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Bridging the digital divide with a self-powered laptop
The Guardian (Clint Witchalls)Feb 17 2005original
Posted by giovaFeb 28 2005 - 16:13
A $100 laptop aims to bring equal technology opportunities to children in the developing world.
The British charity Citizens Online has an ambitious goal - they would like all schoolchildren in the UK to have their own laptop by 2010. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) boffins Nicholas Negroponte, Seymour Papert and Joseph Jacobson also share the mantra "one laptop per child", but they have a much more ambitious plan: to provide 100m to 200m laptops to schoolchildren in the developing world by the end of 2006. And how do they propose to do this? By making them very cheap - $100 (53) per laptop, or $90 plus $10 for "contingency or profit".

Negroponte, founder and director of the MIT's Media Lab, has long had an interest in providing information and communications technology (ICT) to developing countries. He has worked in Senegal, Costa Rica, India and, most recently, Cambodia...

"Laptops, as we know them, are a luxury," agrees Negroponte. "Education is not. At $100, this is about learning and exploration, not giving kids costly tools and toys. Almost anything, from healthcare to food to birth control, can be addressed well, if not best, through education.

"The deeper divides are unequivocally proportional to education. Peace will never happen as long as there is poverty. Poverty can only be eliminated through education."

Papert, one of the world's leading theorists on child learning and inventor of the educational Logo computer language, says it is important to think about savings as well as costs. "Getting information online saves the cost of printing textbooks, and this is a case where what is cheaper is also better," he says. "A much bigger saving is the cost of the books that every student should have been given but only rich families could afford ... The computer can serve as a library, a laboratory and an art studio, saving the cost of these or making those that exist far more effective."

Papert believes $100 laptops will also be invaluable resources for teachers, who constantly need to relearn. "The days when a future teacher could be trained to do everything that needs to be done in a career of teaching are over," he says. "The world changes too fast."

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