barebones software program.
The largest challenge, he says, is designing a display that does not put the price out of reach or drain the battery for example Apple M8511 Battery too rapidly.
Details are still becoming worked out, but here's the MIT team's existing recipe: Put the laptop on a software program diet regime; use the freely distributed Linux operating system; design a battery capable of being recharged having a hand crank; and use newly developed "electronic ink" or perhaps a novel rear-projected image display having a 12-inch screen.
Then, give it Wi-Fi access, and add USB ports to hook up peripheral devices.
Most importantly, take profits, sales costs and marketing costs out of the picture.
"The technologies challenge is actual, and you need to make some breakthroughs, but most of the funds is saved in other techniques," stated Negroponte, who pitched the project in January at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the annual confab of global powerbrokers.
Negroponte has also met with Chinese and Brazilian officials to talk about expected orders and production in those countries, which would generate local jobs. Two prototypes have been built, and test units could be shipped by the middle of subsequent year. The project would essentially be nonprofit, with about $90 covering hardware for each pc and an extra $10 for contingencies or perhaps a small profit margin based on how every single government's order is structured.
However even if all those hurdles are surmounted, some question no matter whether a $100 laptop project is the answer to bridging the global digital divide.
"Even in case you give the laptops out for free of charge, world wide web access and also electricity are massive troubles," mentioned Marc Einstein, an analyst with Pyramid Study, a Cambridge telecommunications consulting firm.
Negroponte and Co. have portion of that solved, at the least in theory: Out of the box, the $100 laptops will probably be able to communicate with 1 an additional employing peer-to-peer mesh networking. That does not directly solve the world wide web or electricity difficulty, though.
Al Hammond, director for the nonprofit World Resources Institute's Digital Dividend project in Washington D.C., worries about client support in poor, rural areas.
"The important would be to generate one thing reasonably priced and sufficiently robust to shield against voltage surges, against dust, and against getting dropped, and against all of the perils of the net," Hammond stated. "Those items are much more important if the nearest computer tech is three villages away and you don't have an air-conditioned workplace to function in."
Like Hammond, Andy Carvin, director of the Newton-based nonprofit Digital Divide Network, applauds the project's goals, calling an really low-cost, durable laptop "one of the holy grails of bridging the digital divide."
But he stated increasingly sophisticated and versatile wireless handhelds may acquire favor over laptops as the developing world's on the web tools of selection.
"That's not to recommend we really should not have an inexpensive laptop," Carvin said. "They're parallel tracks, and it is probably a healthy competition to have each."
The digital divide remains vast: The technology analysis firm IDC examined 53 countries and determined that a household in Canada was 131 occasions a lot more most likely to own a personal personal computer than 1 in Indonesia -- hardly the world's least tech-oriented country.
The United States trailed Canada at No. two by that measure in rankings that examined computer use in countries that fall in the top third for advanced technologies use.
Negroponte says his promotion of the $100 laptop project in the World Economic Forum meeting has helped it acquire momentum.
"People are now calling me saying, 'We'd like to participate, and not merely can we participate, but we can do it cheaper, or we can generate greater performance in this laptop,'" he mentioned.
"People are saying, 'My God, this is actual.'"
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