New York: One Laptop Per Child, an ambitious project to bring computing to the developing world's children, is gaining considerable momentum. Years of work by engineers and scientists have paid off in a pioneering low-cost machine that is light, rugged and surprisingly versatile. The early reviews have been glowing, and mass production is set to start next month.
Orders, however, are slow. "I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the nonprofit project. "And yes, it has been a disappointment."
But Negroponte, founding director of the MIT Media Laboratory, views the problem as a temporary one in the long-term pursuit of using technology as a new channel of learning and self-expression for children worldwide.
The marketing programme called "Give 1 Get 1," will give the two week long campaign a boost. Herein when Americans and Canadians buy two laptops for $399, one of the machines will be given to a child in a developing nation, and the other shipped to the purchaser by Christmas. The donated computer is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. Orders will be accepted from 12-26 November.
Just what Americans will do with the slender green-and-white laptops is uncertain. Some people may donate them to local schools or youth organizations, said Walter Bender, president of the laptop project, while others will keep them for their own family or their own use.
The machines have high-resolution screens, cameras and peer-to-peer technology so the laptops can communicate wirelessly with one another. The machine runs on free, open source software. "Everything in the machine is open to the hacker, so people can poke at it, change it and make it their own," said Bender, a computer researcher. "Part of what we're doing here is broadening the community of users, broadening the base of ideas and contributions, and that will be tremendously valuable."
The machine, called the XO Laptop, was not engineered with affluent children in mind. It was intended to be inexpensive, with costs eventually approaching $100 a machine, and sturdy enough to withstand harsh conditions in rural villages. It is also extremely energy efficient, with power consumption that is 10 percent or less of a conventional laptop computer.