Wednesday, August 13, 2008

$100-laptop dream can transform India-China

Imagine a world in which every school-going child owns a laptop, no matter how poor his or her family is. In India alone, this would mean well over 300 million units. Sounds like a pipedream, right?

The One Laptop Per Child scheme is, on the face, a simple one: provide affordable ($100 or Rs 4,200), low-energy consuming (less than 2 watts), rugged laptops (called the XO laptop) to children in remote and impoverished areas.

The laptops come with built-in wireless (wi-fi) capability, so that children can create what's called a 'mesh wi-fi network' that keeps them interconnected. They've achieved three parts of the four-pronged plan, Negroponte says, but the current price of Rs 8,000 is nearly twice the Rs 4,200 that the group envisages.

Even the poor in India and China have integrated the mobile phone into their lives, and that perhaps mobile phone technology is better suited in this part of the world, Negroponte is quick to reply: "The mobile phone brings connectivity. That's a good thing. But a handheld device is not an educational device. It's not an appropriate size for reading."

It's the goal of educators for their students to eventually surpass them. The computer is the best tool mankind has invented to achieve this. . . These kids aren't suffering from a lack of capability. They're suffering from a lack of opportunity."

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